The Different Types of Prenatal Testing

For pregnant women, regular prenatal consultations are a must. These important trips to our doctor will not only keep your health in check but more importantly, ensure your baby’s wellbeing. During these appointments, your doctor may require you to undergo a couple of prenatal tests, some for routine checks and some for case-to-case bases. This means that there are some prenatal exams that will be recommended to you and not to others.

So you may be left wondering: What are the different types of prenatal testing and why do expectant mothers get them?

Routine prenatal care

As part of your initial prenatal consultation, you are most likely to go through a number of lab tests to help determine the risk of certain conditions or complications for you and your baby. Such procedures are done early in pregnancy and are often required for all expectant women.

A series of blood tests may be required to obtain a complete blood count, determine your blood type or if you have the Rhesus factor, and identify if you have certain conditions such as hepatitis B, HIV, or other sexually-transmitted diseases. Meanwhile, a urinalysis or a urine culture will also be requested to see if you have an infection or if you are at risk for diabetes mellitus. Your doctor may also want to check high protein levels in your urine, which could be a sign of preeclampsia or high blood pressure that occurs later in pregnancy.

Early prenatal screening tests

Unlike routine exams, prenatal screening tests are offered to mothers who are more likely at risk for their child to have specific birth defects. However, they are only able to provide the risk or the probability of a certain condition and not actually confirm it. During your first to the second trimester, you may be asked to undergo a series of tests, including an ultrasound and a glucose screening.

An ultrasound will not only confirm the pregnancy and the age of gestation but also detect any abnormalities in the development of the fetus. When you reach the second trimester, a more detailed type of ultrasound known as a fetal anatomy survey may be suggested to carefully inspect the baby from head to toe for any birth defects. Meanwhile, a glucose screening will check for gestational diabetes, which may lead to complications and a possible cesarean section during your delivery.

Third-trimester screening tests

The second and third trimesters are usually the times when mothers are already able to feel their baby moving more frequently. However, if you sense that your baby is not as active as usual, it is best to report such finding to your doctor, especially if you are overdue. Your doctor may recommend a fetal non-stress test, which will determine if your baby is receiving enough oxygen that he or she needs.

During the test, two belts, each with different sensors attached to them, will be attached to your abdomen. One transducer will measure your fetal heart rate while a toco transducer will measure uterine contractions. The procedure will determine the reactivity of the heart rate to the baby’s movements.

Diagnostic testing

Once you get a positive result on a prenatal screening test, your doctor can suggest other tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some well-known diagnostic tests include an amniocentesis and a chorionic villus sampling. Since both of these tests are invasive, they are only recommended to women who are really at risk of having a child with a particular birth defect.

Whatever the results of your prenatal testing may be, it is important to remember that such procedures are meant for you to be on top of your child’s health. Always talk to your doctor and even to other medical experts, if need be, to help you gain professional advice and guidance throughout your pregnancy.

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