Pregnancy Tests – What To Expect

You will be given a variety of tests during your pregnancy. Each trimester has certain common tests that are performed. These are done to determine your health and the health of your baby. Learn about the tests that are commonly done to feel more prepared.

by Patricia Hughes

You will be given a variety of tests during your pregnancy. Each trimester has certain common tests that are performed. These are done to determine your health and the health of your baby. Learn about the tests that are commonly done to feel more prepared. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about any tests that are offered by your practitioner.  
Tests in the First Trimester 
At your first doctor’s visit, you will have an internal exam. If you are due for your Pap smear, this may be done at this time. A swab will be taken from inside your vagina to check for certain STDs such as Chlamydia.  
You will need to have blood drawn in the first trimester. A basic blood screening will be done at this time and your hemoglobin level will be checked. If your hemoglobin is low, you may be told to take iron supplements. A Rubella titer may be done to check for immunity to this disease. If you aren’t immune, you will be vaccinated after the baby is born, since the vaccine isn’t safe during pregnancy. You may be tested for HIV as well.  
Tests in the Second Trimester 
You will be offered a blood test known as the triple screen or quad screen. This is a screening test for problems such as Down’s syndrome, Edwards Syndrome and neural tube defects. The results of the test combined with your age show if you are at increased risk of having a baby with one of these disorders. If your dates are accurate, the test results will be more accurate. This test is generally done between fourteen and twenty two weeks.  
Some women refuse this test because it has a high rate of false positive results. Just because you have a positive result, doesn’t mean there is a problem with the baby. It just means a problem is possible and further testing is needed. I had a false positive with my second baby. She turned out to be completely healthy. A level 2 ultrasound or amniocentesis is often done to confirm the results. 
The amniocentesis is generally only done if you are at high risk for having a baby with a birth defect. This may be due to advanced maternal age or a family history of a specific defect. It is sometimes used after a positive triple screen blood test to confirm the condition of the baby. The test can show chromosomal abnormalities, genetic disorders, neural tube defects and can be used for DNA analysis to determine paternity.  
To perform the test, an ultrasound is done to find a pocket of amniotic fluid that is not too near the baby. A long needle is inserted into your abdomen and a sample of the fluid is drawn out. This is sent to the lab. The test is invasive and does have risks. The biggest risk is leaking fluid, which can lead to miscarriage. The risk varies from one in two hundred to one in four hundred, depending on the experience of the doctor. Look for an experienced doctor with the lowest rate of miscarriage possible if you want this test.  
The amniocentesis is generally only done when the risk of a problem is greater than the risk of the procedure. Some women want to know in order to make a decision regarding the pregnancy. Others plan to continue with the pregnancy, but want to be prepared. You will be told to rest for a few days after the procedure. Call your doctor if you experience cramping, bleeding or leaking fluid.  
Most women have an ultrasound in the second trimester. The ultrasound is effective for diagnosing many problems with the baby. A scan will be done of the baby’s brain, heart, stomach, kidneys and other major organs. In addition, the gender of the baby can often be seen. Some parents want this information and others want to be surprised. If you don’t want to know, be sure to tell the technician.  
A level II ultrasound is a more in depth, diagnostic ultrasound. Most of the major birth defects that can be diagnosed with an amniocentesis can now be diagnosed with a level II ultrasound. This test is most accurate when done by a specialist in maternal fetal medicine. Two ultrasounds are generally done, one earlier in the second trimester and one later to confirm the diagnosis. 
Tests in the Third Trimester 
You will be given a glucose tolerance test in the third trimester. This consists of drinking a glucose solution and having a blood test an hour later. The purpose is to determine how your body is processing sugar and to diagnose Gestational Diabetes. If you fail this test, you will need to have a three hour test done. For this test, you will have blood drawn before you drink the solution and then every hour for three hours after. The three hour test requires fasting. This one gives a better picture of how your body is processing sugar over a longer period of time.  
Between the thirty fifth and thirty seventh week of pregnancy, you will have a test done for Group B Strep. Some women are carriers of these bacteria. It is generally harmless, but can be passed along to the baby during delivery. In some cases, the baby can get very sick as a result. The test is done with a vaginal and rectal swab. If you have a positive result, you will be given antibiotics during labor to prevent passing it to the baby.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2006

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