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First Trimester Nuchal Screening

There is much we can learn about the health of the baby in the first trimester of pregnancy. Through Nuchal Translucency screening, we can assess the risk for developmental problems such as Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities, as well as congenital heart defects by measuring the thickness of the tissues in a fold at the nape of the baby’s neck called the nuchal fold, in combination with a simple blood test.

Instant Risk Assessment and Physician Consultation

Maternal Fetal Medicine at Virginia Hospital Center offers the convenience of an instant risk assessment. Traditionally, after the ultrasound and blood test are performed, it may take up to a week to receive preliminary results, followed by another blood draw several weeks later to increase the accuracy of the results. At VHC, you have the option to come in a week prior to your ultrasound for a brief visit with the nurse for a blood draw. When you return for the ultrasound, the nuchal fold measurement is added to the blood results and risk for Down syndrome is calculated instantly.

The Maternal Fetal Medicine physician provides a consultation for all our mothers-to-be at the time risk is assessed, regardless of the results. All your questions surrounding the screening will be answered. If indicated, the MFM will discuss and develop a plan of care for follow up visits.

What do the First Trimester Screen results mean?

It is important to understand that a screening test does not provide a diagnosis; rather, it predicts the likelihood of an abnormality occurring. The test is considered negative if the chance of the baby having Down syndrome or certain other chromosomal abnormalities is low. If the test is positive, there is an increase in the chance the baby will have Down syndrome or other tested chromosomal abnormalities. If the test is positive, your doctors will discuss with you a variety of options to determine if your baby is affected with one of these birth defects.

Preparing for your screening

For the ultrasound and consultation visit, please drink 16 ounces of water, mineral water, or club soda 30 minutes prior to your appointment time. There is no preparation for the bloodwork visit.

Measuring the thickness of the nuchal fold takes precision. If the baby is not in the right position, you may be asked to move around in the room or even take a short walk to help the baby change positions. This may add time to your visit. Following the ultrasound, it takes approximately 5 minutes for the risk results to be calculated and another 5-15 minutes for the Maternal Fetal Medicine physician to review the results and ultrasound images. You will be dressed and waiting in the ultrasound room during this time. The MFM then provides full consultation of your results and recommendations. Although many of these appointments take only 30-45 minutes, please allow 60-90 minutes in your schedule for your first trimester screening visit to account for positioning and time with the doctor.