Tests and Screenings during Pregnancy

Being an expectant mom is not an easy job. As a ‘soon-to-be’ mom, you might be juggling with so many things already, not only mention the weekly doctor visits and tests that would rush into you one after the other. But don’t be intimidated by them so easily (at least not yet!). Although you may feel like there is a myriad of tests and screenings laid in front of you, remembering this one simple fact will chop your anxiety level in half: you don’t have to go through every single one of them (Hooray!). Here’s a nitty-gritty timeline that will make you remain on top of all medical tests and screenings for your happier wait and healthier delivery.

First Thing to Know About The First Trimester

The first trimester is when the most genetic screenings and tests are offered to expectant moms who carry a higher risk of conceiving a baby with a birth defect or a genetic problem. The specific conditions are as follows:

If the expectant mom is…

  • Over age 35
  • Have had a premature baby or a baby with a birth defect
  • Have a family history of a genetic disorder
  • Have a medical condition like diabetes, high blood pressure, a seizure disorder, or an autoimmune disorder such as lupus
  • Have had miscarriages or stillborn babies
  • Have had gestational diabetes or preeclampsia when you were pregnant

(Source: http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-guide-prenatal-testing?page=2)

These genetic tests are usually consisted of blood test and ultrasound screening. If the expectant mom does not carry a risk and her fetal development runs smooth, she would only have to take ultrasound twice throughout the whole pregnancy. Usually, the first ultrasound is given during the first trimester for keeping in traction of your fetus’ early development. The second one –stating the obvious— is given during the second trimester as a follow up to the first test. If the mom has or had one or more medical conditions mentioned above, there is a very high chance that she has to take the screenings more seriously and frequently.

Keep in mind that not all genetic tests are diagnostic. Some of them are screening tests and can only tell moms about mere possibility. Moms usually get more definite answers by taking the diagnostic tests, which come after examining the results from their initial screening tests. Many expectant moms in a high risk are recommended to take additional genetic tests around the 10th and 13th week of their pregnancy.




During the First Trimester

The very first thing that every expectant mom should assume to happen on each and every visit to her physician might be a urine test. This test is primarily used for diagnosing preeclampsia (a type of high blood pressure) and gestational diabetes. When an expectant mom visits her physician for the first time, she is also required to take the First Trimester Blood Work to check for STDs (through pap smear), Rh factor (a type of protein in your blood cells), hCG levels, blood type and detect possible chromosome disorders. Noninvasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) and Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) can be given for detecting chromosome and genetic disorders during the week 9 and weeks 10 to 12 respectively. These tests, however, are not mandatory for everyone. Your physician will bring these up when they are necessary.

Nuchal Translucency Screening, on the other hand, is mandatory for all expectant moms. This test is usually held between the weeks 10 to 13 to detect chromosome and genetics disorders – such as Down syndrome(DS)—and possible congenital heart defects for a fetus.

During the Second Trimester

Quad Screen can be given during the weeks 15 to 20 for chromosome and genetic disorders for high-risk pregnancy. Amniocentesis is also used for examining chromosome and genetic disorders, but it also can detect neural tube defects. Once again, these two exams are not mandatory for all pregnant and should be given under strict medical guidance.

During the weeks 18 to 22, all expectant moms have to go through a level 2 ultrasound screening. This screening can provide detailed information about the status and growth of a fetus (such his or her size, sex, heart rate, placenta, and amniotic fluid levels).

From the weeks 24 to 28, expectant moms have to take Glucose Tolerance Test to examine the risk of gestational diabetes.

During the Third Trimester

Things tend to slow down as expectant moms enter the third trimester. From the weeks 28 to 29, these ‘soon-to-be’ moms have to take the Rh-Factor Testing, which can detect the difference between baby’s and mom’s blood types (Rh-negative). Nonstress Test is not mandatory, but it further examines fetal heart rate, fetal movement, and uterine activity for distress. Biophysical Profile is another optional test that can further examine fully developed baby’s heart rate, activity level, breathing movements, muscle tone, and amniotic fluid. Last not least, Group B Strep test is required around the weeks 36 to help expectant moms to stay away from the infection of the common type of bacteria before or during birth.