First Trimester Screening Tests

A pregnant woman is looking at an ultrasound photo of fetus.

So, you’ve got a little one on the way—congratulations! Pregnancy is an exciting journey, and the first trimester is full of new experiences and questions. To help you navigate this adventure, we’ve put together a friendly guide to the first trimester screening tests you can expect. We’ll chat about what they are, why they matter, and how they’ll play a part in your pregnancy journey.

First Trimester Screening Tests: The Why

Before we dive into the details, let’s talk about why these screening tests are important:

  • Monitoring baby’s development: Early screenings help make sure your little one is growing and developing as expected.
  • Catching potential complications: The sooner we spot any issues, the better equipped we are to address them.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing how things are going can help you feel more at ease throughout your pregnancy.

The Tests: What You Can Expect During Your First Trimester

Now that we’ve covered the why, let’s talk about the tests you can expect during your first trimester:

  • Blood tests: These tests check for hormone levels and can help identify potential issues, like an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. Some common blood tests include:
  • hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) levels
  • PAPP-A (pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A) levels
  • Ultrasound: This incredible device uses sound waves to create images of your growing baby. The first trimester ultrasound, often called a “dating scan,” helps:
    • Confirm your due date
    • Ensure baby’s heartbeat is strong and steady
    • Check for any visible abnormalities
  • Nuchal translucency (NT) scan: This specialized ultrasound, typically performed between 11 and 14 weeks, measures the thickness of the fluid at the back of your baby’s neck. The results can help determine the risk of certain chromosomal abnormalities, like Down syndrome.

Optional Genetic Screenings: A Quick Rundown

In addition to the standard tests, there are some optional genetic screening tests you might consider:

  • Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) test: Also known as non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), this blood test analyzes fragments of your baby’s DNA found in your blood. It can help identify the risk of certain chromosomal abnormalities.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): This more invasive test involves taking a small sample of cells from the placenta to analyze the baby’s chromosomes. It’s typically performed between 10 and 13 weeks.

Keep in mind that these tests are optional, so chat with your healthcare provider to decide what’s best for you and your pregnancy.

First Trimester Tests: A Quick Recap

Just for a quick refresher, here’s what you can expect during your first trimester:

  • Blood tests for hormone levels
  • Dating ultrasound to confirm due date and check for abnormalities
  • Nuchal translucency scan to assess chromosomal abnormality risk
  • Optional genetic screenings, like NIPT and CVS

Wrapping Up Your First Trimester Screening

In conclusion, first trimester screening tests play a crucial role in ensuring the health and well-being of both you and your little one. By understanding these tests and staying informed, you’ll be better prepared for this exciting journey into parenthood. So, take a deep breath, embrace the adventure, and remember that these tests are just one part of your incredible journey to meeting your baby.

As you embark on this exciting new chapter, remember that knowledge is power. Staying informed and understanding the purpose of first trimester screening tests will help you feel more confident and supported throughout your pregnancy. Cheers to a happy, healthy journey for both you and your little one!


Mayo Clinic. (2020). Prenatal testing: Quick guide to common tests. Retrieved from

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). (2019). Routine Tests During Pregnancy. Retrieved from

March of Dimes. (2021). First Trimester Tests. Retrieved from

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January, 2023

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