Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) Lab Values

Watch More! Unlock the full videos with a FREE trial

Add to Study plan

Included In This Lesson

Access More! View the full outline and transcript with a FREE trial


Hey there, Abby from here. In this lesson, we're going to discuss a lab value called Alpha-fetoprotein. It's abbreviated as AFP. We'll talk about the normal value and also some clinical presentations or indications for why it might be increased or decreased. Let's get started.


Alpha-fetoprotein is a lab that measures the level of AFP in the blood. AFP is produced in the yolk SAC and the fetal liver. So, during gestation, this lab is used to monitor fetal development and typically drawn during the second trimester of pregnancy. Some clinical indications or some presentations of what we might see for this lab value to be drawn, is it has to be or recommended to be in the second trimester pregnancy. Uh, it's recommended if someone that is pregnant has a family history of birth effects. If they're 35 years or older, which is considered a high risk pregnancy, or someone that has diabetes. Normal therapeutic values, particularly during pregnancy, the levels rise between week 14 and 32, and then it's tested between 15 and 20 weeks gestation. That's the recommendation. So, between 10 and 150 nanograms per milliliter is the normal value for men and non-pregnant women.


The normal value is zero to 40 nanograms per milliliter. This lab is collected in a plain red tube, or it can also be in a serum separator. An increased lab value indicates a neural tube defect. Now, remember this lab is being drawn in the second trimester of pregnancy. So, this could be a very sensitive topic, right? So, if it indicates a neural tube defect, that could mean spina bifida or anencephaly.. This is a picture of what spina bifida looks like. What happens is, the bones don't actually form around the spinal cord and contain it. Therefore it's a defect in development. And then, anencephaly is a condition that leads to improper brain development,  so pretty serious side effects. A decreased lab value can lead to potential genetic disorders like down syndrome or trisomy 21 like this little cutie right here. 


Our linchpins for this lesson are that alpha-fetoprotein monitors fetal development. It's drawn during the second trimester between 15 and 20 weeks. A normal value for a pregnant woman is between 10 and 150 nanograms per milliliter in reference to this lab. That's most often when you'll see it is in reference to pregnancy. An increase in the lab value detects neural tube defects, and a decreased lab value detects genetic disorders or the possibility therein. 


Now, you've all done great in this lesson and this wraps it up. Remember, we love you guys. We know you can do this, so go out and be your best self today and as always, happy nursing!


National Library of Medicine (n.d.). Alpha fetoprotein test.

Stoppler, M.C., & Davis, P. (n.d.). Alpha-fetoprotein blood test.
View the FULL Transcript

When you start a FREE trial you gain access to the full outline as well as:

  • SIMCLEX (NCLEX Simulator)
  • 6,500+ Practice NCLEX Questions
  • 2,000+ HD Videos
  • 300+ Nursing Cheatsheets

“Would suggest to all nursing students . . . Guaranteed to ease the stress!”