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Top 10 Prenatal Tests

pregnant woman at the doctors

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During your pregnancy, you'll receive several tests. Some are repeated at nearly every visit to your ob-gyn; others will be suggested if either you or your baby is at increased risk for certain problems. According to the March of Dimes in White Plains, NY, all women are tested for:

  • Anemia. It can cause extreme fatigue and may increase the risk of preterm delivery.
  • Bacteria in their urine. If the bacteria lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI) that spreads into the kidneys, both mother and baby are at risk.
  • Blood type. Women who are found to lack a protein called the Rh factor require treatment after delivery to protect their babies from a potentially dangerous blood problem.
  • Immunity to chicken pox and rubella (German measles). If women have these illnesses for the first time while pregnant, their babies are at increased risk for birth defects.
  • Protein in their urine, which may be another sign of a UTI or of preeclampsia, a condition that can cause, among other problems, poor fetal growth.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis and hepatitis B, which can harm babies. You'll likely be offered an HIV test too.

  • Sugar in their urine, which may signal diabetes. In addition, you'll be offered up to four other procedures:
  • Triple-screen test. Conducted at about the 16th week of pregnancy, this measures the levels of three chemicals in your blood that can predict whether your baby is at increased risk for conditions such as Down syndrome and spina bifida.
  • Ultrasound. You'll have a first ultrasound between your fifth and seventh week of pregnancy to determine your baby's due date. A second one, after 16 weeks, can show much more: the baby's age and size, whether there's more than one baby, and signs of major birth defects. As with triple screens, ultrasounds require further testing for a definite answer.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis. These tests are not given automatically because they carry a low risk of miscarriage (affecting approximately 1% and 2% to 3% of pregnancies, respectively). Your obstetrician may recommend one if you are 35 or older, if you have a family history of a genetic disorder, or if your triple screen test or an ultrasound reveals a potential abnormality.

To find out how you can participate in a national clinical trial comparing success rates of surgery for spina bifida during pregnancy and after birth, go to spinabifidamoms.com.

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Copyright © 2003. Reprinted with permission from the March 2003 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.