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What medical tests are common during pregnancy?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
During a normal pregnancy, your doctor will test your blood for antibodies against certain diseases such as German measles, chickenpox, and many other conditions that could be a problem for you or your baby.  Some chromosome disorders may also be detected through blood tests. If you have Rh-negative blood, you may also be tested for Rh antibodies. A pelvic exam and Pap test are common. An ultrasound is one of the most common medical tests, helping doctors assess your baby's development as he or she grows and finding any abnormalities. Routine urine tests help doctors know if gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia are a concern. The doctor will monitor your weight and blood pressure throughout the pregnancy. Tests that may be done if there are indications of developmental issues include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.
There are a variety of laboratory and sonographic tests that have become routine. These include blood tests for: anemia, for blood type, for screening for any antibodies that could harm the fetus, for previous infectious illnesses such as rubella, hepatitis, syphilis, and HIV, and diabetes in pregnancy. A urine culture is usually performed at an early prenatal visit. Sonographic evaluation for number of fetuses and fetal anatomy has also become “almost routine” in most urban areas in the United States. A wide variety of genetic tests are available: some, such as testing for carrier status for cystic fibrosis are more routine than others, which may pertain to populations of people from certain ethnic groups or whose families originate in certain geographic areas. Testing for fetal well being later in the pregnancy has become quite common. Assessments are often performed utilizing electronic fetal monitoring or sonographic evaluation of fetal activity, breathing movements, tone and amniotic fluid volume are quite common and often reassuring to both patient and provider.
Frederick Friedman, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)

There are several laboratory tests that will be conducted during a pregnancy. Although the exact tests will vary depending on the age and ethnic group of the patient and the state in which she lives, all will fall into the general category of screening for conditions that could affect the mother or her unborn child. These include screening for infectious diseases (such as hepatitis, HIV, syphilis, rubella, chicken pox, chlamydia, gonorrhea, etc.,) genetic disorders (chromosomal abnormalities, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, Tay-Sachs Disease, etc.,) or medical problems (anemia, diabetes, urinary tract infections, etc.) In addition, most women will have one or two sonograms that will determine the gestational age of the baby and also evaluate the anatomy of the baby.

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

There are many routine screening and diagnostic tests done at the beginning of the pregnancy and throughout the remainder of the pregnancy. They are done to assure the well-being of the mom as well as the baby.

Blood work is drawn to check mom's blood type and determine if she has any antibodies. Initially a full set of tests are done to assure there are no infections of any kind including STDs. Urine is also tested to look for infections. A pap smear is done to check for any abnormal cells, exposure to HPV or any cancer cells. Genetic screening is offered to check for things like sickle cell, cystic fibrosis and other inheritable diseases. An initial ultrasound may be done to check for dating, to rule out multiple gestations, or to check viability of the pregnancy. Other genetic testing by blood work or ultrasound will be offered to screen for things like neural tube defects like spina bifida and downs syndrome. A second trimester ultrasound will be done around 18-22 weeks called an anatomy scan to look at the baby's development and make sure everything looks okay. Around 26-28 weeks you will be rescreened for anemia and tested to see if you have developed gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. If you are a high risk pregnancy and the baby needs extra monitoring you may be sent to a fetal assessment center in the third trimester for additional monitoring called nonstress tests and possibly further ultrasounds to check on the amount of fluid around the baby, the status of the placenta and the baby's growth. Throughout everyone’s pregnancy urine is dipped every visit to check on the function of the kidneys and to make sure there are no signs of infection. Weight and blood pressure are taken every visit to assure mom's continued wellbeing. If mom has any additional medical conditions like thyroid disease additional lab screenings may need to be conducted throughout the pregnancy. At the end of the pregnancy a vaginal/rectal culture will be obtained to check for the group beta strep exposure that is common among many pregnant women. If mom is a carrier she will be given antibiotics in labor to protect the baby during the passage through the birth canal. Your midwife or OB/GYN will explain all of these tests and any additional tests that may need to be done and answer any questions you might have. Be sure to make a list of your questions and bring them with you on your visit.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.