Hey mama! So we know you’ve already conquered your first prenatal pregnancy test: peeing on a stick to see if you truly are pregnant in the first place! It’s safe to say that you passed with flying colours.
Pregnancy is a long journey with many unexpected events that come along the way. Once thing that you can be sure of though, is to expect prenatal testing throughout your 40-week pregnancy. You’ll be visiting the doctors more often than ever before. But don’t worry, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing -- going to all these appointments and taking these tests is what will help monitor your baby and ensure a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Another thing to remember is that almost all of these prenatal screenings and tests are routine, pain-free and totally beneficial for both you and your baby. These periodic testings will allow your doctor to check in on your baby and also catch any pregnancy complications early on. Some tests are vital and life-saving, while others just give further information on the baby’s development.
Screening Tests Vs. Diagnostic Tests
Prenatal screening tests can identify whether or not your baby has an increased risk of developing any birth defects. Many of these can be an outcome of genetic problems. These tests are usually offered during the first or second trimester of your pregnancy.
Screening tests are extremely helpful and are recommended by doctors, however they will not make a definitive diagnosis. If results appear to indicate higher risk for a genetic disorder, then you should discuss options regarding a diagnostic test so your doctor can officially confirm the diagnosis.
If the screening test process indicated a problem, you might consider a diagnostic test to be sure of the diagnosis. You may want to consider an invasive prenatal diagnostic test. However, some of the diagnostic tests like chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis carry a small risk of a miscarriage.
Types of Prenatal Tests and Screenings
As mentioned before, you’ve already started off the testing process by initially peeing on a stick at home. That doesn’t stop there -- you’ll continue to provide a pee sample at almost every doctor's visit during your pregnancy.
This is extremely important because it can help your doctor or midwife monitor your health and check you for pregnancy complications. Specifically, preeclampsia (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes, or a kidney infection. Both these complications can be treated as long as they are caught early on.
One of the initial examinations that your doctor will give you is a blood test. This will help identify your blood type, Rh factor, screen for anemia, immunity to rubella, and sexually transmitted diseases. These are all factors that can affect your pregnancy and your delivery.
A Pap test, also known as a Pap smear, is a routine gynecological exam that is important for pregnant women's health. It is a test where your doctor or midwife will check your cervix for any abnormalities in your cervical cells. You’ll likely be screened for potential sexually transmitted diseases as well, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis B, HIV and chlamydia.
To perform a Pap smear, your doctor or midwife will use a swab to collect cells from your cervix. This will normally take place during your very first prenatal visit.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing
A non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) screening can be done as soon as week 10 of your pregnancy. It’s a cell-free fetal DNA test which requires a blood sample to measure the amount of free fetal DNA in your blood. This test is particularly successful at detecting all Down Syndrome pregnancies, and amino, neural tube defects.
An ultrasound is a type of imaging technology that uses sound waves to create images. A transducer (wand-like object) is placed on the top of your belly and it emits sound waves from your baby’s tissues, fluids, and bones.
Most doctors and midwives conduct an ultrasound during the midpoint of your pregnancy. This will give an idea of how well your baby is growing and developing. Now is also the chance for you to know the gender of your baby as well -- or you can decide to keep it as a surprise!
It’s completely up to you if you want to pursue prenatal testing. If you are concerned about the testing process during your pregnancy, be sure to contact your doctor or midwife to discuss options and weigh the risks. You may also want to speak with a genetic counsellor to help you choose the right test for you!