Our Goal: We make prenatal screening available to all pregnant individuals in California through prenatal care providers at no or low cost to patients.
Our Work: We coordinate prenatal screening and access to follow-up, diagnostic services throughout the state; support and guide prenatal care providers; create and distribute supplies and educational materials; and contract with and provide quality control for labs used for screening.
Service Delivery: Prenatal screening uses a pregnant individual's blood samples to identify the chances of a fetus having one of several birth defects. If prenatal screening finds an increased chance of a birth defect in a fetus, genetic counseling and other follow-up services are available for the pregnant individual. Follow-up services include ultrasound exam and the diagnostic tests amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. Diagnostics tests give a clearer answer about birth defects.
We Serve: California's prenatal care providers are required to offer the Prenatal Screening Program to all pregnant individuals in California. Three out of four pregnant individuals choose prenatal screening offered through the state program. Many expecting parents want to know as much as they can about their fetus during pregnancy.
Funding: The Prenatal Screening Program is supported by program fees. Beginning in September 2022, the fees for screening are $232 for cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening and $85 for maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) screening.
Medi-Cal and private insurance must cover all program fees, with only a few exceptions. The exceptions are self-insured employers and out-of-state health plans.
Communications and Education
For Individuals and Families
For Prenatal Care Providers
California provides the most comprehensive statewide prenatal screening program in the United States. Over 340,000 pregnant individuals participate in the state program offered by prenatal care providers every year.
Prenatal screening for certain birth defects through the state program is available to all pregnant individuals in Californians at no or low cost to program participants, but it is not required.
Prenatal care providers must provide information on prenatal screening through the state program to pregnant individuals. Those individuals who choose to participate in the California Prenatal Screening Program provide two blood samples through their prenatal care provider for two types of screening (as of September 2022). Both screenings are recommended since they screen for different birth defects.
- First trimester: cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening (recommended from 10 weeks through first day of 21 weeks of pregnancy)
- Second trimester: Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) screening (from 15 weeks through first day of 21 weeks of pregnancy)
Birth defects screened for by the California Prenatal Screening Program:
- Down syndrome (trisomy 21);
- Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome);
- Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome);
- Neural tube defects, like spina bifida and anencephaly.
For identified, high-risk individuals, the California Prenatal Screening Program offers genetic counseling, ultrasound eams, diagnostic testing at state-approved Prenatal Diagnosis Centers, at no additional charge. Amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling are diagnostics tests that give a clearer answer about birth defects.
Services are provided by doctors, nurses, midwives, and other prenatal care providers working in hospitals, offices, clinics, and homes.