Risk of abnormal triple screen for Down syndrome is significantly higher in patients with female fetuses

Catherine Y. Spong, Alessandro Ghidini, Heather Stanley-Christian, Jeanne M. Meck, Frank D. Seydel, John C. Pezzullo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Previous studies have shown that mid-trimester maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels are significantly higher and human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) levels significantly lower in women with male compared with female fetuses. We have evaluated whether triple-screen criteria are more likely to identify women with female fetuses as at risk for Down syndrome. From the Georgetown University genetics database we obtained the absolute values and corresponding multiples of the median (MoM) for AFP, hCG and unconjugated oestriol (uE3) in singleton gestations for the period database November 1992-July 1996. A Down syndrome risk of 1/270 or greater at mid-trimester was considered as high risk. A total of 977 patients with triple screen and outcome information were identified, including 502 female and 475 male fetuses. Patients with female fetuses were significantly more likely to have lower serum AFP (p = 0.003) and a positive triple screen for Down syndrome (72 (14 per cent) versus 45 (9 per cent), p < 0.02) than those with male fetuses. The gestational age at triple screen, maternal serum hCG and uE3, race and diabetes were not significantly different between the two groups. Since Down syndrome is less common in female than male fetuses, and the rates of female and male Down syndrome fetuses detected by triple screen and subsequent amniocentesis are not significantly different, the excess of positive mid-trimester maternal serum triple screen in women with female fetuses is likely due to false-positive results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-339
Number of pages3
JournalPrenatal Diagnosis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 28 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Fetal gender
  • Prenatal diagnosis
  • Trisomy 21

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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