Pregnancy is an exciting time for expectant moms and dads, but it can also be a time of worry. Most parents spend a fair amount of time concerned with the health of the baby and mom-to-be. Fortunately, regular prenatal exams and ongoing testing provide essential monitoring for both.
As a board-certified obstetrician in Newburgh, Indiana, Paul W. Morrison, M.D., offers comprehensive prenatal testing throughout pregnancy, helping moms and developing babies stay healthy from conception through delivery. If you’re expecting, here are some of the tests you can expect during your pregnancy.
Prenatal tests to expect
For most pregnancies, the bulk of testing is performed during the first trimester to identify any potential problems as early as possible. Early testing also establishes baseline numbers for the mother. These numbers can be matched against numbers from future tests to look for changes or trends that might indicate a problem.
Blood tests during the earliest stages of pregnancy can be very helpful in spotting potential problems. Some tests are performed only once, while other tests — such as blood sugar testing, for example — are repeated to keep track of your health and your baby’s health.
Blood typing is important for a couple of reasons. In some rare instances, a blood transfusion might be needed during delivery. Confirming your blood type ahead of time means you’ll be prepared, just in case.
Second, blood typing determines your Rhesus (Rh) factor. Rhesus factor is a protein located on the surface of red blood cells. If you’re Rh negative, your body might produce antibodies that could cause problems during pregnancy. Women who are Rh negative may need special medication throughout pregnancy to prevent those antibodies from forming
When you’re pregnant, your body produces a hormone called hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). It’s this hormone that triggers the positive result in home pregnancy tests. In early pregnancy, abnormal levels of hCG could be a sign of a problem. HCG levels typically are only used in the early part of pregnancy to diagnose or confirm problems related to bleeding in the first trimester, possible ectopic pregnancy, or concerns over miscarage. Once an intrauterine pregnancy is seen (as opposed to an ectopic pregnancy), the benefits of monitoring this level go down, but may be helpful in some cases. HCG levels are also used in the second trimester to screen for some birth defects.
High levels of blood sugar — also called glucose — could indicate a higher risk for developing gestational diabetes, which is a diabetes that can occur during pregnancy. As many as 10% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Glucose testing is often performed after the first trimester, but it may be performed earlier or more often if you’re at risk for diabetes or if you have diabetes prior to pregnancy.
You’ll be screened for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), because some of them can cause problems with the developing baby or interfere with a healthy delivery. Initial blood tests look for specific STDs, such as syphilis and HIV. During the first trimester, you’ll also be tested for hepatitis and measles (rubella), two diseases that can interfere with pregnancy and affect your baby’s health.
A complete urinalysis looks for signs of infection and also measures protein levels. High levels of protein could mean you’re at risk for a condition called preeclampsia, which is associated with high blood pressure and organ damage. Preeclampsia occurs in up to 8% of pregnancies. Urine tests can also indicate the presence of diabetes.
Ultrasound tests may be performed during the first trimester and again later in your pregnancy. These tests evaluate how well your baby is developing, and they also look closely at your uterus and placenta to look for possible problems that could affect pregnancy or delivery. They also allow your doctor to set a due date, determine if you’re pregnant with multiples, and determine your baby’s gender.
Genetic testing is performed at different times during pregnancy to look for potential genetic-associated diseases. If you’re interested in learning more about genetic testing, you can discuss your options with Dr. Morrison during your next office visit.
Regular prenatal visits allow Dr. Morrison time to evaluate your health and your baby’s health, plus they give you plenty of time to ask questions and discuss any concerns you might have. If you’re pregnant, book an appointment online or over the phone with the practice of Paul W. Morrison, M.D. today.