Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2002;65(5):922

What is a triple screen?

A triple screen is a blood test that measures three things called alpha-fetoprotein, human chorionic gonadotropin and unconjugated estriol. The results of the blood test can help your doctor see if your baby may be at higher risk for certain birth defects.

Why is it called a “screen”?

These test results can only show that there may be a problem. An abnormal test result doesn't mean that your baby has a birth defect. Most often, the blood test results are abnormal because the baby is younger or older than your doctor thought. And some birth defects will not be detected by this test. Remember, this test does not screen for all birth defects.

When should the test be done?

Triple screens are most accurate if done between the 16th and the 18th weeks of your pregnancy. They may also be done between the 15th and 22nd weeks of your pregnancy.

What happens if the test results of the triple screen are abnormal?

Your doctor will probably want you to have some other tests or see a specialist. The first step is often to have an ultrasound exam. This test can check on the age of the baby and look at the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and heart for any problems. Another test that you might have is called amniocentesis (say: am-nee-oh-cen-tea-sis). This test checks the fluid around the baby. The results of these tests will help your doctor decide if your baby might have a problem.

Continue Reading


More in AFP

Copyright © 2002 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See https://www.aafp.org/about/this-site/permissions.html for copyright questions and/or permission requests.