Pregnancy screening

Screening tests are offered to all pregnant women. They assess the chance of you or your baby having a health or chromosomal condition.

Most screening tests will show that your baby is healthy. If the screening tests suggest you or your baby might have a health condition, you’ll be offered a diagnostic test to get a definite answer.

Pregnancy screening can help you:

  • get earlier and more effective treatment which can improve your own and your baby’s health
  • make decisions about your pregnancy
  • prepare for the arrival of your baby if they’re likely to need extra care and support

Your pregnancy, your choice

You have lots of choices when it comes to pregnancy screening.

You may want to have screening tests to find out if you have a health condition. 

You may also wish to have screening tests to find out if your baby could have a health or chromosomal condition. Depending on your screening test results, you may choose to have a diagnostic test to confirm.

You can decide at any point that you don’t want tests if:

  • you’d prefer not to have tests, for any reason
  • you only want some of the tests available
  • you don’t want to know if you have a health condition
  • you don’t want to know if your baby has a health or chromosomal condition

You might want to talk with your partner, family or friends about your choices. Your midwife or other healthcare professionals can provide information, and also direct you to organisations that provide support.

The final decision is yours at every stage of your pregnancy. Whatever choices you make, you can agree on a plan with your midwife that’s right for you.

No one will ever test you without you being sure you know what the test is for, how it’s done, and that you’re prepared to have it.

What tests will I be offered during my pregnancy?

During your pregnancy you’ll be offered:

 These are used to test for:

Women whose first trimester test results show that their baby has a higher chance of having either Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome or Patau’s syndrome are offered a further screening test called non-invasive prenatal testing, known as NIPT.

NIPT can give more accurate information about how likely it is your baby may have either Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome or Patau’s syndrome.

Diagnostic tests are offered to women whose screening tests show:

  • they have a higher chance of being a carrier for (or having) sickle cell or thalassaemia
  • a higher chance their baby may have either Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome or Patau’s syndrome

When will I have these tests?

Some pregnancy screening tests should take place as early as possible in pregnancy, ideally by 10 weeks, but can be done later if necessary.

Some other tests can only be done at certain times during pregnancy (for example screening for either Down’s syndrome, Edwards’ syndrome or Patau’s syndrome).

Week of pregnancy

Screening tests available

Before 10 weeksScreening for sickle cell and thalassaemia
Between 8 and 12 weeksBlood tests for full blood count, blood group and Rhesus status 
Between 8 and 12 weeksScreening for hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV
Between 11 and 14 weeks Early blood test and NT (nuchal translucency) ultrasound scan
Between 18 and 21 weeksMid-pregnancy screening ultrasound scan 

What tests will I be offered after birth?

Towards the end of your pregnancy your midwife will talk to you about newborn screening.

You may not need cervical screening if you are pregnant or for up to 12 weeks after birth. 

Do I need to pay for screening?

All screening and diagnostic tests are provided free in Scotland by the NHS. Healthcare and treatment for children in Scotland born with health conditions, chromosomal conditions or disabilities is provided free by the NHS.

Further information and other languages and formats

Public Health Scotland has produced a leaflet explaining pregnancy screening in Scotland, why it’s offered, and what happens next if a test finds that your baby might have a health condition or chromosomal condition.

Last updated:
24 January 2024

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