A double marker test is a prenatal screening test that looks for the presence of two separate markers in a pregnant woman’s blood, instead of just one. Doctors may give this test in addition to the triple marker screen when they are looking for fetal genetic conditions.
A double marker screen cannot detect neural tube defects or Down syndrome, but it can be used to diagnose other chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, such as Edwards syndrome and Patau syndrome.
As with all prenatal tests, there are some risks involved in having a double marker test during pregnancy. It’s important to carefully weigh these risks against the benefits before making any decisions about whether or not you should have one.
How Is a Double Marker Test Performed?
The way a double marker test is performed during pregnancy varies depending on the lab. Some will give it at the same time as a triple marker screen, so the lab techs will take blood for both tests from your arm at the same time with one needle.
Others will make you come back another day to have the double marker test after your triple marker screen has already been done.
How Much Does a Double Marker Test Cost?
The price of a double marker screening depends largely on where you live and which lab performs it. If you’re insured and your provider offers prenatal testing, they may cover it as part of your package benefits.
Even if they don’t cover any other tests or ultrasounds during pregnancy. If insurance doesn’t cover it and you’re having this test done in a lab, the fee may range from $200 to $500. Contact your insurance provider for more information about what your policy covers and how much it will cost.
When Are Double Markers Given During Pregnancy?
A double marker screen is usually given when you are between 15 and 20 weeks pregnant, sometimes as early as 13 weeks or as late as 22 weeks. A triple marker screen is typically done at the same time as a double marker test.
This is because blood can be drawn during either one of these procedures, so they take just one sample instead of two separate ones. The only exception to this would be if an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) is scheduled to be done at the same time as the double marker screen.
In this case, blood samples will need to be drawn during or after these other procedures and can’t be collected during them.
What To Expect When The Test Is Done
Most of the time, a double marker test is done at your doctor’s office or the lab where it will be processed. The person taking your blood for this test might feel some discomfort when they insert the needle.
If you have a fear of needles or get anxious when one is inserted near you, speak with your doctor about having a mild sedative such as Valium or Ativan, which can help you feel more relaxed.
If the doctor taps your arm before inserting the needle to find a good vein for drawing blood, it may be slightly uncomfortable and will probably cause some bruising. Try to hold still and breathe deeply for a few seconds until they’re done.
You may also feel some warmth in the area when they use heat to open your skin’s tiny vessels before inserting the needle, but this sensation will go away quickly.
After drawing your blood for this test, they’ll carefully wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to slow down bleeding and help it clot more quickly. They may also put some gauze on your arm to help stop any bleeding.
These steps are only necessary if the person doing the test has had a lot of practice drawing blood from pregnant women. If they’ve had little or no experience, this isn’t usually necessary and won’t be done in most cases.
After about 15 minutes, the elastic band and gauze will be removed from your arm. There may be a little bit of bleeding, but it should stop quickly. You can get up and go right after this, unless you feel lightheaded or woozy from having blood drawn. In that case, stay seated until you feel better before getting up to leave.
What Are the Risks of a Double Marker Test?
There are some risks associated with having a double marker test because it is a prenatal screening. The most prevalent risk is a false positive result, which would tell you and your doctor that something was wrong with the fetus when it really wasn’t.
These results are rare, but they do happen about one out of every 200 tests. False positives might cause you and your partner to be anxious or think there’s something wrong with the pregnancy when there isn’t.
The other risk associated with this test is a false negative result, meaning that it will come back as normal even though the baby has an issue. This can cause problems if you don’t find out about your child having a problem until he or she is born because the treatment options will vary depending on how many weeks pregnant you were when you found out about it. The chances of this happening are rare, but again, they do happen.
Are There Any Risks to the Baby?
An amniocentesis or CVS done at the same time as a double marker screen carries the same risks to the baby that it would if it were done alone. These risks include leaking amniotic fluid and preterm labor; however, these complications are very rare. A chorionic villus sampling typically doesn’t increase your risk for any complications during pregnancy, but doing an amniocentesis increases your risk for preeclampsia.
What Are the Benefits of Having a Double Marker Test During Pregnancy?
A double marker test is a prenatal test that analyzes two substances in the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus and mother during pregnancy, called markers. The markers measured are alphafetoprotein (AFP) and acetylcholinesterase (AChE).
The benefit to having a double marker test is that it can provide you and your doctor with information about the fetus, which can potentially help to prevent certain problems. Although triple marker screens are typically only given when you’re over 35 years old, double marker tests can be done at any age.
Abnormal Results For The Double Marker Test
If your screening comes back as high risk, diagnostic testing such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) will need to be done to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other issues. Since the double marker test is done so early during your pregnancy, the baby has a better chance of being born healthy if any issues are found.
Double marker test vs. NT scan
A double marker test is similar to a nuchal translucency (NT) scan, which is another prenatal screening test done at around 11 weeks of pregnancy. However, an NT scan can be used to determine the chance for Down syndrome and trisomy 18, while the double marker test cannot. An NT scan can also be used to rule out these chromosomal abnormalities, which is something a double marker test cannot do.
The Bottom Line
To test or not to test? That is the big question. Early prenatal tests such as a double marker test can provide you with information about your unborn baby that can potentially help to detect certain issues, but they come with some risks as well. If you do decide to have a double marker test done, time is on your side since early screenings tend to give more accurate results than later ones.
Whether or not you choose to undergo this screening will depend on a few factors including how far along in your pregnancy you are and what your personal feelings are on abortion . Decisions like these should be made after consulting with your doctor and/or partner, as well as family members who might have good insight into your situation.