Maternal Serum Screening

Maternal Serum Screening is a blood test offered to pregnant women who want to find out if they may be at increased risk of having a baby with Down syndrome, neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) or Trisomy 18. This test cannot diagnose these conditions, instead it identifies women who are at an "increased risk" and should be offered further testing such as ultrasound or amniocentesis.

There are two Maternal Serum Screening tests that are offered in Victoria during pregnancy; Combined First Trimester Screening and Second Trimester Screening. Combined First Trimester Screening involves the pregnant women having a blood test around the 10th week and an ultrasound during the 12th week of pregnancy. Second Trimester Screening involves a blood test taken between 14 - 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Combined First Trimester Screening began as a pilot service in February 2000 and continued to be evaluated for 2 years, and is now being offered as a statewide service. This test screens for Down syndrome and Trisomy 18. The detection rate for Down syndrome is 90%.

Second Trimester Screening commenced at Genetic Health Services Victoria in July 1996, again as a statewide service. This blood test screens for Down syndrome, neural tube defects and Trisomy 18.

Our philosophy is to offer choice for women who wish to undergo screening during their pregnancy. We now screen over 1000 pregnant women every week. Funding support from the Victorian Department of Health enables us to offer Second Trimester Screening to public patients. Combined First Trimester Screening is a private opt-in test with out of pocket costs. Pre and post test counselling is available to all women, and written information about the Second Trimester test is available in 5 languages.

An important aspect of these programs is continuing education of health professionals, updating them on the changing aspects of Down syndrome screening during pregnancy. Our staff provide seminars and in-services at metropolitan and rural hospitals, to medical and nursing staff and to general practitioners. Our laboratory maintains its extremely high standard by continually participating in an international, external quality assurance program - the only laboratory in Australia to do so for both first and second trimester screening.

Announcement: Changes in reporting Maternal Serum Screening results from May 2014

Factsheet: Low PAPPA, High NT and Interpretation of Combined First Trimester Screening results for patients with low risk Non Invasive Prenatal Testing results

Contact Us

T 1300 934 355
F +61 3 8341 6389

Tests & specimen requirements

Tests: further details on costs and turnaround times


The Team

Laboratory Head


For Further Information