Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Now what happens? What can you expect from your trips to the doctor? At Florida Hospital we’re committed to providing you with all the information and care that you’ll need as a new mother. To answer these questions and many more about the tests and screenings you may experience during your pregnancy, we turned to our own board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, Jessica Auffant, MD, for answers.
Early Tests and Screens
“The first round of tests and screenings for newly pregnant mothers is all about making sure that you’re healthy and to find out if any special considerations will need to be taken during your pregnancy,” explains Dr. Auffant. “These first tests and screenings are all non-invasive, simple, and fairly quick and painless. Later in your pregnancy you’ll be checked again for socially transmitted infections, diabetes at 24 weeks, urinary tract infection, and if your blood is Rh-, another screening for antibodies. And throughout your pregnancy your blood pressure will be monitored to ensure your overall well-being.”
Here are some of the tests you may experience during your first trimester:
- Socially Transmitted Infections (STIs) – A standard battery of tests is performed to ensure that you’re not carrying any infectious diseases that you could pass on to your baby.
- Pelvic Exam and Pap Smear – This is just like your yearly exam where the doctor will be looking for any signs of cervical cancer or anything else out of the ordinary.
- A1C Test for Diabetes – Diabetes can complicate a pregnancy and may even develop later in pregnancy so it’s important for your doctor to know how your glucose levels are.
- Urine Culture – The urine culture screening is used to ensure that you don’t currently have a urinary tract infection or UTI which will need to be treated immediately.
- Blood Type – A blood test is run to determine your blood type. Those with Rh negative blood (O-, A-, B- etc.) can be at risk for bleeding later in their pregnancy and may require medication to treat it.
- Screening for Antibodies – This check is to ensure that your body isn’t responding to the pregnancy as a foreign invader, like an infection. There are also other antibodies that you may have acquired through a previous pregnancy or a blood transfusion that may also harm or attack your growing baby.
- Genetic Screening – This test is performed to determine if you’re a carrier for any single gene disorders like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, or muscular dystrophy, to name a few. These rare but dangerous hereditary diseases can be passed down to your children so it’s important to know if this will be a factor in your starting a family.
Ultrasounds and Additional Tests and Screenings
“The number of ultrasounds you can expect to have depends on many factors, but generally you can count on having at least two during the course of your pregnancy,” says Dr. Auffant. “Your first ultrasound will take place between 5 and 14 weeks and may include a nuchal translucency scan, or NT scan, to check for any chromosomal abnormalities like down syndrome or congenital heart problems.”
“The next ultrasound you may receive will be between 18 and 22 weeks and may be able to indicate the sex of your baby. If you’re having a high-risk pregnancy, your baby is in breech position, if the baby has stopped moving, or if you’re overdue then you may also have a third ultrasound shortly before your due date.”
During your pregnancy you will also have the baby’s growth measured by your fundal height. A tape measure is used to measure the distance between your pelvic bone and the top of your uterus, or fundus. By measuring this distance your doctor can determine the approximate size and weight of your baby.
Non-Invasive Tests and Screens
- NIPT (Non-Invasive Prenatal Test) – This blood test is used to determine if certain chemical markers are found in your blood and may signify birth defects like Patau syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and Down syndrome. This test will also reveal the sex of your baby.
- Integrated Screen, Quad Screen, Sequential Screen, and Alpha Fetal Protein Blood Test – These are all additional blood tests used to look for chemical markers in your blood that may indicate the chance of birth defects such as Down syndrome.
“These tests are generally only ever used to verify that your baby has a genetic disorder before any decisions have to be made,” explains Dr. Auffant. “There are two types of these tests, one done early in the pregnancy if needed and one done later in pregnancy. The early test is called a CVS or chorionic villus sampling and is carried out in one of two ways, either transcervical or transabdominal.”
- Transcervical testing is done by an ultrasound guiding a thin catheter through your cervix and into your placenta where chorionic villi cells are suctioned out to be studied.
- Transabdominal testing is done by an ultrasound guiding a long, thin needle through your abdomen and into your placenta where it draws a small tissue sample.
“The test performed later in pregnancy is called amniocentesis and is very similar to the transabdominal CVS test but instead of removing a tissue sample, it takes a sample of the amniotic fluid in the placenta,” says Dr. Auffant.
Where to Get Screened and Tested
We believe in the whole health and well-being of you and your baby from conception to birth and beyond and we’re committed to providing you with the best care available. Please visit Florida Hospital for Women or call 407-303-4HER to make an appointment or to speak with one of our specialists about your next steps on the path to motherhood.