You will need to get special types of tests at different times during your pregnancy. This is called prenatal testing. Some tests look at your health—others look at your baby’s health. If you get too far along, you may not be able to get the tests you need. Make sure to go to all of your visits so you don’t miss any tests.
Testing for Possible Birth Defects
When you go to the doctor early in your pregnancy, you can get the best tests available called first trimester screening tests. A blood test is done where a small amount of blood is taken from your arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab. The screening also includes an ultrasound measurement of the skin thickness at the back of the baby’s neck. These tests can be done as early as your 3rd month. The tests are a way to check for the risk of birth defects before the baby is born. Ask your doctor about first trimester screening.
If you miss this early test, there is another test called the quad test. It is done between your 16th and 20th weeks. A small sample of your blood is drawn for the test. This test measures 4 proteins and hormones. The tests can often show if there is a chance the baby will have Down’s Syndrome, problems with the spine, kidneys, and intestines. The fi rst trimester or quad test cannot tell for certain that there is a birth defect. The tests can give you an idea of the chances of having certain birth defects. Your risk is based on some factors that include: your age, your weight, your race, and your health among other things.
The tests are not 100% correct all the time. If your test comes back “normal” the chance of a birth defect is quite low. Still, the baby could
have a birth defect that is not picked up by the blood test. If your test results come back “abnormal” it does not always mean that a baby has a birth defect. In fact, most women who have abnormal results have healthy babies. At times the tests don’t show up as normal because of an
incorrect due date (the tests use the age of your baby as a measurement.) If your test comes up as abnormal, your doctor may repeat the test or do other follow-up tests such as an ultrasound. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have with your test results.
If the test for Down’s syndrome described above comes out “abnormal,” your doctor will most likely suggest a second test. This test is called amniocentesis, or amnio for short. For this test, the doctor will insert a long, very thin needle through your belly. Most women report it doesn’t hurt. Some women say they feel a quick tug or pinch. Next, the doctor will remove a small amount of water from the sac that surrounds the baby. The fl uid is then tested to check the baby’s chromosomes. Why else is an amnio done? Sometimes doctors use this test to look for
rare diseases or infections in the baby. Sometimes this test can fi nd out late in your pregnancy if the baby’s lungs are mature. The test can tell if you are having a boy or a girl.
This test uses sound waves to look at the baby in your belly. It is common to have this test at about 18 to 20 weeks—or just about the middle of your pregnancy. The person doing the test will place a clear jelly on your belly. Then he or she will gently press an instrument over your tummy. The test does not hurt.The ultrasound will look closely at everything that is going on in your womb.
About Vaginal Ultrasound
The technician places an instrument with clear jelly on it in your vagina. At the early to middle part of your pregnancy, the test can:
● Measure how long your cervix is
● Tell the doctor about your chances of an early delivery
● Tell if you are at risk to miscarry
About Flu Shots
Pregnant women who will be in their 2nd or 3rd trimester during flu season should have a flu shot. Flu season runs from November to April each year. Flu shots are safe for your baby. Getting the flu when you are pregnant can mean getting much sicker than other people. It is also
so important to get the flu vaccine if you have other health problems. Ask your doctor about a flu shot (not the mist you take through your nose).