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Tests you may need during pregnancy

Testing during pregnancy helps protect your health and the health of your baby.

Now that you're pregnant, regular doctor visits are important. They help keep you and baby healthy.

To help make sure that things are going well, your doctor may want you to have some tests. The tests can help find problems that may affect your health or the baby's health.

Most tests are done with only a small sample of blood, urine or cervical cells. For example, your urine will be tested periodically for high sugar levels. This can be a sign of diabetes. It will also be tested for proteins. These can indicate a problem such as:

  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure.

Some early tests

Here are a few tests that you may need in the first part of your pregnancy:

Ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create pictures of the baby. It can be used throughout the pregnancy to see how the baby is developing. It can also help find your due date.

Immunity checks. It's usual to check your blood to see if you have immunity to certain viruses. These include rubella (German measles) and chickenpox. Both of these can cause birth defects.

If you aren't immune, you will need to stay away from anyone who has these diseases.

Pap smear. This test will check for:

  • Cells that could be cancerous.
  • Cervical inflammation.

If any of these conditions are found, they can be treated.

Rh factor. This test checks your blood type. It can show whether your blood and the baby's blood have the same Rh factor. If your Rh factors aren't the same, the baby may develop anemia. And that will require special care during your pregnancy. This test is usually done during the first trimester, notes the Association for Diagnostics & Laboratory Medicine.

Other tests may be done to check for conditions that can cause complications. This includes tests for:

  • HIV.
  • Syphilis.
  • Hepatitis B.
  • Anemia.
  • Infections in the urinary tract.

Testing for defects

A variety of tests can check for genetic problems and birth defects.

Your doctor may recommend these tests depending on factors such as your family medical history and your ethnicity.

Genetic tests can look for inherited disorders, such as:

  • Sickle cell anemia.
  • Thalassemia.
  • Tay-Sachs disease.
  • Cystic fibrosis.

Blood samples from both parents may be used for these tests.

Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may also want to check for other birth defects such as:

  • Neural tube defects, like spina bifida.
  • Down syndrome and other forms of cognitive disability.
  • Heart defects and other conditions that are caused by problems with your genes.

A positive test result doesn't always mean a defect. And a negative result doesn't prove that no problem exists. If the results aren't clear, your doctor may want to do more tests.

Late in your pregnancy

In the last weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may test for a type of streptococcus that can harm the baby during birth. A blood test also may be needed to check your risk for excess bleeding during delivery.

Close to the time of delivery, your doctor may suggest placing electronic monitors on your belly. These keep track of the baby's heartbeat and activity.

When in doubt, ask questions

It's not likely that you will need all of these tests. When a test is suggested, it's important to make informed decisions. Be sure you ask why you should have a test. And find out what risks and benefits it has.

Reviewed 8/22/2023

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