Prenatal tests are screening or diagnostic tests that can help identify health problems that could affect pregnant women or their unborn babies. Some of these conditions can be treated, so it's important to find them as soon as possible.
Why Are Prenatal Tests Done?
Prenatal tests are given in the first, second, and third trimesters. In a mother, they can determine key things about her health that can affect her baby's health, such as:
identify treatable health problems that can affect the baby
show characteristics of the baby, including size, sex, age, and position in the uterus
help determine whether a baby might have a birth defect, genetic problem, or other condition
Some prenatal tests are screening tests that can only reveal the possibility of a problem. Other prenatal tests are diagnostic tests that can accurately find whether a fetus has a specific problem. A screening test sometimes is followed by a diagnostic test.
Although your health care provider (who may be your OB-GYN, family doctor, or a certified nurse-midwife) may recommend these tests, it's up to you to decide whether to have them.
Who Should Have Prenatal Tests?
Some prenatal tests are considered routine — that is, almost all pregnant women receiving prenatal care get them. They include things like checking urine (pee) levels for protein, sugar, or signs of infection.
Other non-routine tests are recommended only for some women, especially those with high-risk pregnancies. These may include women who: