First Trimester Pregnancy Screening Now Offered at Brookings Health

Posted: 4/15/2014

First trimester pregnancy screenings at Brookings Health System identifies pregnancies at high risk for specific chromosomal abnormalities. The screenings, which are performed at 11 to 13 weeks in a woman’s pregnancy, combine a maternal blood screening test with an ultrasound, such as the ones pictured above.Brookings Health System is partnering with Avera Medical Group and Avera Maternal Fetal Medicine to provide first trimester pregnancy screenings locally to expectant parents. The screenings help reassure most parents their baby will be born healthy.

First trimester screenings are an optional, non-invasive evaluation that combines a maternal blood screening test with an ultrasound evaluation to identify pregnancies at high risk for specific chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome.

Brookings Health System performs the screening when the mother is between 11 to 13 weeks in her pregnancy. Lab technologists draw blood from the mother to help measure pregnancy-related hormones. Ultrasonographers certified in nuchal translucency (NT) perform an ultrasound to measure the thickness at the back of the neck of the fetus.

The test results are sent to Avera Maternal Fetal Medicine in Sioux Falls to be read by a perinatologist, an OBGYN who specializes in fetus care and complicated, high-risk pregnancies. The perinatologist shares the findings with the parents’ physician in Brookings. The two doctors work together to help manage the baby’s care as needed.

“Based on the blood work and ultrasound, the patient is classified as low risk or high risk for having a baby with specific chromosomal abnormalities,” said OBGYN Dr. Ellen Hopper of Avera Medical Group.

Women who are at a higher risk for having babies with chromosomal problems include those who have had babies with, or have a family history of, birth defects. Women who are 35 years of age or older also have a higher risk of having a newborn with birth defects.

High risk results do not mean a baby has a birth defect. It notes a mother is at risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder and signals care providers to urge parents to consider further testing.

Parents who are at high risk are offered a telemedicine consult at Brookings Health System with a genetic counselor from Avera Maternal Fetal Medicine. The counselor explains risk factors based on the test results and assists parents in deciding about further diagnostic testing.

For more information on imaging and obstetrics services at Brookings Health System, please visit 

About Brookings Health System

Brookings Health System, located in Brookings, South Dakota, includes a 49-bed hospital, the 79-bed The Neighborhoods at Brookview nursing home, and Brookhaven Estates senior living apartments. It is a non-profit, city-owned facility that offers the community a full range of inpatient, outpatient, surgical and extended care services. The emergency room is staffed 24 hours a day and provides around the clock patient needs ranging from minor injuries to life threatening crises. For more information about the services offered at Brookings Health System, please call (605) 696-9000 or visit us on the Web at