If when you found out you were pregnant, one of the first things you thought was that you had to make an appointment with the doctor, I congratulate you, you did very well! It is necessary that throughout your pregnancy, the doctor is closely monitoring your health and that of your baby. Here we present a guide to the routine prenatal exams or tests that you should do when you are expecting a baby.
Prenatal exams are done to get information about your and your baby’s health before the baby is born. The different tests are done to prevent or predict problems during pregnancy or to be able to control certain conditions that can affect your health and that of your baby. Each trimester of pregnancy requires different tests. Some of these tests are designed for all pregnant women and others are more specialized and are done depending on your age and your personal and family history. So that you are not taken by surprise, take note of the necessary prenatal tests to increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy:
Exams during the first trimester of pregnancy
- Blood tests: these tests are done to identify your blood type and Rh factor to prevent problems with the baby’s blood; detect conditions such as anemia (low levels of red blood cells) , hepatitis B , HIV , syphilis and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) . In addition, blood tests allow you to know if you are immune or not to some diseases such as rubella, chickenpox and other diseases such as toxoplasmosis that can cause birth defects.if you contract them during pregnancy. They may also do a blood test to measure your levels of progesterone and hCG, a hormone that is produced by the placenta.
- Urine test: This test allows you to detect if there are bacteria in the urine that indicate that you may have a urinary infection (which if left untreated can cause complications for the mother and the baby). The urine test also helps determine if you have sugar in your urine, which can be an indicator of high glucose levels or diabetes. In addition, it detects if there is protein in the urine, which also indicates abnormalities in the urinary tract or, especially in advanced stages, high blood pressure .
- Depending on your age and other genetic factors, your doctor may suggest some tests to assess your genetic predisposition to Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, and sickle cell anemia. You should discuss this with your doctor in order to make a well-informed decision, according to your particular case and how your pregnancy is developing.
Exams during the second trimester of pregnancy
- Ultrasound : Also known as an ultrasound or sonogram, this diagnostic imaging test can be done at any time during pregnancy, but is often offered at week 20. There are several reasons for performing an ultrasound or ultrasound: to measure the size of the fetus to predict your date of birth, diagnose a multiple pregnancy, investigate complications such as placenta previa and other malformations, view your organs, detect your sex, and learn your traits. Currently there are three-dimensional ultrasounds that allow you to see your baby in more detail.
- Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein ( MSAFP ) test and multiple marker test: One of these two tests may be done and is intended to detect the possibility of defects in the baby’s spine or existence (or not) of Down syndromewhen the doctor recommends it. The alpha-fetoprotein test measures the presence of this substance (in the amniotic fluid, the blood of the fetus and the mother) produced by the fetus during its development. When the blood drawn for this test is also used to test the levels of estriol (a hormone produced by the fetal liver and placenta) and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin or pregnancy hormone levels), it is called a triple screen. And if the analysis of the so-called Inhibin-A (hormone produced by the placenta) is also added, then this test is known as the quadruple screening test. The precision with which the existence of Down Syndrome is detected is 70% of the cases for the triple and 80% of the cases for the quadruple. The alpha-fetoprotein test (AFP in Spanish,
- Amniocentesis : This test is usually done between 15 and 18 weeks of gestation and is optional. It tends to be done if you are over 35, as you are at higher risk of your baby developing a genetic disorder. It is also recommended when alpha-fetoprotein or multiple marker testing has shown suspicious results. Amniocentesis is done by inserting a needle into the abdomen to remove amniotic fluid, which is the fluid that contains the cells of the sac that surrounds the baby. A variant is chorionic villus sampling , where what is removed are cells from the placenta and can be done in the first semester.
- Glucose test: It is the test to measure your risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, which causes overweight in your baby, complicated deliveries and other problems for your health and that of your baby. It is usually done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. To do the glucose test, you have to drink a special liquid (sweet) and then wait an hour for your blood to be drawn. If your results are high, they repeat the test: you have to drink a fasting glucose solution and have your blood drawn every hour for 2 or 3 hours.
Exams during the third trimester of pregnancy
- Streptococcus test : During this test, a vaginal and rectal swab is taken from the mother to test for the presence of group B beta-hemolytic streptococcus bacteria. This bacteria may not cause symptoms, but if the baby contracts it while passing through the canal vaginal discharge at the time of delivery, it can cause dangerous infections that can be fatal, or it can cause mental retardation, vision or hearing problems. If your test is positive, you will be given antibiotics during labor to prevent the baby from getting an infection.
- Fetal heart monitoring: This test is done after the 20th week of pregnancy and also during labor and delivery. The reason? It indicates if the fetus is fine or has some kind of problem.
If you have a multiple pregnancy, diabetes, or high blood pressure, other more specialized tests may be done to closely assess the condition of the baby or babies.
As you can see, during pregnancy, all women should undergo certain routine prenatal examinations or tests, even if you feel fine. Remember: depending on each case, the doctor will order more specialized studies. Talk to your doctor about it. With this information, you can get a general idea of the tests needed for optimal prenatal care and a successful pregnancy.
The frequency of doctor visits during your pregnancy will increase as you get closer to delivery. He or she will monitor your health and that of your baby. Surely there will be wonderful moments like when you hear your baby’s heartbeat or when you see her profile on the ultrasound for the first time. As you can see, some exams you can even enjoy! And the final prize will be when your baby is born.