Once you’re pregnant, there are a whole slew of routine tests you’ll be offered in order to monitor your health and the health of your baby. Some of these are pretty simple – like urine analysis to make its content levels are in balance. For example, high protein levels can be an indicator of a dangerous condition called pre-eclampsia. Other tests are more complex and invasive – taking samples of amniotic fluid, for example, to test for genetic abnormalities.
We posted an overview of these in, Keeping Track of Baby’s Health: Prenatal Testing. In this five-part blog series, we’ll go into more detail regarding each of the four prenatal test categories: routine, screening, diagnostic and monitoring.
Which Tests are Considered Routine Prenatal Tests?
Since this is our second in the series, let’s focus on the tests that comprise the “Routine Testing” category.
Routine tests are just that; they are given routinely and are designed to establish your baseline health. However, since you’re pregnant, we want a little more information than normal. Routine prenatal tests are sort of like the tests used during an annual wellness visit – but amped up a bit so we learn more about you and any factors that could affect the health of your baby – either in utero or during labor and delivery.
These tests include:
Complete blood count. This is done via a small blood sample, which is analyzed for things like red and white blood cell count, iron levels, hemoglobin, hematocrit and platelet counts. If anything seems abnormally high or low, we look a little deeper and address it sooner rather than later.
Syphilis Test. Although STD education, prevention and screening has made syphilis more rare, it’s a very dangerous disease for pregnant women and their babies. It significantly raises your risk of pregnancy complications – some of which can be fatal. Babies have a 70% to 100% of catching syphilis from their mothers and stillborn rates are as high as one-third. A simple antibiotic treatment is all that’s needed to treat it.
Rubella Screen. Also called German measles, rubella can be fatal for babies if their mothers catch it during pregnancy. If you don’t have the antibodies for the disease, meaning your body isn’t immune to it, your doctor will recommend a rubella vaccination.
Blood Type, Rh and Antibody Screen. We want to know your blood type and have that in your charts. That way, if there are any pregnancy or labor complications that require a blood transfusion, you’ll be sure to get the right type. Without going into a lot of blood science (although we are more than happy to go over it during your appointment), there are certain instances where your baby’s blood and your blood are a ‘bad match,’ and this can cause your body to treat the baby more like an infection or invader. If we see that your Rh factor and/or antibodies put your baby at risk, we can treat it.
HIV Testing. Babies whose mothers test positive for HIV have a 32% chance of catching it from her. However, if we know you’re HIV positive, we can use antiretroviral therapy, elective caesarean section delivery and the avoidance of breastfeeding to reduce that chance down to 1%. That’s a big difference and worth a simple blood test for your sake and the sake of your unborn baby.
Hepatitis B Screening. If you have Hepatitis B (a viral infection that affects the liver), your baby has an 85% chance of carrying the disease and developing chronic liver conditions, including liver cancer. We can discuss if you are at risk for contracting hepatitis B, in which case we recommend you get vaccinated. If you are Hep B positive, we will strongly advise vaccinating your baby at birth to decrease his or her risk of contracting it or being a carrier.
Urinalysis (and culture, if needed). While most of the routine tests are only done once, a urinalysis is performed during your first prenatal appointment and then periodically along the way. We look for things like whether or not you’re dehydrated, as well as higher-than-normal levels of sugars, white blood cells, blood, protein, or ketones – all of which can indicate that something amiss.
Glucose Tolerance Test. Sometimes, perfectly healthy women develop gestational diabetes, meaning it only happens during their pregnancy. While diet can be a factor, it isn’t always. However, women who develop it are at higher risk for pregnancy and labor complications, are more likely to have an overweight baby, They also have a higher risk of being diabetic later in life. Mothers with gestational diabetes are monitored closely to make sure blood sugar levels are in balance. The glucose tolerance test is done later on in the pregnancy, typically around Week 24 or so.
Group B Strep Culture. Your vagina has a variety of flora – or microorganisms – that colonize and help the vaginal canal stay healthy…or not, depending on what microorganisms are present and their population levels. One of the bacteria that can take up residence in the vagina is called Group B streptococcal (GBS), and about 15% to 25% of women test positive for it. Unfortunately, while it may be harmless to you, 1 in 200 babies born to a woman with GBS in their vaginal canal will develop a severe neonatal infection (called sepsis) that can be fatal. We test women between Week 35 and 37, and administer antibiotics if they test positive. We’ll also keep a close eye on baby after she’s born.
Ultrasound. Also called a sonogram, ultrasounds give us a visual image of the uterus and fetus, which tells us a lot about how things are progressing in there. And, as you know, it eventually tells us whether you’re having a boy or a girl.
Have any questions about your pregnancy, your baby’s health or need more information about any of these routine prenatal tests? Give us a call at Overlake OB/GYN and schedule an appointment. (425) 454-3366.
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