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Prenatal Diagnostic Center

The UCSF Prenatal Diagnostic Center provides comprehensive counseling, screening and diagnostic testing for fetal disorders. The decision to make use of these services is unique for each woman and her partner. Therefore, we are committed to providing the information and support patients need to make the choices that are right for them.

The Prenatal Diagnostic Center is part of UCSF Women's Health – a nationally designated center of excellence in women's health – and patients are ensured the highest quality care and service. They benefit from the most advanced technologies and procedures. Our practitioners bring a wealth of experience and expertise, having performed more than 40,000 amniocentesis and 17,000 chorionic villus sampling procedures over the last 35 years.

In addition to providing the most advanced testing available, the Prenatal Diagnostic Center is working to develop less invasive methods for the screening and diagnosis of genetic and chromosomal disorders. Research studies are available for women interested in participating.

Our Services

Diagnostic Tests:

Screening Tests:

Genetic Carrier Screening:

Some genetic disorders are more common in certain ethnic groups. Depending on your family history, ethnicity and heritage, your developing baby may be at risk for one of these genetic conditions:

  • Canavan diseaseThis condition is most common in people of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, with a carrier incidence of 1 in 40. Canavan disease is a central nervous system disease that is usually fatal in childhood, with a few people surviving to adulthood. Lack of a certain enzyme results in destruction of the central nervous system over time. There is currently no effective treatment.
  • Sickle cell diseaseThis condition is most common in people of African American, African, Mediterranean, Hispanic and South American ancestry, with the carrier risk ranging from 1 in 10 to 1 in 40, depending on ethnicity. Sickle cell disease is caused by abnormal hemoglobin that changes the shape of red blood cells. People with the condition suffer from anemia, severe pain, a tendency to develop infections and other serious health problems. Frequent blood transfusions, infection-preventing antibiotics and bone marrow transplants are available treatments. UCSF doctors were the first to develop a prenatal test for sickle cell disease, also called sickle cell anemia.
  • Tay-Sachs diseasePeople of Ashkenazi Jewish and French Canadian ancestry have the greatest chance of being carriers of Tay-Sachs disease, about 1 in 30 versus 1 in 250 for the general population. The disease results from the abnormal buildup of certain substances in the brain, and it is fatal in early childhood. There is currently no effective treatment.

  • ThalassemiaIndividuals of Mediterranean, Southeast Asian and African ancestry have the greatest chance of being carriers for a group of blood disorders called thalassemia. In general, thalassemia affects a person's ability to produce hemoglobin, the protein in blood that transports oxygen. Children with severe cases may not survive. Others have anemia, bone growth problems and issues with the liver and spleen. Treatment may require blood transfusions. UCSF doctors were the first to develop a prenatal test for thalassemia.

People who carry genes for these disorders may not have symptoms. However, if both parents carry the same abnormal gene, the chance of having an affected child is 1 in 4, or 25 percent, for each pregnancy. A special blood test, called a carrier test, may be able to determine whether you carry such a trait.

Our locations

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    Decorative Caduceus

    Hydrops: Diagnosing & Redefining Outcomes With Precision Study

    Both NIHF and birth defects can be caused by a variety of genetic variants that researchers are continuing to learn more about. Exome sequencing will yield information about the specific genetic variants present in cases of NIHF a...


    Decorative Caduceus

    Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy (CHAP) Project

    One of more severe outcomes including fetal or neonatal death up to 2 weeks; preeclampsia with severe features (Severe hypertension and proteinuria or hypertension and severe features per ACOG); placental abruption; or indicated P...


    Decorative Caduceus

    Clinical Utility of Prenatal Whole Exome Sequencing

    CU covers: a) Pregnancy termination; b) In-utero medical or surgical intervention; c) Perinatal decision making- including antepartum surveillance for fetal distress; location and mode of delivery; decisions for non-intervention o...


    Decorative Caduceus

    Clinical Utility of Pediatric Whole Exome Sequencing

    Our outcome will be an assessment of clinical utility in patients that receive a positive (pathogenic or likely pathogenic) result. Clinical utility will be measured with a quantitative score based on changes in medical care, such...


    Support services


    Great Expectations Pregnancy Classes

    Get ready for the baby! Choose from a variety of classes that prepare moms and partners for pregnancy, birth, baby care, breastfeeding and parenting.

    Patient Resource

    Lactation Consultant Support

    Get support for all your breastfeeding needs. Troubleshoot with a lactation consultant, find equipment and supplies, join a support group and more.

    Patient Resource

    Women's Health Resource Center

    Access a range of UCSF women's health resources, such as classes, support groups, a lending library and services focused on pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

    Preparing for your appointment

    What to Bring

    • Photo I.D.
    • Health insurance card
    • Insurance authorization, if required
    • Doctor's referral, if required
    • Recent test results related to your condition
    • List of your medications, including dosages, plus any you're allergic to
    • List of questions you may have
    • Device or paper for taking notes

    International Services

    If you live in another country and are coming to UCSF for medical
    treatment, our patient liaisons can help coordinate all aspects of your visit.

    Learn more


    UCSF offers language services at no charge for patients with limited
    English, as well as for patients who are deaf or have trouble hearing.

    Learn more

    Hospital Stays

    Checking into the hospital? Find helpful information by clicking on the relevant “Your Hospital Stay” booklet: Mission Bay, Parnassus or Mount

    Learn more

    Your Doctor Visit

    See our top 10 tips for making your UCSF doctor’s appointment as stress-free and productive as possible.

    Learn more

    Patient stories

    Elianna's Story, Part 1: Lifesaving Care Before Birth

    Elianna's Story, Part 2: Thriving After Fetal Stem Cell Transplant

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