Tests During Pregnancy

Trimester

Tests During Pregnancy

Descriptions

First

(1 to 12 weeks)

Pap smears

All pregnant women go through a pap smear on their first prenatal visit. This is meant to screen for various problems, such as sexually transmitted diseases or bacterial infections. The pap smear is done by placing your feet in stirrups while your doctor inserts a speculum to better see the uterus. Then a swab of cells are taken from the cervix. It’s typically simple, easy and painless.

NIPT

(10 weeks)

Noninvasive prenatal testing is done with a simple blood draw. The results can tell you if your baby is at a higher risk for genetic problems, such as Down Syndrome. This can also detect your baby’s gender and blood type. It is typically reserved for those who have a higher risk of carrying a baby with a genetic abnormality, such as women over the age of 35 or those who have already had one child with a problem.

Rh factor testing

Rh factor testing is done with a simple blood draw from the mother. It tells whether you have a certain protein carried in your red blood cells. Those who are negative are given in injection that helps prevent the body from possibly attacking the baby in an auto-immune response. This is a very simple test with a very simple treatment.

Nuchal translucency (NT) scan (11-13 weeks)

The NT scan is done during an ultrasound, and it detects the amount of fluid present under the skin of your baby’s neck. Those who have Down syndrome are likely to have an increased amount of this fluid, so it helps parents prepare for the possibility of a child with this problem. It must take place between 11 and 13 weeks of pregnancy, or when your baby is between 45 mm and 84 mm. As with any ultrasound, this is a very noninvasive test that doesn’t hurt at all.

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) (10-12 weeks)

This is a test that helps determine your baby’s risk for a genetic problem. It is done between the 10th and 12th week of pregnancy. The test is performed by suctioning a tiny piece of placenta, either through a catheter placed in the cervix or through a needle placed in the abdomen. The test does involve some pain, but it is over very quickly. There is some risk of miscarriage with the procedure, so only women who have been deemed high-risk by other tests will want to have this one done.

Blood tests (10-14 weeks)

 

There are blood tests you can have in addition to the NT scan, or on their own in order to spot certain problems. These include the Pregnancy-associated plasma protein screening, or PAPP-A, and the human chorionic gondaotrophin hormone screening (hCG). The PAPP-A looks for a certain protein produced by the placenta, which might indicate an increased risk for abnormalities. The hCG test serves the same purpose.

Second

(13-26

weeks)

"Quad Screen” or “Triple Screen” ((16-18 weeks)

This is another simple blood test. The screenings are done between 15 and 18 weeks for the quad screen, and 15 and 20 weeks for the triple screen. The quad screen looks for Down syndrome, trisomy 18 or spinal bifida. The triple screen looks for Down syndrome. The tests are meant for women over the age of 35 or those who have a higher possibility of a child with genetic abnormalities.

Amniocentesis (15-20 weeks)

The amniocentesis is a test that screens for neural tube defects. This test is performed by inserting a needle into the placenta and extracting a small bit of amniotic fluid. There might be some pain and cramping, and there is a slight chance of miscarriage with the procedure.

 

Glucose tolerance tests (24-28 weeks)

The glucose challenge determines whether you have high blood sugar levels. Abnormal levels lead to a glucose tolerance test. For this test, blood is drawn when fasting. Then you drink a special glucose solution that is designed to raise your blood sugar levels. The results of follow-up bloodwork indicate whether you are at risk or have gestational diabetes.

Third

(27-40 weeks)

A test of Group B strep culture (35-37 weeks)

About 25 percent of all women have Group B Strep, which is harmless when you aren’t pregnant. Once you are pregnant, however, there are risks to the mother as well as the baby during birth. To screen for this, a doctor simply takes a swab of the area around your vagina and anus. Treatment is very simple and painless, and can protect both you and the baby.

 

A non-stress test (after 24-26 weeks, often later in the third trimester of pregnancy)

This is a very easy noninvasive test that helps determine how your baby is doing. It is done by strapping a belt around your middle, on which fetal monitors are attached. You sit back and click a button when you feel the baby move. This test lasts for about an hour. It helps ensure that there is no fetal distress, and also monitors contraction activity you may be having.

Special Notes on Ultrasound and Urine Tests During Pregnancy 

Ultrasound: An ultrasound is a very simple, noninvasive procedure that allows doctors to look into your belly with sound waves. These sound waves then appear on a screen, which gives you a “picture” of your baby in the womb. Ultrasounds are done often during pregnancy, and can be used for screening for problems, checking on development, and even to show you the gender of your baby. Ultrasounds can be either transvaginal or abdominal. Neither of these methods hurt, and most parents are actually very excited to go through an ultrasound! There are no risks to ultrasound, so lie back and enjoy the view of your baby.

Urine Test: A sample of urine is taken at every prenatal visit, which is then screened for certain problems such as the presence of glucose in the urine (a sign of gestational diabetes) or protein (a sign of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure). The urine test is painless and is a helpful way to determine problems before they become bigger issues.