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ICT Test in Pregnancy: Why is it Done & What do the Results Indicate?


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Our immune system is the first line of defence against infections, diseases, and any foreign bodies that try to attack our body. While the immune system works proficiently in protecting us, it can sometimes malfunction and end up attacking the healthy cells in our bodies.

Since pregnancy is such a delicate period in a woman’s life, ensuring optimal physical, mental, and physiological health is crucial to the well-being of both the expecting mother and the child.

The ICT or Indirect Coombs Test monitors a pregnant woman’s blood composition to check for any antibodies that could end up attacking or disintegrating the red blood cells. It is commonly known as red blood cell antibody screening.

This article will explore everything you need to know about the ICT test in pregnancy, its significance, and the results.

What is ICT Test in Pregnancy?

As we just discussed, an ICT test analyzes a pregnant woman’s blood to check for the potential presence of antibodies that attack the red blood cells.

During pregnancy, the ICT test is also done to check for antibodies to the Rh factor in the pregnant woman’s blood. The primary reason this is done is to rule out any potential complications during delivery and post-partum, especially if the mother ends up needing a blood transfusion after excessive blood loss during the childbirth process.

Unlike the standard Coombs test which analyzes the body’s antibodies against the red blood cells, an ICT test delves deeper into the individual components in the blood.

The test is also done to ensure that the mother’s blood isn’t producing antibodies against the developing fetus in the womb. In a few cases where the Rh factor in the blood of the mother and the fetus are different, there are chances that the mother’s immune system will start producing antibodies against the fetus. It can lead to severities and even a potential miscarriage.

Also, during blood transfusion, the donor might have to undergo an ICT test to ensure that their blood doesn’t contain antibodies that could end up negatively affecting the recipient’s health, especially during a crucial time like pregnancy and childbirth.

How is the ICT Test Done in Pregnancy?

The ICT test is a standard and routine blood test that involves taking a blood sample from the pregnant woman’s arms.

A phlebotomist is the one who collects the sample from the vein in either one of the arms. The collected blood sample is test transferred to the testing laboratory.

In the lab, the expert lab technologists perform relevant testing to check for the presence of antibodies in the collected blood sample of the pregnant woman. The test is often run thoroughly to rule out even the tiniest possibility of Rh incompatibility between the mother and the developing fetus.

Once the reports are concluded, the doctor will then analyze the situation, see the state of growth of the fetus and then take relevant medical action needed to ensure it’s a healthy pregnancy.

Why is the ICT Test Done during Pregnancy?

The ICT test is a crucial test that’s done during the prenatal stage. Let us give you an example to better understand the test’s significance.

Let’s assume that you are pregnant and your blood type is AB-. Your body has the Rh-negative marker. If your baby has a blood group with the same Rh-negative marker, there are no risks of potential pregnancy complications.

However, if your baby has an Rh-positive marker, meaning that they have a blood type that’s A+, B+, O+, or AB+, it poses a potential threat.

An Rh-negative mother and an Rh-positive fetus (or vice versa) create a condition called Rh sensitization. This means that the mother’s immune system will detect Rh- in the body and treat it as a threat and foreign component, ending up developing antibodies against the fetus.

However, the good news is that the development of these antibodies against Rh sensitization during pregnancy takes time. So, if this is your first pregnancy and your baby has a different Rh factor than you, the complications shouldn’t be severe enough to affect the newborn.

But, if a similar situation happens during the second or third pregnancy, the risks of pregnancy complications during such situations rise very quickly. Your doctor will then closely monitor the situation and find ways to work around it to ensure the safe and healthy delivery of the newborn.

In severe cases of Rh sensitization during pregnancy, the baby is often affected by multiple complications like:

  • Anemia
  • Jaundice
  • Poor or stunted development, etc.

Since its such a crucial prenatal test that determines the safety and well-being of the mother and the baby, getting it done as required is essential.

How to Interpret the Results of an ICT Test in Pregnancy?

The Indirect Coombs test is a routine blood test during pregnancy that shouldn’t take any more than 24-48 hours to generate the results.

But, once you do get the reports in hand, how do you interpret them?

If there are no differences between the Rh factor in the mother and the fetus, the reports will come back as normal since the blood will have no traces of any antibodies against the Rh factor from the fetus.

However, what if the reports come back abnormal?

To put it in simple words, an abnormal ICT test report indicates that the mother’s body has developed antibodies against the red blood cells of the fetus.

Although the test gives a definite alert about a possible complication, the test doesn’t determine the degree of antibody production in the blood or any associated issues.

However, since there remains a looming concern with the rising antibody levels in the pregnant woman’s blood, the doctor will implement a tailored treatment to prevent the risks and possible complications as much as possible.

But, as we said, if it’s the first pregnancy, the degree of complication is very low since it takes a lot of time for the immune system to develop enough antibodies to negatively harm the developing fetus.

Only a doctor will be able to read the reports and assess the severity and potential risks. So, your primary work after getting the reports is to reach out to your OBGYN without any further thoughts.


  • Can an ICT test be done at home?

An ICT test can’t be conducted at home since there are no self-monitoring or self-testing kits available in the market yet. However, if you are pregnant and aren’t comfortable stepping out of the house for giving the blood sample, we’d suggest booking a home blood sample collection. A trained professional will collect your sample from the comfort of your home.

  • Is the ICT test safe?

The ICT test is a routine blood test where the phlebotomist will collect the blood sample and send it to a lab for further testing. The test is safe and poses no risk to the mother or fetus. Only precaution you ned to take is to book it from a reputable laboratory.

  • What affects the results of an ICT test?

If you think that your ICT test reports aren’t favorable, there could be multiple factors influencing the test results. It could be the way the blood sample was handled, the accuracy of the tests, the experience of the lab technologist, etc. If you aren’t satisfied with the reports, you can get them redone for personal satisfaction.


Knowing what an ICT test in pregnancy means is crucial to ensure optimal health and well-being of both the mother and the developing fetus. There is a reason why this test is such an integral part of prenatal testing, so don’t take it for granted. If your OBGYN has prescribed the test, get it done as soon as possible for your safety and for the safety of your child.

Srujana Mohanty
She is the Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. She's been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018, also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. Majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata, Srujana loves doodling and watching series.


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