Pregnancy is a chapter in your life that you don’t really ever forget about. Apart from all the joy and love that it brings you, another reason for the constant remembrance has a little something to do with the amount of work that goes into being pregnant. Apart from getting pregnant (wink wink), there’s so much to think about and make sure of when you are pregnant. Though it seems cumbersome when you think about it, when you’re actually doing it it’s a whole different ballgame. When you’re putting in all this effort, you know that it’s for the health and benefit of your baby which makes it seem not so much like work.
Included in the work that’s going into a pregnancy are all the tests that mums-to-be have to undergo. These tests are done for various reasons, the most primary of which is ensuring yours and your baby’s health. These tests check to see how your body is functioning and how your baby is developing to see if anything more is needed to ensure good health of the mum and baby. Some of the most common tests that are and should be taken during pregnancy are blood tests, urine tests, and ultrasounds.
Blood tests are used to determine - blood group, Rh factor, haemoglobin/iron levels in the blood, the presence of HIV, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, and immunity to rubella. All these factors determine whether or not birth defects may be present in your baby or whether or not factors causing birth defects are present. Testing for blood group and Rh factor determines whether or not your body is going to try to fight against your baby. If you are Rh-negative but your baby is Rh positive, your body will tend to create antibodies aimed at fighting against your baby’s blood because it will view the Rh factor as an antigen. This is called Rh incompatibility. Testing the levels of iron in your blood are required to determine whether or not you are anaemic or likely to develop the condition. Blood tests also help determine your blood sugar levels to determine the likeliness or presence of gestational diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, and genetic risks to your baby of contracting certain disorders/diseases/conditions. In order to determine the presence of genetic risks, non-invasive prenatal testing is done by analyzing a baby’s genetic material which is circulating in your own blood but present in the placenta or amniotic fluid of the baby
Urine tests help determine certain other things that may not be detected in blood tests, such as, infections and UTIs, preeclampsia, and presence of glucose in the urine. If glucose is present in the urine, it is a sign that you have gestational diabetes which can be extremely harmful to the fetus. UTIs also have many negative consequences for the fetus. Testing for preeclampsia involves testing the amount of protein in your blood; Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
A minimum of two ultrasounds is required during a pregnancy. An ultrasound is necessary for various reasons. It helps measure the size of the fetus, fetal heart rate, understand and record the development of the baby and whether or not this development is taking place normally, determine the sex of the baby, and be able to get a look at your baby when it’s still in your womb. A nuchal translucency screening is a type of ultrasound that is carried out in the first trimester to test whether or not the baby has a chromosomal disorder; however, this screening alone cannot determine this, due to which it is done alongside blood screenings. Additionally, ultrasounds are done to check the position and state of the cervix in order to determine whether or not there is a risk of preterm labour or any other such complications.
A Pap smear is a swab of the cervix that is taken to test for Sexually Transmitted Infections such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia. These diseases may be passed on to your baby due to which they must be tested for so that you can get treatment and prevent transmission.
This is the examination of the amniotic fluid to test for various genetic diseases as well as to rule out the presence of defects in the neural tube. It is generally done if the results of previous screening tests are abnormal, if there is a family history of certain genetic disorders, or if certain infections are suspected.
This test is carried out in the third trimester and is used to determine fetal health when certain complications arise in the mother such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. It tests whether or not your baby is under stress and getting enough oxygen.
For the purpose of ease of understanding when each test should be carried out, we’ll look at tests based on the trimester.
The First Trimester
In the first trimester, blood tests are conducted to test for the various diseases, blood group and Rh factor, haemoglobin levels. Urine tests are also taken in this trimester in order to check for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and glucose present in the urine (diabetes). Ultrasounds in this trimester are carried out as nuchal translucency screenings combined with blood tests to check for genetic/chromosomal abnormalities.
The Second Trimester
In this trimester, blood tests are carried out to check for gestational diabetes in the mum, and spinal tube defects and chromosomal abnormalities/developmental issues, such as Downs syndrome, in the fetus.Urine tests in this trimester help to determine the presence of preeclampsia and UTIs. Ultrasounds in this trimester are primarily used to measure fetal movement, understand/determine the healthy growth of the fetus, and check for the presence of multiple fetuses. Amniocentesis is carried out in this trimester.
The Third Trimester
Mainly, this trimester consists of ultrasounds for the determination of the growth of the fetus, location of the placenta, level of amniotic fluid, and well-being of the fetus. Blood tests and urine tests may also be carried out to check for changes in sugar and iron levels, the presence of UTIs or preeclampsia. Nonstress tests are carried out in the third trimester as well as tests for Group B Streptococcus.