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.