Regular prenatal visits will help ensure the best possible health for your baby. At each visit your weight, blood pressure, and the size of your uterus will be monitored. These measurements can reassure you that your pregnancy is going well.
Regular visits can also alert your health care provider to early signs of a problem. Early detection usually means problems can be treated more easily. At some visits you will be offered screening for specific concerns.
Knowing about some problems before your baby is born can help you and your health care provider be better prepared.
No test can guarantee that you will have a healthy baby. There are no tests that can identify all types of birth defects and developmental problems. However, prenatal screens may help predict if you have an increased risk of carrying a baby with some specific conditions
Prenatal screening tests are optional for all pregnant women to assess their risk of having a baby with a specific birth defect or genetic disorder. Genetic counseling can help you understand your testing.
When a screening result is "positive," it means that you are in a higher-risk category for a certain condition. It does not mean your baby has the condition. If you are at an increased risk, genetic counseling can help you understand the risks and clarify any concerns. You have the option for diagnostic testing which will determine if your baby actually has the condition.
A "normal" or "negative" screen result indicates you are in a low-risk category. It does not definitely rule out the concern.
Talk with your health care provider about the benefits and limits of the offered screens. It is your choice whether or not to have a screening test.
Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). A small amount of tissue is removed from your baby's developing placenta. These cells usually have the same genetic and biochemical makeup as your baby.
The cells are grown in a culture, and the chromosomes are studied. If the family history indicates additional concerns, other DNA or biochemical tests may also be done.
The sampling procedure is done using ultrasound to guide a catheter through your vagina and cervix. The sample can also be taken using ultrasound to guide a needle through your abdomen.
It is usually used to determine if your baby has specific genetic problems. The concern may be related to your age, family history, the results of a screen, or other factors.
The test is usually done at 10 to 12 weeks. ACOG supports this option for all pregnant women.
Cystic fibrosis carrier test. This is a blood test that can identify most carriers of an altered gene for cystic fibrosis (CF).
If you test positive, your partner will also be offered testing. Babies must have two altere CF genes in order to have cystic fibrosis.
To determine if your baby is at risk for cystic fibrosis. If both parents are carriers, the baby has a one in four chance of having cystic fibrosis.
Because most parents do not learn they are carriers until they have an affected child, the test is offered to all couples.
First trimester combined screen. An ultrasound is used to measure the fluid area behind the baby's neck (nuchal translucency). This information is combined with a blood test to measure two proteins made by the baby and placenta (PAPP-A and HCG).
For an even better detection rate, this screen can be done as part of a step-by-step process that includes a second blood test done in the second trimester. The combination of the first trimester test and second trimester test is called sequential or integrated screening.
condition. Those who are high risk are offered CVS or amniocentesis to determine if there is a chromosomal condition or rule it out. ACOG supports this option for all pregnant women
An increased nuchal translucency measurement may also suggest a higher risk for birth defects, specifically heart defects and genetic conditions. Your baby's heart can be checked using a detailed ultrasound later in pregnancy.
Noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a screening test that measures the amount of DNA from the placenta in the mother's blood. The test has a high detection rate for the most common chromosome abnormalities including Down syndrome, trisomy 18, trisomy 13 and sometimes sex chromosome abnormalities.
A maternal blood sample can be analyzed after 10 weeks of pregnancy. While the detection rate is high, false-positive and false-negative results can occur. For this reason, testing such as amniocentesis is recommended for confirmation of a high-risk result.
You and your health care provider will decide if this test is right for you. Currently, ACOG supports noninvasive prenatal testing if you are considered high risk for a chromosome abnormality.
Risk factors include: age 35 or older at delivery or having had a previous pregnancy with a chromosome abnormality, an abnormal serum screening test or an abnormal ultrasound.
There are some additional first-trimester tests to identify potential problems related to you or your baby's health. Your health care provider will review the tests that are available to you. Use this worksheet to record the results of your screenings and tests.
Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8
Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
Your health care provider will determine if your urine will be checked for protein and sugar based on conditions in your pregnancy.