What is AFP Blood Test? Why and When To Opt For It?

What is an AFP Blood test?

AFP blood test, otherwise, also known as Alpha Fetoprotein Test is a type of blood test that measures the level of AFP present in the blood. This test is basically a part of Triple Screening or Quad screening test that is performed during the second trimester of pregnancy. The test is also performed or useful for those patients who are not pregnant.

Primarily, AFP is produced by the yolk sac, GI tract, and liver of an unborn baby or fetus. The substance circulates around the fetal and in the maternal blood.

Why is the test ordered?

In general, AFP blood test comes under a routine screening test that is to be performed by the expectant mother during the second trimester of the pregnancy. The test helps the doctor to know the exact date of the pregnancy. The test is a part of the quad screening test and is ordered to examine the level of – Human chthonic Gonadoprotein (HCG) and Estriol and Inhini, types of hormones produced by the placenta.

AFP blood test is specially ordered to those patients or mothers who are at an increased risk of having children with birth defects. Apart from them, it is also important for women who are 35 or older, have a family history of experiencing congenital disabilities, consume harmful drugs during their pregnancies, have a history of suffering from diabetes problems.

However, for non-pregnant women, An AFP blood test is ordered to diagnose and monitor certain types of liver conditions such as liver cancer, hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, etc. Along with liver disease, these test also helps to examine other types of cancers such as ovarian cancer, testes cancer, biliary tract cancer, stomach, and pancreas cancer, etc. The test needs no special preparation and possesses no threat to life.

How to interpret the results?

For men and non-pregnant women, the normal value should be less than 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood. If the AFP level is high in a non-pregnant woman, it may indicate the presence of cancers or liver diseases. If one is pregnant, then having a high AFP level shows a neutral tube defect in the developing baby. While on the other hand, if the AFP is low, it may indicate that the foetus might be having some chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, etc.

If the woman is expecting twins or triplets, the Afp level may vary to a great extent. A highly or abnormally increased AFP reading can occur due to the death of the foetal .

However, it is also imperative to note that an abnormal level doesn’t always mean birth defects of the baby. It is always directed to consult the doctor and perform various types of relevant diagnostic tests to confirm the results.


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