Birth Definitions

Quad Screen Definition


A quad screen is a blood test that measures the levels of four substances in the mother’s blood: alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estriol, and inhibin-A. These substances are produced by the fetus and placenta. The levels of these substances can help to indicate whether or not the fetus has certain conditions. The test is also called a multiple marker screening, triple screen, or quadruple screen. 

It is a blood test that is given to pregnant women to help screen for certain conditions that may be present in the fetus. The conditions that are screened for include Down syndrome, trisomy 18, and open neural tube defects. The test is usually given between the 15th and 20th weeks of pregnancy, but it can be done earlier or later.

The Quad Screen test is not diagnostic, which means it cannot tell for sure whether or not the fetus has a condition. It is important to remember that a positive test result does not mean that the fetus definitely has a condition. It only means that further testing, such as an amniocentesis, may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Quad Screen

The quad screen has several advantages. First, it can be done with a simple blood test. Second, it can be done early in pregnancy, which allows more time for decisions about treatment options if the results are positive. Third, it can help identify pregnancies at high risk for certain birth defects. Fourth, it is relatively inexpensive and it is non-invasive. 

The quad screen also has some disadvantages. First, it is not perfect. Since it is not diagnostic, it can miss some babies with birth defects and it can sometimes give false-positive results, which can cause unnecessary anxiety for the parents. Second, because it is not perfect, some parents choose to have amniocentesis even if their quad screen results are negative. 

This image shows how often the term ‘Quad Screen’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:

Other Related Terms

Some terms that are closely associated with the Quad Screen test include:

  • Down syndrome
  • Trisomy 18
  • Neural tube defects

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