Prenatal care has completely changed the way mothers and babies come through their pregnancy, labor and delivery. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), prenatal care reduces the risk of maternal complications during pregnancy and childbirth and also reduces an infant’s risk for complications. Part of reducing this risk includes routine prenatal testing that allows us to get a better idea of what is going on inside.
Prenatal Screening Reduces the Risk of Pregnancy & Delivery Complications
This post is the first in a series Overlake will present to provide further insight into the types of tests and procedures that will be offered and/or recommended throughout your pregnancy. This first post will serve as an overview of the four different types of diagnostic tools we use to evaluate the mother and baby’s health:
· Routine Tests
· Screening Tests
· Diagnostic Tests
· Monitoring Tests
Then, month-by-month, we’ll delve a little deeper into each one, explaining what they are for, what they entail and the risks and benefits associated with each.
These tests are all about- or mostly about – you. Not surprisingly, your baby’s health is largely dependent on your overall health, so any treatable medical conditions are best caught early so we can take better care of you both. Routine tests include things like blood tests that look at your blood counts, Rh factor and blood type. We will do urinalysis testing and measure your blood sugar levels later on to see if you have or are at risk for gestational diabetes.
Depending on your lifestyle and medical history, we may also screen for certain sexually transmitted diseases and Group B Strep. We often test mothers to make sure they have antibodies for certain diseases in case vaccination updates are in order.
Screening tests are performed along the way as your pregnancy progresses. Ultrasounds are an example of a screening test, allowing us to identify if there are multiples, determine if your baby’s physical development is on track and also gather information about the health of your uterus and placenta. Additional screening tests include nuchal translucency screening, screenings that test for genetic abnormalities, and tests that check for neural tube abnormalities. Other screenings you may be offered include cystic fibrosis carrier tests or a fetal fibronectin test.
It’s important to note that there are no guarantees; these screening tests are not always 100% accurate, which is why some women opt to forgo them. A normal result does not mean your baby will be normal, and an abnormal result can turn out to be false as well.
If you receive an abnormal result from a screening test, a more specific diagnostic test will follow. For example, chorionic villus sampling takes a sample from the villi in the placenta to get a more accurate chromosomal reading. Amniocentesis is another example of a diagnostic test, which uses a small sample of amniotic fluid to test for Down’s Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, certain neural defects, and that can also be used to test the fetus’s maturity towards the end of the pregnancy.
Later on in your pregnancy, there are ways to monitor how a fetus is doing based on its movements and activities, or lack thereof. Some of these tests use a fetal monitor to test fetal stress based on its heart rate and how the baby responds to your contractions. Fetal kick tests can be done by you, ensuring your baby is moving and kicking at fairly regular intervals – typically at least 10 kicks in two hours – to establish fetal activity.
In most cases, maternal and fetal testing are elective, and some are more heavily encouraged based on your age, pregnancy history and/or medical history. Stay tuned for future blog posts, where we will go into more precise details about each one of these pre-natal tests.
Looking for an OB/GYN to facilitate your healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery? Schedule an appointment with Overlake.