Lot of tests may be recommended by your doctor during the course of your pregnancy. While some of the tests are done on a regular basis and recommended for all pregnant women, some may be suggested based on some individual factors like the age of mother, parents’ medical history, or risk of genetic abnormalities. The Alpha-Fetoprotein Test is useful to identify the presence or absence of a lot of fetal abnormalities.
What is AFP? AFP test is a blood test that checks the level of Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) in the mother. AFP is made by the liver of your baby and the amount of the protein present in your blood shows whether or not your baby is at risk of health issues, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It is usually conducted in the second trimester of pregnancy as part of the recommended tests.
The need for an AFP Test An AFP test helps the doctor to decide whether further tests or screenings are required during your pregnancy. This test gives almost accurate results when done between 16 and 18 weeks of your pregnancy and looks mainly for birth defects in your unborn child. Reasons for getting an AFP test done are: •To check whether there is any problem in the brain and spinal region of the unborn child •To determine if the unborn baby has Down’s Syndrome
It is mostly done, when: •Your age is 35 or more •There is a history of birth defects in your family •You are diabetic
The amount of alpha-fetoprotein indicates if there are any problems with your unborn baby and if yes, what they may be. AFP levels can be classified as normal, high, and low.
Normal Level of Alpha-Fetoprotein The normal range of AFP values differ from one lab to another. Normal values also depend on the age of the baby.
High level of Alpha-Fetoprotein The doctor will take your individual circumstances and health in consideration before deciding if AFP levels are high. High levels of AFP can be due to one of the following reasons: •You are carrying multiples •Your pregnancy is more advanced and due date has to be re-calculated •The baby has a neural defect •Fetal death may have occurred •The baby might have a defect in the abdominal wall, a condition where the intestines or other organs are located outside the body. This can be rectified by surgery after the baby is born.
Low Level of Alpha-Fetoprotein Low level of Alpha-Fetoprotein could be due to the following reasons: •The gestational age of your baby is not correct. This happens if due date is not calculated the properly and you are earlier than the due date. •The baby has Down syndrome.
Normal AFP results do not always guarantee a healthy baby or normal delivery. Check with your doctor if your AFP results are abnormal.
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