As part of a good antenatal care programme you will be given the option of a range of tests and investigations to ensure that you and your developing baby remain as healthy as possible.
You are free to decline these tests but it is as well to understand what they are and why they are being offered.
Ultrasound Scans During the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy the ultrasound scan is the first test that is likely to happen. At this stage the ultrasound will confirm whether or not you are pregnant, estimate delivery dates and the baby’s weight. Afterwards you will be offered regular scans to check for twins (or more), for developmental progress and on the growth of the baby in the womb.
Scans can also diagnose developmental problems like harelip, cleft palate or Down’s syndrome
On the first antenatal appointment blood samples will be taken for blood grouping and Rhesus factor, anaemia and diabetes mellitus too.
It’s in the Blood
Blood samples will also identify conditions that could affect your or your baby’s health. The tests will include syphilis and HIV, and German Measles. For some races screening for thalassaemia may also be recommended.
A weighty matter
Weight increases by around 10 to 12.5 kg during pregnancy so every time you attend an antenatal clinic a routine weight measurement is performed.
Your blood pressure will be checked to ensure that it remains normal and to serve as a warning for a condition called preeclampsia or pregnancy induced high blood pressure.
The presence of a protein called albumin in the urine will also indicate a tendency to preeclampsia, therefore each time you see a doctor or midwife they may ask to test your urine. Some women develop a condition called ‘gestational diabetes’. This type of diabetes occurs only during pregnancy; it disappears after delivery.
A Doppler test listens to the heart beat of the fetus and can be done throughout the pregnancy. It will be a reassurance to women who have not felt the baby move.
There are less routine tests also like chorionic villus sampling (CVS), amniocentesis and umbilical cord blood sampling. These tests detect a susceptibility to or presence of genetic disorders in the fetus. As they are invasive they carry a small risk to the foetus.
If these tests are needed then it is best to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits. However, women who are over the age of 35 years carry an increased risk of conditions like Down’s syndrome and these types of tests will help to ease anxiety.
A simple mouthwash can determine if you are a carrier of the gene that causes cystic fibrosis.
Even before pregnancy it is wise to test for certain conditions and diseases. Because it can have a devastating effect on the well-being of the fetus and on the health of the baby testing for immunity to rubella is highly recommended.
Tests for infections like salmonella, Chlamydia, toxoplasmosis are also recommended.
Pregnancy is a happy time. It also brings worries and concerns too. By taking precautions before and during pregnancy your worries will recede ensuring that you and your baby remain well and healthy during pregnancy.