Common Prenatal Tests
Once you have discovered that you are pregnant, you will need to begin a series of prenatal tests during your pregnancy for the health or you and your new baby. Some of these tests can begin at the start of the pregnancy, and other tests are performed in the latter trimesters. It is always important to begin prenatal tests as soon as possible, and to talk with your doctor about which tests you may need, any extra tests that you might want, and if any of the tests come with side effects or cautions.
Prenatal tests begin with checking the mother’s health; the mother’s blood pressure, urine, and blood will be checked. Urine tests alert doctors to any health problems a new mom may be developing including: gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and bladder infections. The blood pressure of the mother will help the doctor to know if the mother is developing any blood pressure problems during the pregnancy, and if any dietary changes need to be made. Blood tests will diagnose troubles such as Rh negative diseases, or any STDs that the mother may unknowingly have, and check for anemia in the mother. A vaginal smear and pap will also be performed to check for bacteria, abnormal cervical cells, and STDs that can harm the baby.
Other blood tests that are a part of prenatal tests include checking the levels of certain hormones and AFP screening. The levels of human chorionic gonadotropin hormone, (hCG), will be evaluated in the mother. High levels of this hormone can indicate multiple pregnancies or a baby that is at risk for Down syndrome; low levels can indicate the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.
AFP, alphafetoprotein, screening is a prenatal blood test that checks AFP, hCG, and estridol levels with increased accuracy. This test checks for any developing neural tube defects in the baby that could lead to spina bifida, and any indications of Down syndrome.
An ultrasound is one of the most common prenatal tests, and it is usually performed at least once during the pregnancy. During the ultrasound the doctor will be able to look at your baby’s development and check for any health problems or abnormalities. The sex of the baby can also be determined using ultrasound procedures.
Women who are over the age of 35 or who have genetic disorders in their family usually receive amniocentesis as part of their prenatal test routine. During this test, a small amount of the amniotic fluid is collected and analyzed. Any genetic abnormalities or diseases in the baby can be diagnosed through this prenatal test.
If there is not enough amniotic fluid present to be collected safely for amniocentesis, or the woman wants test results very early in the pregnancy, than chorionic villus sampling can be used; during this test fetal blood is collected from the umbilical cord. Chorionic villus sampling can also detect addition problems in the fetus such as low oxygen levels or anemia.