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Prenatal Tests and Immunizations

Prenatal tests encompass a range of screening and diagnostic tests that help doctors monitor a pregnant woman's health, and identify problems in either the woman or unborn child.

The goal of prenatal testing is to identify health problems early and treat them if possible. It also provides information about the pregnancy that may help parents prepare for the future including the child's size, sex, gestational age, as well as genetic abnormalities.

The difference between a screening and diagnostic test is as follows:

  • Screening test
    A screening test is a non-invasive, safe way to evaluate the risk or possibility that there is an abnormality with a pregnancy or child. A screening test does not definitively (without question) diagnose an abnormality.
  • Diagnostic test
    For definite diagnosis of a problem or abnormality in a pregnancy, a more invasive diagnostic test is needed. Diagnostic testing involves obtaining a blood, fluid and/or tissue sample so it can be tested for abnormalities.

Staffed by OB/GYNs with advanced training in prenatal diagnostics and equipped with the latest technology, Virtua's Maternal-Fetal Medicine Centers offer a variety of tests and services to evaluate and monitor a baby's health and development during pregnancy including:

  • 3-D and 4-D ultrasound for fetal monitoring and diagnosis
  • Amniocentesis (diagnostic test for genetic disorders)
  • Biophysical profiling (screening for fetal well-being)
  • Chronic villus sampling (CVS) (diagnostic test for genetic disorders)
  • Fetal blood sampling
  • Duplex Doppler
  • Genetic testing and counseling
  • Electronicl fetal monitoring
  • STI (sexually transmitted infection) screening
  • Non-stress testing (fetal heart monitoring)
  • On-site echocardiography (fetal heart study for detecting problems)
  • State-of-the-art Down syndrome testing including first trimester screening and sequential screening. See video...
  • Continuous consultation throughout pregnancy

Virtua is South Jersey's leading provider of OB/GYN care, and a great resource for prenatal testing and diagnosis. Before scheduling a prenatal testing appointment, patients must first get a referral from their obstetrician. Call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823) for more information.

Have an appointment at a Virtua Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center? Be sure to fill out the online pre-registration form before you go.

Genetic Disorders

It is now possible to determine diseases involving just a single gene in early pregnancy. By analyzing the mother’s blood, amniotic fluid, and chorionic villi, we can detect problems while the baby is still growing within the womb.

Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is an alternative procedure for couples that carry a high risk of passing a genetic disorder to their child. This procedure involves artificial insemination about 3-4 days after fertilization. Through PGD, the chances of passing a genetic disorder to offspring are significantly reduced. However, this technique remains controversial and practiced in select locations.

Genetic counseling and prenatal care offer valuable information for parents to make an informed decision regarding the fetus. In some instances, parents may choose not to carry on with the pregnancy while others educate themselves about the condition in preparation for birth.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Screening for sexually transmitted infections is especially important during pregnancy. Young mothers who become infected can unknowingly transmit infections through labor and/or breastfeeding. Because of this, it’s important that you are tested for HIV. In fact, New Jersey law mandates that you be tested early in your pregnancy and again in the third trimester as part of your routine prenatal care.

If you come to Virtua to deliver and you have not been tested for HIV, we will test you when we draw your blood for your other lab work. You have the right to opt out of HIV testing. If you do, your baby will be tested. Parents who object to this testing for religious reasons must do so in writing.

Ask your healthcare provider about the benefits of these tests for you and your baby as well as your options for care.


Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be fatal, especially in newborns. In 1/3 of cases, the parent passed the disease to the child. To protect your child, talk to your OB/GYN or family doctor about receiving the vaccine. You should receive the vaccine between 27 and 36 weeks pregnant if you have not been immunized in the last 2 years. Don't forget that dad, or anyone else caring for your baby, should also be immunized.

Hepatitis B vaccine

Hepatitis B is a serious viral infection. When babies get infected, the virus usually remains in the body for a lifetime. Experts such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and our Virtua physicians recommend that every baby receive the hepatitis B vaccine before leaving the hospital. It is important to vaccinate babies at birth so they will be protected as early as possible from any exposure to hepatitis B. Some parents worry that their baby’s immune system is immature and cannot handle vaccines at such a young age. Actually, as soon as they are born, babies start effectively dealing with trillions of bacteria and viruses. The challenge to their immune system from vaccines is tiny compared to the everyday challenges from living. Begin discussing vaccines, with your baby’s healthcare provider while you are pregnant.

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