Thursday, July 2, 2009

AFP Test / Genetic Counseling / Amniocentesis

For most parents, the first indicator that something may be unusual with their pregnancy is found through an alphfetoprotein (AFP) Test. has an excellent explanation of the AFP test.

Once an AFP test comes back abnormal, mothers are usually given a more advanced ultrasound that will attempt to look for visible irregularities in the development of the child.

Physical irregularities seen through an ultrasound are usually the first confirmation that a child may have Spina Bifida or other complications.

1) The AFP test indicates that something may be wrong.

2) Irregularities seen in an ultrasound indicate that something is structurally wrong. in other words, there are physical abnormalities that can be seen.

Usually, at this point, the mother is referred to a genetic counselor. The genetic counselor is usually a third party independent of any of the doctors you have seen. While a GC is not a doctor, they have been trained to explain the AFP and ultrasound results to you in plain, simple and unbiased language. Your GC should be able to explain what the AFP and ultrasound results mean and what they don't mean. Your GC will help you to decide whether or not you would like to have an amniocentesis done.

Wikipedia has a good article on Amniocentesis.

While an ultrasound can help to determine if there are physical irregularities that can be seen, an ultrasound and AFP test do not determine conclusively if there are genetic / chromosomal abnormalities such as downs syndrome.

While an amniocentesis will give you more information, it is not without it's risks either. Your GC should be able to help you weigh the pros and cons of an amnio given your unique set of circumstances.

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