The Alpha-Fetoprotein Test (AFP) and What High Levels of the Protein Could Mean for Your Baby

Pregnant mothers undergo a number of crucial screenings during their months of pregnancy. It is the responsibility of doctors, medical centers, and hospitals to order and interpret the results of these screenings appropriately, heeding the laws and guidelines of a larger medical community.

Alpha-fetoprotein, a byproduct of an unborn baby’s liver, is one such substance that doctors will routinely screen, taking blood samples from pregnant mothers. By measuring AFP levels within a mother’s blood, doctors can identify potential problems such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Chromosomal disorders, like Down syndrome and Edwards syndrome, can also be observed with an AFP screening, along with other congenital and neurological conditions.

Varying AFP in the Blood

In a majority of cases, AFP levels in a pregnant mother’s blood will be relatively low. Because it is only produced by the fetus, AFP is never observed in the blood of healthy women who are not themselves pregnant.

Utilizing a maternal serum triple or quadruple screening, doctors can gauge the levels of AFP in a pregnant mother’s blood. During most pregnancies, a doctor will choose to conduct this test at 15 to 20 weeks, checking for the levels of alpha-fetoprotein, human chorionic gonadotropin, and a subtype of estrogen (known as unconjugated estriol). With a quad screening, doctors will also check for hormone hormone inhibin A.

Based on a number of factors—including a woman’s age, familial history, diabetic condition, and any prescribed medications—a doctor must assess risks to the mother and her unborn baby, as well as the chance of any birth defects.

Interpreting High Levels of AFP

After weighing the results of an AFP screening, physicians must inform pregnant mothers of the potential dangers posed to herself and her unborn baby. Abnormally high levels of AFP may be indications of cerebral or spinal problems—commonly known as neural tube defects. Should the doctor, medical center, or hospital fail to report this during the months of pregnancy, a family has every right to seek the assistance of birth defect lawyers near the Baltimore area.

Seeking Justice for Birth Injuries

Although it may disturb us, medical malpractices do occur on a regular basis. Mothers who have suffered as a result of malpractice or negligence involving alpha-fetoproteins should not hesitate to file a claim and consult the services of experienced birth defect attorneys.

At Gershon, Willoughby, & Getz, our legal firm will employ every resource available to bring your family closure, and justice.

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