Routine Tests During Pregnancy
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Pregnancy is a unique time in your life and for your body. Your body goes through many changes. Your healthcare provider will monitor your and your baby’s health throughout the pregnancy. They will rely on a number of tests. Some of the tests are routine for every pregnancy. Some tests will be repeated throughout your pregnancy. Some women may undergo additional tests. These may depend on your age, your health and family health history, the number of babies you are carrying, ethnicity, and the results of previous pregnancy tests.
Path to improved health
Tests you may receive during pregnancy can include:
- Blood pressure. You may get this test each time you see your healthcare provider during your pregnancy. A small sleeve will be wrapped around your arm. The sleeve is connected to a monitor that checks your blood pressure. The test is painless. This test can help identify conditions such as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is high blood pressure during pregnancy. It can affect the health of your kidneys and liver. If left untreated, it can cause serious problems during your pregnancy.
- Urine test. You may get this test each time you see your healthcare provider during your pregnancy. You will be asked to provide a urine sample at your healthcare provider’s office. Your urine will be sent to a lab to check for bladder or kidney infection. Also, the lab will test your urine for excess protein. Too much protein could be a sign of preeclampsia.
- Blood tests. The test involves inserting a small needle into a vein in your arm to collect a blood sample. It’s generally painless. The test will check for certain conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases, hepatitis B, HIV, and anemia. The lab will also check your blood type and Rh factor (a condition that measures the compatibility of your blood to your baby’s blood).
- Group B streptococcus infection screening. This test involves swabbing a portion of your vagina and rectum. It may feel uncomfortable. The test looks for a type of bacteria (GBS) that causes pneumonia and other serious infections in babies. The test is performed between 35 and 37 weeks of pregnancy. If you test positive for the bacteria, your healthcare provider will give you antibiotics when you are in labor.
- Abdominal circumference. Your healthcare provider will use a measuring tape to assess your baby’s size and growth. It’s painless.
- Glucose challenge screening. You will have a sugary drink to drink. The lab will then test your blood after a certain period of time to measure your blood sugar levels. It’s painless. This test looks at your blood sugar levels. It can tell your healthcare provider if you have gestational diabetes (high blood sugar). It’s usually performed between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Ultrasound exam. This test involves moving a wand around on the outside of your stomach to look at your baby. A gel is applied to your stomach to help the wand glide easily. Most people have this test once between the 18th and 20th weeks of pregnancy. If you are considered to be a high-risk pregnancy (based on your age, the number of babies you are carrying, or a medical condition), you may have multiple ultrasound exams. The test is painless.
- Chromosomal and neural tube defect screenings. These tests check your baby for conditions such as Down syndrome, spina bifida, and cystic fibrosis. Your healthcare provider may choose to perform the screening through a blood test, chorionic villus sampling (CVS), or amniocentesis. Amniocentesis involves collecting a sample of fluid surrounding the baby in your womb using a long, thin needle inserted into your stomach. This fluid is sent to a lab. CVS involves collecting a sample of tissue from the placenta by inserting a small, thin tube into your vagina and cervix. Amniocentesis and CVS can be associated with an increased risk for a miscarriage. They can be painful. Your healthcare provider will review the risks versus benefits of performing these tests with you.
Things to consider
Certain medical conditions may be detected during pregnancy. These include:
- Gestational diabetes. This condition is a form of diabetes. It’s when your blood sugar is too high. It can affect your and your baby’s health. It usually goes away in the mother after giving birth. However, it puts you at higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Birth defects and genetic abnormalities. Many birth defects and genetic abnormalities aren’t caused by pregnancy. However, they can be detected during pregnancy. Some of the more common ones include Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and spina bifida.
- Placenta previa. This occurs during pregnancy. It’s when the placenta (the membrane that develops around the baby) covers a mother’s cervix. It can cause severe bleeding during pregnancy and childbirth. This can lead to dangerously high blood pressure.
- Breech position. Normally, a baby should be positioned head down near the end of pregnancy. A breech position is when your baby is feet first. This can make delivery a higher risk. This may lead to the need to deliver the baby by C-section. Your healthcare provider can check the baby’s position with a physical exam and with an ultrasound test.