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Medical Tests You Can Expect During Pregnancy

By

Megan Freedman

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Choosing a Doctor for Your Pregnancy

Whether you’re evaluating your current doctor or seeking a new one, keep these factors in mind to find the best fit for your family.
Diagnostics of Pregnancy

When it comes to having a baby these days, women have several new tools and tests available that can provide a wealth of very useful information along the way. Truly, this is not your mother’s pregnancy.

At times this may seem like a dizzying amount of screening, but good prenatal care can help rule out possible health problems in you or your unborn baby or prevent problems during delivery. Many of these tests are routinely done for all pregnant women. Others are ordered based on factors such as your age, personal or family health history, ethnic background, or the results of other medical tests you’ve had. 

Here’s a rundown of the medical tests you can expect during each trimester of pregnancy. Talk with your doctor or nurse-midwife about which tests are best for you based on their risks and benefits, as well as your own health needs. 

Test Throughout Pregnancy (Weeks 1-40)

Get used to these screenings: You’ll be doing them at most (or all) of your prenatal appointments.

  • Urine test. Your OB team will screen your urine for signs of urinary tract infection, diabetes, and preeclampsia.
     
  • Blood pressure check. It’s important to monitor your blood pressure frequently during pregnancy. High blood pressure can lead to kidney damage, early delivery of the baby, and low birth weight.

  • Weight check. You’ll step on the scale at each visit to ensure you’re gaining weight at the right pace. Proper weight gain during pregnancy helps the baby grow, lowers the mother’s risk of contracting gestational diabetes, and helps prevent premature birth and low birth weight. 

First Trimester Tests (Weeks 1–12)

Tests during this phase will rule out pre-existing conditions you may bring to the pregnancy and give you a first look at your unborn baby. Even at such a tiny size, the fetus can already provide valuable information through the DNA he or she has started contributing to your own bloodstream.

  • Early ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create a picture of your baby on a monitor. An ultrasound in your first trimester confirms you’re pregnant and how many babies you are carrying. It also helps your healthcare provider calculate your due date. Timing: Weeks 6-9

  • Complete blood count (CBC). This blood test searches for signs of anemia (low red blood cell count). Anemia can make you more likely to have infections, preterm delivery, and a low birth weight baby. Timing: Weeks 6-12

  • Rh factor test. This blood test will screen you for Rh disease, which in very rare cases can lead to complications and miscarriage. Timing: Weeks 6-12

  • Test for infections. A blood test will confirm you don’t have infections that can cause complications for a growing fetus, including HIV (tested with your consent), syphilis, chlamydia, rubella (German measles), tuberculosis, or hepatitis. Timing: Weeks 6-12

  • Cell-free fetal DNA testing (noninvasive prenatal testing or NIPT). This screening checks your blood for your baby’s DNA to see if he or she has certain genetic conditions or chromosome disorders, such as Down syndrome. Your doctor may recommend it if you have risk factors, such as being older than 35 or if you’ve already had a baby with a birth defect. This test can also determine the baby’s sex if you and your partner want to know it. Timing: After week 10

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). This test uses a needle to withdraw a small piece of tissue from the placenta. For pregnancies considered high risk, CVS can be used to detect chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome and other genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, a condition that affects breathing and digestion. Timing: Between weeks 10-13

  • First trimester screening or integrated screening. These birth defect screenings involve two types of tests. The first is a blood test that measures levels of certain substances in your blood, and the other is a nuchal translucency screening—an ultrasound exam that measures the thickness at the base of your unborn baby’s neck–an effective noninvasive screening test for Down syndrome. Timing: Between weeks 11 and 14

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Nov 3, 2016

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Amniocentesis. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/amniocentesis.aspx.
  2. Chorionic villus sampling. March of Dimes. http://marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/chorionic-villus-sampling.aspx.
  3. Cystic fibrosis and pregnancy. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/cystic-fibrosis-and-pregnancy.aspx.
  4. Eating For Two When Over/ Or Under Weight. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/eatingfortwo.html.
  5. High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/hbp-pregnancy.htm.
  6. Pregnancy Calendar. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_calendar/pregnancy_calendar_intro.html.
  7. Prenatal care and tests. Womenshealth.gov. http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/prenatal-care-tests.html#c.
  8. Prenatal Tests: First Trimester. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medical/tests-first-trimester.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle#.
  9. Prenatal Tests: Second Trimester. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medical/tests-second-trimester.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle.
  10. Prenatal Tests: Third Trimester. KidsHealth from Nemours. http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/medical/tests-third-trimester.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle.
  11. Prenatal tests. March of Dimes. http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/prenatal-tests.aspx.
  12. Preventing early-onset GBS. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://cdc.gov/groupbstrep/about/prevention.html.
  13. Stages of pregnancy. Womenshealth.gov. http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-are-pregnant/stages-of-pregnancy.html.
 

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