When I got pregnant with my son, I didn’t have any idea how many prenatal screenings I was in for! I was just happy that I finally managed to get those two lines on the pregnancy test! Throughout the months that followed, there were days that I felt like I was a lab rat with all the tests they wanted to do. Of course, being the neurotic researcher that I am, I knew what they all were going into them. Knowing the different types of prenatal screenings can help you feel a little less freaked out by all the poking and prodding going on throughout those nine months!
Types of Prenatal Screenings and What to Expect
Let’s just jump right in here and start talking about the types of prenatal screenings, as well as what to expect during them. Not all pregnant women need every test. Some depend on your age, previous medical history and personal preferences.
- Basic Blood Tests– Expect several prenatal screenings involving blood tests throughout your pregnancy, starting with your very first visit. These tests check for everything from your RH factor to sexually transmitted diseases. They are looking for any obvious signs that your pregnancy will need to be monitored more closely than usual. If you’ve had blood drawn before, you know what it feels like. If, like me, you’re prone to fainting at the thought of that much blood being siphoned from your body, make sure you ask to lie down.
- Cervical exam and Pap Smear- If you’re up to date on your Pap smears like a good girl, you may not need this part. If you’re a slacker like me, it’s the first thing they’ll do after they scold you for not keeping up with routine screenings. I am much better at giving medical advice than taking it. While this test is mildly uncomfortable, it’s over pretty fast. Your doctor is looking for any obvious physical abnormalities as well as the presence of cancer cells.
- Ultrasound– This test allows the technician to get a good look at your baby and his environment in the womb by using sound waves to create images. It can also be used to diagnose potential medical conditions in your baby. However, it is not 100% accurate. I’ve heard horror stories of friends being told their baby is missing vital organs, only to have that baby be born perfectly healthy. Do not let a single ultrasound completely freak you out. Also, do not let a single ultrasound cause you to go paint the entire nursery pink, as gender determination is also not always completely reliable.
- Urine Tests- Expect to pee in a cup at every single prenatal visit. In fact, expect to take that cup home and be prepared to give your first morning urine. Yes, you will have to carry your pee around with you in your purse. This test looks for protein in your urine. This is one place where you don’t want protein to appear. It means you may be suffering from preeclampsia. I had that, it is not fun! This is one of the prenatal screenings that you really need to follow up on!
- Glucose Tolerance Test- For this test you drink a sugary sweet beverage and then you sit for about an hour. After that, it’s time to give up more of your precious blood supply! The drink isn’t exactly delicious but it could be a lot worse. If your sugar level comes back normal, you get to go home and take a nap. If it’s high, expect to drink more delicious sugary drink on an empty stomach and have more blood taken once an hour for three hours. This test is important because it tests for gestational diabetes, which can cause problems for your baby.
- Amniocentesis- Typically done between 15 and 20 weeks, this test involves inserting a long needle through your abdomen into your uterus. There, your doctor removes amniotic fluid for further testing. The test is used to look for potential birth defects and other conditions. It is extremely accurate. There is a very small risk of miscarriage, uterine infection, leakage of the amniotic fluid and injury to your baby.
- Nonstress Test- One day during late in my 6th month of pregnancy, I noticed that my normally incredibly active baby wasn’t quite so active. In fact, I hadn’t felt him move for over 12 hours! I of course freaked out and ran to the hospital. There, they hooked me up to a fetal heart rate monitor for about an hour and monitored his movements. Turned out he was just hanging out in a different part of my uterus where I couldn’t feel him as strongly.
Remember, you may not need all these prenatal screenings. Also remember that you have a right to say no to any tests that you do not want. Just make sure you hear your doctor out before refusing any prenatal screenings.