Prenatal testing will go on throughout your pregnancy. Most tests are routine and not uncomfortable, and they will give your obstetrician a lot of valuable information regarding your health and the health of your baby. The intention of most of these prenatal tests is to confirm that everything is just fine, but they also aim to identify any complications that may be developing.
The first trimester of pregnancy is a time of important development for your baby. Your OBGYN will want to make sure that everything is moving along exactly as it should.
The first round of prenatal bloodwork will check to make sure you are in good health, and it will look for conditions that could affect your pregnancy. Your blood type will be checked, and your OBGYN will make sure you don’t have anemia. Your obstetrician will also check your Rh factor, a protein in the blood cells. If you are Rh-negative and your fetus is Rh-positive, this can lead to incompatibility problems, which your doctor will want to prevent.
This initial bloodwork will also check for conditions such as syphilis, Hepatitis B, and HIV and will check your immunity for German measles.
You will have a urine test at your first prenatal visit and probably at every subsequent visit as well. In early pregnancy, your urine can be tested for the hCG level, which will confirm you are pregnant. Your OBGYN will also look for signs of kidney infection, glucose or albumin to identify possible problems with gestational diabetes or high blood pressure. Your urine will continue to be monitored for abnormalities throughout your pregnancy.
Do You Want Genetic Testing?
As the first trimester approaches its completion, your obstetrician may ask you if you want genetic testing. These tests are not 100% accurate but may give information on whether your baby is at risk for certain congenital conditions.
You may prefer to decline this and just let the pregnancy run its course rather than going through the stress of trying to detect possible problems. If you do decide to go through with genetic testing, you should discuss all the options and possible complications with your doctor.
Some genetic tests are non-invasive and work like a specialized ultrasound. One or more of these tests may be offered to you, particularly if you are over 35. Non-invasive tests don’t pose any risk to you or the fetus. They screen for chromosomal abnormalities such as spina bifida and Down syndrome. If abnormalities are detected, further testing may be recommended, because screening tests don’t actually diagnose. An abnormal result on a screening test sometimes proves to be false.
Amniocentesis or CVS
Amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS) are examples of tests that are more invasive. They take samples of the amniotic fluid or placenta to more accurately diagnose genetic abnormalities or genetic defects such as sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy or Down syndrome. CVS is performed during the first trimester and amniocentesis would be done during the second trimester. A genetic counselor may be able to help you decide if you want to go through with one of these tests.
Early in pregnancy an ultrasound can be useful to confirm viability and get accurate dating. If you are unclear when your last period was, an ultrasound can be used at around eight to ten weeks of pregnancy to estimate your due date. Or your obstetrician may wait until the second trimester to do this non-invasive diagnostic test. You will most likely have an additional ultrasound in each of your second and third trimesters to monitor fetal development and screen for any potential problems.
All your testing options should be discussed with your OBGYN so that you understand what tests are being run and why.
If you’d like to see a gynecologist at NSAGO, please contact us at our Wilmette or Glenview locations.