From a baby shower and a gender reveal party, to diaper shopping and choosing a theme for the nursery, the next phase of your life is going to be filled with a whirlwind of changes, and decisions to be made.
These events are routine fare, especially once your loved ones find out that you are expecting. But when it comes to your pregnancy, and the health of you and your baby, do you really know what to expect over the next nine months? What do you know about prenatal testing?
Prenatal testing includes a broad scope of tests your provider may perform, which generally fall into two categories; screening tests and diagnostic tests. These tests can provide additional information about your baby's health, and may reveal possible abnormalities that could require further discussion.
Many patients make the choice to have these tests done so that they have the knowledge to make informed choices, but some of those choices, going forward once the results are in, can be very difficult. There are some questions to consider before you decide if prenatal testing is right for you.
It's important to ask if there are any additional associated risks, and to know how accurate the results are going to be. You can then decide what to do with them, and define what role they will play in your prenatal care.
Here are some important things to know about prenatal testing to help you make the best decisions for your, and your baby's, health.
In your first and second trimesters, your doctor will perform standard screening tests, like urine samples and ultrasounds. These non-invasive tests are routine, and the results may indicate that your baby could have a health issue.
To test for pregnancy, and throughout all three trimesters, your doctor will take urine samples. Urinalysis will help to identify infections, like a bladder or kidney infection, as well as other conditions. Indicators like having protein in your urine may be a sign of preeclampsia, which your doctor would want to address immediately.
The amount of information that can be obtained from a blood sample with today's technology is amazing. Your doctor will use blood draws to test for indicators of infections, to identify your blood type, and to measure your Rh factor to test for anemia.
Your provider may also use a blood sample to perform a breakthrough test called MaterniT21. This noninvasive prenatal test (NIPT) screens for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, and Edwards syndrome. Standard genetic tests, like chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, can also provide this information, but at much greater risk to mother and child. MaterniT21 testing can also be used to identify the sex of the baby.
Ultrasounds use sound waves to create a picture of the baby in the womb that can be seen on a computer screen. Your initial ultrasound will be used to confirm pregnancy, and to verify how far along you are. In your second trimester, your doctor may use an ultrasound, in conjunction with a blood test, to screen for possible birth defects such as Down syndrome or heart disease.
If the results from a screening test indicate anissue, or if you are at higher risk due to additional factors (age, family history, prior births), your doctor may recommend additional tests for a true diagnosis. These optional tests are more invasive, as they require a sample of the baby's DNA to analyze, but they are much more conclusive, and will identify any issues you should be aware of.
Chorionic villus sampling tests tissue from the placenta to check for genetic disorders like Down syndrome. If earlier screening tests showed increased risk, if you are over age 35, or if you have a family history of genetic diseases, your doctor may suggest doing a CVS procedure.
Amniocentesis is also used to test for genetic diseases, but instead uses a sample of the amniotic fluid around the baby for diagnosis. The reasons to have an amniotic test and pretty much the same as those for CVS. Amniocentesis is can also be used later in your third trimester to test your baby's lungs for fluid.
In your third trimester, your doctor may also give you a Glucose test to screen for gestational diabetes, or perform a Group B Strep test. Both of these are very common, and both will help to identify and prevent any issues during childbirth.
There are, of course, additional tests that can be performed, and that your doctor may offer for a variety of reasons. You should always talk to your health care professional, midwife, and/or doula, about all of the options that are available to you. You should also be sure to review with your provider which options are covered by your insurance, and which ones may not be. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to until you have a complete understanding, and can confidently take charge to make the best choices for you and your baby.