Finding out that you are expecting a bundle of joy in the next nine months can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. Many people do not realize that when they are pregnant, sometimes their doctor appointments will be full of tests and other routine procedures – even if your pregnancy is not considered high risk and there are no other special circumstances. Starting from your first doctor’s appointment, here are the routine tests you may be receiving.
So you found out you are expecting, congratulations! Your next step should be to call your primary care provider, or your obstetrician if you have one already, to set up your first prenatal appointment.
At every prenatal appointment you schedule and attend, the nurse or doctor will track your weight. Weight gain is an important part of pregnancy, and your doctor can advise you on how much weight you should gain depending on your current weight. They will also have you give a urine sample. They will test your urine for possible infections as well as other things such as protein and if you are losing other nutrients, too. They will then take your blood pressure every appointment to make sure that you are in a healthy range as high blood pressure mixed with other symptoms can potentially lead to pre-eclampsia, which can be dangerous during pregnancy.
At your first prenatal appointment you may have an internal pelvic exam. Your doctor will check the position of your cervix, as well as give you a routine pap smear to check for infections and other things such as cervical cancer. They most likely will administer some blood work, either sending you to a lab or taking it in the office if they have those resources. The blood work checks for anemia, infections, and if you consent they will also check for HIV. (marchofdimes.org) They will also may give you a prescription for prenatal vitamins to help give your baby the necessary nutrients you might not be getting enough of.
You will also get a first routine ultrasound to make sure the baby is in the right place, to check for growth, check for multiple babies, and to determine due date. Some doctors will not do this until 12 weeks when the ultrasound can be administered on the outside of the abdomen, while others will do an internal ultrasound earlier.
You can opt to have a genetic screening done at this appointment, called the Nuchal Translucency Exam. The screening is usually done between the eleventh and fourteenth weeks of pregnancy, so you might not get the screening done immediately. This exam measures how thick the fluid build up at the back of the head and neck area via ultrasound. If it comes back thicker than normal, it can be an early sign of problems with the heart, Down syndrome, or trisomy 18. (webmd) However, with this test it is not a definite answer to having a problem.
Usually around your twentieth week of pregnancy your doctor will order another ultrasound. While it is not necessarily a gender ultrasound, it is when you can choose to know the gender of your baby – as long as they are cooperative. The ultrasound technician will measure your baby and check their organs and make sure that the baby is growing properly. While x-rays are not generally considered safe during pregnancy, an ultrasound is perfectly harmless to your baby.
Around your 24th to 28th week of pregnancy, your doctor will have you take a test to check your glucose tolerance levels. This test determines if you have gestational diabetes. Most people will drink the one hour glucose drink, and then an hour later, have blood drawn. If you fail this first test, they may have you take a three hour test. This test is normally done on an empty stomach, and you will have your blood drawn once every hour for three hours after drinking the glucose drink.
Your doctor may perform more pelvic exams later in your third trimester to check for signs of impending labor. They will check for signs of ripening, which is when your cervix dilates or gets thinner.
Your doctor can also run a test for Group B Strep between your 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy. This is a bacteria that is found in women, and it is often harmless to adults, but can make your baby very sick if they are exposed to it during birth. If you happen to have this bacteria present, your doctor can administer antibiotics to help clear it up before you give birth.
Of course, under different circumstances you may have a different testing schedule or many additional tests to these mentioned above. Every pregnancy is not the same, and these tests are an example of what that a pregnant person might receive during their prenatal care. As always, please check with you physician about a testing schedule and any questions you may have regarding testing.
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