What is a prenatal panel?
A prenatal panel is group of blood tests that are done early in pregnancy. The tests are used to check for diseases and infections that can affect the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. The results can guide treatments, which may help prevent serious complications. A prenatal panel usually includes the following tests:
- Complete blood count (CBC). This test measures the different parts and features of your blood, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A CBC can help diagnose a variety of health problems, such as anemia, clotting disorders, and infections.
- Blood type and Rh factor. This test finds out your blood type (A, B, AB, or O) and checks your Rh factor. Rh factor is a type of protein found on the surface of red blood cells. If your blood cells have this protein, you are Rh positive. If they don't, you are Rh negative. If you are Rh negative and your unborn baby is Rh positive, your body may begin to make antibodies against your baby's blood.
- Rubella, also known as German measles, is a viral infection. This test shows if you have immunity to rubella. This means you have been vaccinated against rubella or have been infected with it in the past. If a woman gets infected with rubella during pregnancy, it can put her baby at risk for serious birth defects.
- Hepatitis B and C are viruses that infect the liver. The hepatitis virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby. Most pregnant women are tested for hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is not routinely tested, because is not common. But you may be tested if you have certain risk factors.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Most pregnant women are tested for chlamydia and syphilis early in pregnancy. You may also be tested for gonorrhea if you have certain risk factors. An STD can lead to miscarriage or infect your baby during delivery. An STD can be dangerous to a newborn. It may cause blindness, breathing problems, or other health issues.
- HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system and can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). If you have HIV, you may pass along the virus to your unborn baby. Many pregnant women are tested for HIV, and some states require testing.
Other names: obstetric panel, OB panel
What is it used for?
A prenatal panel is used to find health problems early in pregnancy. Many conditions can be treated during pregnancy to avoid complications. The test may also be used to guide treatments for a baby immediately after birth.
Why do I need a prenatal panel?
Your health care provider will probably order these tests as part of a routine prenatal visit. The tests are done in the first trimester of pregnancy, often at the first prenatal visit.
What happens during a prenatal panel?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for these tests?
You don't need any special preparations for a prenatal panel.
Are there any risks to the tests?
There is no risk to your unborn baby and very little risk to you. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
If your results were not normal, you and/or your baby may get treatment to prevent serious health problems. Examples of some abnormal results and treatment include:
- Rh incompatibility. You will receive medicine that prevents your body from making antibodies against your baby's red blood cells.
- Infections (hepatitis, STDs, HIV). You will receive medicine to treat the infection. If you have a hepatitis B infection, your baby will get a vaccine within a few hours of birth.
- No immunity to rubella. You'll need to avoid anyone who has rubella while you are pregnant. After your baby is born, you should get vaccinated.
If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.
Learn more about laboratory tests, references ranges, understanding results.
Is there anything else I need to know about a prenatal panel?
In addition to a prenatal panel, you may also get a urine test during your first trimester. Pregnancy urine tests are used to:
- Diagnose a urinary tract infection
- Check glucose levels. High levels of glucose in urine may be a sign of gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. If your urine glucose was high, your provider may order a blood glucose test to confirm the diagnosis.
- Check protein levels. High levels of protein in urine can be a sign of a number of health problems, including kidney disease, infection, or stress. If your urine protein was high, your provider will probably order more tests.
- ACOG: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; c2021. Routine Tests During Pregnancy; 2020 Jun 20 [cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/routine-tests-during-pregnancy
- ACOG: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists [Internet]. Washington D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; c2021. The Rh Factor: How It Can Affect Your Pregnancy; 2020 Jun 20 [cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/the-rh-factor-how-it-can-affect-your-pregnancy
- American Pregnancy Association [Internet]. Irving (TX): American Pregnancy Association; c2021. Understanding Pregnancy Blood Tests; 2012 Apr 25 [cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/blood-test-713
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- Cigna [Internet]. Bloomfield (CT): Cigna; c2021. Obstetric Panel; [cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 4 screens]. Available from: https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/hw/medical-topics/obstetric-panel-tr6158
- Lab Tests Online [Internet]. Washington D.C.: LabTestsOnline.org; 2021. Pregnancy: First Trimester (Up to 12 Weeks); [updated 2021 Mar 9; cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://labtestsonline.org/conditions/pregnancy-first-trimester-12-weeks
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests; [cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 3 screens]. Available from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/blood-tests
- UF Health: University of Florida Health [Internet]. Gainesville (FL): University of Florida Health; c2021. Prenatal care in your first trimester: Overview; [updated 2021 Mar 29; cited 2021 Mar 29]; [about 2 screens]. Available from: https://ufhealth.org/prenatal-care-your-first-trimester