Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will run multiple tests to ensure your baby is healthy. Here is what you need to know about the first prenatal visit, ultrasounds, and other prenatal tests.
Your First Prenatal Visit: What to Expect
Confirm Your Pregnancy.
First order of business is to make sure you're really pregnant. After the pregnancy test, you'll be asked about nausea, headaches or other symptoms. Be sure you know the date of your last period, so your doctor can calculate the all-important due date.
Here's where you provide your entire medical, gynecological and lifestyle history. Be honest and give details. It's better for everyone.
Your doctor will weigh you, measure your height, take your blood pressure and check your cervix and uterus for a progress report. Your first visit will most likely be your longest.
You'll probably be given some blood tests, to check your blood type, for anemia, and for exposure to diseases like rubella. Urine testing will check for sugar, protein and bacteria. You may get your annual pap smear now too.
The Pregnancy Ultrasound: Your Baby’s First Close-Up
Sometime between Weeks 16 and 20, your baby will have his first photo shoot. Your doctor will use a machine that sends sound waves through the fluid in your uterus to produce an image, or sonogram: an image of inside your body produced by high-frequency sound waves. It's painless and extremely exciting. It's also very, very useful.
An ultrasound can confirm a pregnancy. It can accurately determine the age of a baby under 20 weeks. It can tell you if you're having twins. It can evaluate your baby's growth, sex and even possible risks.
Level One Ultrasound.
The most common type. It takes about 20 minutes, usually right in your doctor's office. After drinking a few glasses of water, you will be asked to lie flat. Your doctor will rub some gel on your stomach, then move a wand across the area. The wand sends sound waves to your uterus, which will come back as images on a TV screen. Like a tour guide, your doctor can point out the areas of interest—your baby's heart, limbs, fingers, toes and even genitalia. Be sure to stop grinning long enough to ask for a few prints for the scrapbook.
Level Two Ultrasound.
A much more thorough exam, usually reserved for high-risk pregnancies and after irregularities are found in a Level One ultrasound. It takes more than an hour to complete. Here's what you can expect in a Level Two ultrasound:
- Baby will be measured from the top of his head to his rear end, around his mid-section and around his head, to make sure he's growing properly and on schedule.
- Kidneys, bladder, stomach, brain, spine, sex organs and all chambers of the heart will be viewed, to check for normal development.
- Amniotic fluid levels, fetal heart rate and location of the placenta will be checked.
Other Prenatal Tests
Blood and Glucose Testing.
Your blood will most likely be tested throughout your pregnancy, to check for anemia and iron deficiencies.
Between Weeks 24 and 28, you may be asked to take a glucose-screening test to check for gestational diabetes. After drinking a sugar solution, your blood will be taken to test your glucose level. High levels can indicate gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that can be treated.
Usually performed between Weeks 16 and 18, this test is generally for moms who've had a child with a genetic disorder, or those over 35. It involves extracting a small amount of amniotic fluid from the sac with a needle. It can show how your baby is progressing, and how his lungs are developing. It can also detect most genetic abnormalities.
Maternal Serum Alpha-Fetoprotein Screening.
This test, performed between Weeks 16 and 18, helps to screen for neural tube defects like spina bifida. A positive result requires further testing.
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS).
This test helps to detect abnormalities like Down Syndrome. It is performed between Weeks 8 and 12 by inserting a long, thin tube into the uterus through the vagina, or a needle through the abdomen into the uterus and placenta. There is a slightly increased risk of miscarriage with CVS, so you'lll want to discuss this test with your doctor before consenting to it.
Risk of False Positive Prenatal Tests
Unfortunately, any prenatal test you take comes with a risk of a false positive. This means the test indicates that there is something wrong with your baby when there really isn't. You and your doctor need to discuss the results of the test together. Be sure to ask how the test was evaluated. You may want to seek a second opinion as well.