Throughout your pregnancy,
you'll want to know how your baby is growing. Prenatal
tests can offer valuable information about your health and the health of your
If your doctor recommends a screening or test, be sure to learn about the risks
and benefits. Most parents find that prenatal tests offer them peace of mind while
helping to prepare them for their baby's arrival. But it's your choice to accept or
decline a test.
Routine Screenings & Other Tests
Your first visit to the obstetrician should have included a full physical, urine
(pee) test, and blood test to check for things like:
your blood type and Rh factor.
If your blood is Rh negative and your partner's is Rh positive, you may develop antibodies
that prove dangerous to your fetus. This can be prevented through an injection given
around the 28th week of pregnancy.
You can expect to get your urine tested and your weight and blood pressure checked
at every (or almost every) visit until you deliver. These tests can identify conditions
such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure).
Throughout your third trimester, you'll be offered more tests depending on your
age, health, family medical history, and other things. These can include:
An ultrasound is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to make images that
show the baby's shape and position in the uterus. Third-trimester ultrasounds can
examine the placenta, and sometimes are part of a test called a biophysical profile
(BPP) to see whether the baby is getting enough oxygen. Women with high-risk pregnancies
may have multiple ultrasounds in their third trimester.
screening: This test checks for gestational
diabetes, a short-term form of diabetes that develops in some women during pregnancy
and can cause health problems for the baby, especially if it is not diagnosed or treated.
You'll drink a sugary liquid, then have a blood test an hour later to check glucose
Group B strep test: Between your 35th and 37th weeks of pregnancy,
the doctor will check you for group
B streptococcus (GBS) infection. GBS bacteria are found naturally in the vaginas
of many women but can cause serious infections in newborns. This test involves swabbing
the vagina and rectum. A woman whose test comes back positive must go to the hospital
as soon as labor begins so that intravenous (IV) antibiotics can be started to help
protect the baby from becoming infected.
test: A nonstress test (NST) is usually done when a health care provider
wants to check on the health of the fetus, such as in a high-risk
pregnancy or when the due date has passed. The test checks to see if the baby
responds normally to stimulation and is getting enough oxygen. A baby that doesn't
respond isn't necessarily in danger, but more
testing might be needed.
stress test: This test stimulates the uterus with pitocin, a synthetic
form of oxytocin (a hormone secreted during childbirth), to determine the effect of
contractions on fetal heart rate. It may be recommended when an earlier test indicated
a problem and can see whether the baby's heart rate is stable during contractions.
Remember that tests are offered to you — it's your choice whether
to have them.
To decide which tests are right for you, talk with your health care provider about
why a test is recommended, its risks and benefits, and what the results can —
and can't — tell you.