Prenatal testing is very important for both the mother and her unborn child. These tests, given throughout the pregnancy, are used by doctors to learn how the baby is growing, how well the mother is doing, and also any problems that may arise during the gestational period.
Most of these tests, such as urine tests, blood tests, blood pressure checks, and ultrasounds, are routine. Other tests, such as amniocentesis, are usually not routinely done. Tests such as these are given if your doctor feels that you have a higher risk of particular conditions or problems.
The thought of all this poking and prodding can be scary if you don't know anything about these tests. So, prior to having them done, do as much research as possible. Talk to your doctor, your partner, or even friends who have been through the testing to find out what each will entail. In the meantime, here is a list of everything you'll need to know about each test that is routinely performed throughout pregnancy.
During the course of your first few prenatal appointments, your doctor will require you to have a blood test and also give a urine sample.
These tests will check to make sure of the following:
- You don't have any disorders such as sexually transmitted diseases, that can harm the baby. You will also be asked if you'd like to be tested for HIV.
- The doctor will look for antibodies that will tell them if you are immune to chicken pox and rubella. If, during her pregnancy, a mother is infected with either for the first time, birth defects can occur.
- Your doctor will want to make sure that you are not suffering from anemia, meaning your red blood cell count is low. If you are anemic, you run the risk of feeling very tired, or even delivering early.
- Doctors look to see what your blood type is, and if you carry the Rh factor protein. If you don't have this protein, you'll require treatment to ensure your baby doesn't have any blood problems that could possibly be dangerous.
- Close to 10 percent of women who are pregnant have bacteria found in their urine, which could mean that a urinary tract infection is present. Therefore, urine tests are used to look for the presence of bacteria. If you don't know you have one, and it isn't treated, the infection can spread and cause risk to both you and your unborn baby.
- Urine tests are also used to look for sugar, which can mean that diabetes is present. An additional blood test may be required to find out if you have gestational diabetes, a condition that usually only occurs during pregnancy that can easily be treated with a diet plan.
- Also, urine tests are given to look for the presence of protein. This can indicate both a UTI or, if found later in the pregnancy, high blood pressure. Additional testing may be ordered if protein is found.
In addition to blood and urine tests, some doctors offer a cystic fibrosis screening. Cystic fibrosis, which causes digestion and breathing problems, is inherited. There is no cure for the disease, but the test can let you know if your child has inherited this abnormal gene. This is an optional test.
Most doctors require urine tests during every prenatal exam. As the pregnancy progresses, your doctor will again look for protein in your urine. If found, as aforementioned, protein can be a sign of high blood pressure, which can also be a sign of the condition called preeclampsia. Five to ten percent of expectant mothers are affected by preeclampsia. If not treated properly, it can cause the fetus to grow poorly. In rare cases, it can even evolve into eclampsia, which causes the mother to have seizures and even end up in a coma. As long as it's closely monitored, there is no reason to worry about preeclampsia.
In addition to urine tests, during each prenatal visit, your doctor will check your baby's heartbeat using a hand-held gadget called a Doppler. You can also expect for your doctor to measure your growing belly after you've reached 20 weeks so he or she can check your baby's growth. By checking to make sure your baby's heartbeat and growth are normal, your doctor can ensure your baby is developing properly.
The last common test performed is an ultrasound. This utilizes sound waves in order to allow the doctor and expectant mother to see a picture of the baby on a monitor. A hand-held gadget, called a transducer, is rubbed across your belly to capture the image. There is no pain involved with this procedure and is usually done routinely at least once during a pregnancy.
Prenatal testing is important to both your health and the health of your unborn baby. It allows the doctor to treat pregnancy related problems and to know whether to expect problems as your pregnancy progresses. Most of the procedures are painless and will ensure that you both remain healthy.