Routine Pregnancy Tests

Now that it’s official – you are pregnant and baby is on the way, your Doctor will prescribe a series of regular examinations and tests. In a fairly uncomplicated pregnancy, you have to see your doctor once a month until the 32nd week, and once in two weeks thereafter until the final month. Doctors usually recommend a weekly check-up during the final month.

But throughout pregnancy, you may have to undergo a series of routine medical tests – some mandatory, others specially prescribed according to your condition.These tests help your Doctor know how you and your baby are doing.

Your First Prenatal Visit

The first prenatal visit is often the longest and most anxious for the mother-to-be. Your Doctor might ask you about your family’s medical history and calculate your baby’s due date during this visit. This Expected Date of Delivery (EDD) will serve as a reference point in future visits when the baby’s growth is assessed.

Next, your Doctor will perform an obstetrical exam that includes a look at the mother’s abdomen and measurement of the height of the uterus, along with an internal or pelvic exam. All prenatal visits include a measurement of the mother’s weight, recording of the mother’s blood pressure and urine testing – if necessary.

During the subsequent visits, your Doctor will prescribe blood and urine tests to check for the following:

Blood Tests To Check For

Your blood type – including whether you carry a protein called the Rh factor. Women who lack the Rh factor are said to be Rh negative and usually need treatment to protect their babies from a potentially dangerous blood problem.

Anemia (low red blood cell count) – which could cause you to feel especially tired and possibly increase your risk of preterm delivery. The blood test for anemia will be performed at least once more during your pregnancy.

Hepatitis B, syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections – as these could harm your baby. You may also be offered a test to see if you carry HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Antibodies that indicate whether or not you are immune to rubella (German measles) and chickenpox, both of which can cause birth defects if the mother is infected for the first time during pregnancy.

Urine Tests To Check For

Bacteria in your urine – Almost 10 percent of pregnant women have bacteria in their urine, which indicates a urinary tract infection. Most have no symptoms, but even a symptomless urinary tract infection may spread upwards to the kidneys, where it can pose a serious risk to mother and baby. Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics that are safe for mother and baby.

Sugar in your urine – This can be a sign of diabetes. Your Doctor will suggest additional tests if sugar shows up in your urine.

Protein in your urine – This can indicate a urinary tract infection or, later in pregnancy, a pregnancy-related condition that includes high blood pressure. Your Doctor will suggest additional tests if your urine has protein in it.

All of these tests are routine, but they play an important role in protecting the health of the mother and baby.

At Every Prenatal Visit

Your Doctor will measure your blood pressure and check your urine for protein at every prenatal visit. Protein in the urine and high blood pressure are symptoms of a pregnancy-related condition that includes high blood pressure called preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia affects about 5-8 percent of pregnant women. If left untreated, it can cause serious problems, including poor fetal growth. In rare instances, it can progress to a life-threatening condition called eclampsia where the patient has seizures and falls into a coma. Preeclampsia requires close observation and monitoring.

And at every visit, your Doctor will listen to your baby’s heartbeat. After about 20 weeks, he or she also will measure your abdomen to follow your baby’s growth. A normal heartbeat and growth rate are important signs that your baby’s development is on track.

Ultrasound

Many Doctors also prescribe an ultrasound examination during each trimester. An abdominal or vaginal scan is carried out to check for the general parameters of growth and development.

Special Prenatal Tests

Some women are offered special tests, such as amniocentesis – if they or their babies are at increased risk of certain problems.

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