Pregnancy Over 35 – Screening Tests
It is a pretty well known fact that getting pregnant after the age of 35 can be hard for some women. Once women are in their 30’s, fertility declines, and it does so dramatically after the age of 35. However, advances in medicine and health care have made it possible for more women to get pregnant after the age of 35. Along with that, however, come a few extra health risks for the fetus. Because of these risks, there are additional tests doctors may recommend for women who are pregnant and over the age of 35. Below is a list of some of those tests.
Quad Marker Screen
The Quad Marker Screen is a blood test. A sample of blood is taken from the mother, and certain substances are measured. This test is used to screen for abnormalities in development of the fetus’s brain, spinal cord and neural tissue. This test can also be used as a screening tool for Down’s Syndrome. The Quad Marker Screen can detect about 80% of Down’s Syndrome cases in women over 35. One note about this test, however, is that it is just a screening, and not a definitive result. If the results are positive for a disorder, further testing is usually recommended. The Quad Marker Screen test is usually done between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy.
Chorionic Villus Sampling or CVS
Chorionic Villus Sampling is a test that uses a sample of cells from the placenta. These cells are taken from an area of the placenta that attaches to the wall of the uterus, and were formed from the fertilized egg. These cells have the same genetic makeup as the fetus, which makes them useful for testing. CVS is used to test for chromosomal problems that can include Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs.
It is very accurate, up to 98% in the diagnosis of these defects. This test does carry some risk, however. There is a slight risk of miscarriage as well as the risk of infection so it is important to weigh these against the advantages of the test. Many doctors recommend this test if there is a history of chromosomal defects, or if the results of an earlier screening are positive. This test is generally done between the 10th and 12th week of pregnancy.
Level II or Targeted Ultrasound
A Level II Ultrasound (also referred to as a targeted ultrasound is very similar to a regular ultrasound, except it is more detailed and done to target certain developmental milestones or even abnormalities. The procedure is much like a normal ultrasound, in that gel is put on the stomach of the pregnant woman, and the doctor uses a transducer to emit sound waves into the womb. These waves bounce off structures in the womb and allow the technician or doctor to get a picture of the fetus. The doctor can then measure features of the fetus to detect chromosomal abnormalities that include cleft palate, delayed growth, heart defects and clubfoot. The Level II Ultrasound is usually done between the 16th and 20th week of pregnancy.
There are many other tests that a doctor may recommend throughout a pregnancy. Some of these include normal ultrasounds and amniocentesis. However, the tests listed above are more commonly done for women who are over 35 when they become pregnant. Women who conceive at this age have an increased risk of carrying babies with certain abnormalities and defects such as Down’s syndrome and Spina Bifida. Modern technology and advances in medicine have made it possible for doctors to perform more thorough testing for these abnormalities, and therefore, they can be detected much earlier. Of course, all of these tests are optional. A doctor can provide more information on the benefits and risks of each test.