What Is an Obstetric Panel?

N. Madison
N. Madison

An obstetric panel is a group of laboratory tests performed on a pregnant woman. The panel usually involves drawing blood and checking a woman's blood type as well as testing for the presence of antibodies capable of destroying red blood cells. This series of blood tests may also check for sexually transmitted diseases and other infections that could cause serious harm to an unborn baby, threaten the pregnancy altogether, or cause health problems in a newborn. For instance, an obstetric panel might include a test for syphilis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The specific list of tests that are included in an obstetric panel generally vary based on the medical practitioner and the lab used, however.

Expectant mothers will usually undergo a variety of blood tests.
Expectant mothers will usually undergo a variety of blood tests.

When a woman is pregnant, one of the first tests her doctor may order is an obstetric panel. This selection of blood tests is often used to confirm a pregnancy as well as to obtain the pregnant woman's blood type. Interestingly, doctors often perform this test on women who already know their blood types in an effort to avoid medical mistakes if a woman recalls her blood type incorrectly or the doctor makes a mistake in recording it in her chart. Additionally, an obstetric panel usually includes a test to evaluate the expectant mother's blood count as well.

Syphilis during pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirth.
Syphilis during pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirth.

Usually, an obstetric panel also tests to determine whether or not a woman is RH negative. When a woman is RH negative, this means her blood lacks a protein referred to as D antigen. This does not represent any problem for the mother, but if her baby is RH positive, meaning the child does have the protein, it could result in the development of antibodies during the pregnancy or delivery. If this occurs, it won't usually threaten the woman's current pregnancy but could lead to serious health problems for a developing baby in a subsequent pregnancy.

An obstetric panel involves drawing blood and checking for the presence of antibodies capable of destroying red blood cells.
An obstetric panel involves drawing blood and checking for the presence of antibodies capable of destroying red blood cells.

Blood tests for antibodies in the expectant mother's blood typically are included in an obstetric panel as well. These antibodies actually seek out and destroy red blood cells and can cause serious health problems for the baby. In some cases, they can even cause the death of the developing child or lead to death after the baby is born. Discovering these antibodies early on can allow doctors to make their best efforts to support a woman's pregnancy.

An obstetric panel checks a woman's blood for antibodies that are capable of destroying red blood cells.
An obstetric panel checks a woman's blood for antibodies that are capable of destroying red blood cells.

Obstetric panels often test for diseases that can adversely affect a pregnancy as well. For example, doctors may run tests to check for rubella, which is commonly known as German measles; syphilis; and hepatitis B and C. Doctors may also test for HIV, with the patient's permission.

Results from an obstetric panel should be included in the patient's medical record file.
Results from an obstetric panel should be included in the patient's medical record file.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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