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Pregnancy and the Quad Marker Screen

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Is the Quad Marker Screen Safe?

Yes. The quad marker screen is a safe and useful screening test for families concerned about birth defects or genetic diseases. It is a test that carries no risk to the baby, since a blood sample is taken only from the mother.

What Does It Mean if the Quad Marker Screen Results Are Normal?

Normal levels of AFP, estriol, hCG, and Inhibin-A strongly indicate that you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. In over 98% of pregnancies, normal quad marker screen results predict healthy babies and births without major complications. However, there are no prenatal tests that can guarantee your baby and pregnancy will be completely healthy or without complications.

What Does It Mean if the Quad Marker Screen Results Are Abnormal?

Quad marker screen results that are not in the normal range do not necessarily mean there is a problem in your pregnancy.

The quad marker screen is used as a screening tool only, which means it can only assess your risk of having a baby with a certain birth defects (it is not used to diagnose the particular problem that may be present). If the quad marker screen results are not in the normal range, further tests such as an ultrasound or amniocentesis may be necessary.

Out of 1,000 pregnant women, approximately 50 will have quad marker screen results that indicate an increased risk for having a baby with a birth defect. Of those 50 women, only one or two will actually have a baby with an open neural tube defect. About 40 women will have quad marker screen results that show an increased risk for having a baby with Down syndrome and one or two will actually have a baby with Down syndrome.

Should I Have the Quad Marker Screen?

It is recommended that all pregnant women have a quad marker screen, but it is your decision whether or not to have the test. However, if you have any of the following risk factors, you may strongly want to consider having the test:

  • You are age 35 or older when the baby is due
  • Your family has a history of birth defects
  • You've had a child with a previous birth defect
  • You were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes prior to your pregnancy

If you have any concerns about the test, talk to your doctor or health care provider. 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Mikio A. Nihira, MD on July 10, 2012
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