Many prenatal tests are done routinely in all pregnant women. Blood and urine tests pose little or no risk to the mother and fetus and can provide valuable information to help your doctor provide the best care possible. Other tests, while providing important information, come with significant risks. Therefore, they are not recommended to all women, but to women whose pregnancies are considered high-risk.

Some maternal factors that can make a pregnancy high risk include:

  • Age is 35 or older
  • Previous birth of a premature baby
  • Previous birth of a baby with a birth defect
  • A serious medical problem, such as high blood pressure , diabetes , lupus , moderate to severe asthma , or a seizure disorder
  • Ethnic background in which genetic disorders are common (in the mother or the father)
  • Family history of mental retardation (in the mother or the father)

Your healthcare provider may recommend more invasive tests if your pregnancy is high risk, but ultimately the decision to have a test is yours to make. Understanding each test and what it measures, how reliable it is, and the risk associated with the test will help you make your decision. In addition, it is important to carefully consider and discuss with your healthcare provider what your options are if the test indicates there may be a problem.

Couples may choose to have certain prenatal tests for different reasons, including to:

  • Allow for possible medical interventions that may exist
  • Begin planning for a child with special needs
  • Identify support groups and resources
  • Make a decision about whether to continue the pregnancy