What Tests Do You Need During Pregnancy?

prenatal tests
Now That I'm Pregnant. What Tests Do I Have To Have?

Studies show that women who have good prenatal care starting in the first trimester have a safer pregnancy than those who have little or no prenatal care. Prenatal tests are important because they help to identify problems like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes which can cause serious problems in pregnant women. While certain tests are standard and you should take them, others are optional (such as genetic tests during pregnancy and check for conditions like Down syndrome). Non-standard tests are not usually necessary for normal low-risk pregnancies.

Standard Tests

The standard tests which you will need in pregnancy are:

1. Initial Doctor Examination
As soon as you have taken a pregnancy test and you know you are pregnant, you should make an appointment with your doctor for a prenatal checkup. This appointment is likely to be the longest of all your visits and will include some or all of the following checks:
Medical History: Discussion about the general medical history of you and your partner, your overall health and answering any questions you have.
Cervical Smear: Known as a Pap test, it checks for cervical cancer and HPV infection.
Ultrasound: Basic level 1 ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy due date and general status of the baby.
Prenatal Blood Tests: Several tubes of blood need to be taken to screen for potential issues such as anemia in pregnancy, low blood sugar, STD's. It will help measure your HCG pregnancy hormone levels to accurately date the pregnancy and assess your immunity to rubella (German measles). A urine sample will also be needed to check for infections, signs of preeclampsia and high blood pressure.

2. First Trimester Integrated Testing
First trimester integrated testing is gradually replacing the triple and quad screen test as a way of detecting any abnormalities in the fetus. It is 85 to 95 percent accurate in picking up genetic disorders like Down syndrome. It involves a blood test at week 10 to 13 and a specific type of ultrasound scan between weeks 11 and 13 called a nuchal scan. Some clinics will draw the blood a week or two before the scan, while others will do both at the same time. The results are usually available the same day, but some clinics take a few days.

3. Regular Checkups
How often you are seen by your pregnancy healthcare team will depend on where you live and your overall health. Typically, you can expect the following schedule of prenatal visits:
Weeks 4 to 28: One visit a month
Weeks 28 to 36: Twice a month
Weeks 36 to birth: Weekly
If you are considered a high-risk pregnancy category, your doctor may ask to see you more often.

During a routine visit expect the following tests:
Weight check. See, how much weight gain is normal in pregnancy?
Urine test, for signs of infections or high levels of sugar or protein.
Blood pressure check.
Tummy examination, including measurement of fundal height to assess the baby's rate of growth.
Fetal heart rate using a hand-held Doppler.

4. Other Ultrasound Scans
Between weeks 18 and 22 a second ultrasound scan may be offered. This is the most detailed of all scans and is the one most people refer to when they think of a pregnancy scan. Also called an anatomy scan it is where the gender of the baby can be revealed. Here you might spot some features of your baby, like their hands, feet or even face (see images). If a 3D/4D ultrasound is also carried out, you will be able to bring home a picture or video of the scan. See also: Ultrasound scan photos and video images. A third scan in the last trimester is not usually performed unless there are health concerns for either mom or baby. Useful: How accurate is a scan at predicting gender?

5. Bacteria Test
At week 36 or 37, just before delivery, you are likely to have a Group B streptococcus test. This test looks for bacteria which can cause pneumonia or serious infection in newborn babies. A swab is taken from the bottom or vagina and tested.

Non Standard Tests

Most other tests are non-routine and are only performed if some issue was highlighted during the routine tests, or if the mother is in a high risk category (for example experiencing a pregnancy after 35 or has suffered pregnancy problems with previous babies). These tests include:

1. Nonstress Test (NST)
2. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
3. Amniocentesis
4. Fetal MRI

If an abnormality is detected, you may be referred to a genetic counselor.

• Need more information about prenatal care? See: Birthing Classes / Folic Acid
• Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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