Whether the pregnancy is progressing normally or if there are some concerns present in it, the obstetrician may recommend certain test to detect the well being of the mother and the child.
Different Tests That Are Done During Pregnancy
Ultrasound is done to check the baby’s growth and to look for abnormality if any.
The healthcare provider looks for the baby’s basic anatomy including the head, neck, chest, spine, heart, stomach, kidney, bladder, arms, legs, and umbilical cord. Ultrasound makes sure that the baby is developing properly.
It is best to be done at the 18 weeks of gestation to look out for any potential abnormality.
If there are any concerns regarding the medical condition in family history, the ultrasound can be performed earlier.
They should not be performed at the offices with less experienced professionals or with less optimal equipment, as it can lead to a lower detection rate. Those performed at hospital-based clinics have a higher rate of detecting abnormalities.
The non-stress test is performed to monitor the heart rate of the fetus and its movements.
During the test, a belt is positioned around the abdomen. It is known as a nonstress test as the medications which stimulate the movement of the unborn or trigger uterine contractions are not used.
Contraction Stress Test
In this test uterine contraction are induced and the fetal heart rate is measured and recorded.
Infusion of hormone oxytocin cause contractions and the doctor determine how the baby reacts to these contractions. If the baby is not reacting to the contraction the delivery is scheduled prior to the due date.
This test uses both the ultrasound and the nonstress test and evaluates the movement and breathing of the unborn baby. It also evaluates the level of amniotic fluid.
The collective score determines whether there is a need for early delivery or not.
Maternal Serum Tests
Maternal serum test involves measuring 2 substances in the blood of pregnant female.
- Pregnancy-associated plasma protein screening (PAPP-A): This protein is made in the placenta during early pregnancy. Abnormality in the level of this protein is linked with a higher risk of chromosomal problems.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG): Just like the above, this protein also forms in early pregnancy and abnormality can lead to a higher risk of chromosomal problems.
Alpha-Fetoprotein Screening (AFP)
Alpha-fetoprotein is made by the fetal liver normally. It is present in the fluid around the fetus and passes through the placenta to the mother’s blood.
The test measures the level of this protein in the blood, abnormal levels of which can be a sign of the following:
- Down syndrome
- Open neural tube defect
- Problems in abdominal walls of the fetus
- Incorrect due date
The doctor recommends the following screening tests:
Glucose Screening: This is done to check for the high blood sugar level which would indicate gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes which develops during pregnancy. The test is usually recommended during the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. During the test the female is asked to drink a sugar solution and then the sample of blood is collected. If the sugar level of blood is high additional tests are recommended which would determine whether the female is suffering from gestational diabetes which can lead to pregnancy complications.
Group B Streptococcus Screening (GBS): Group B streptococcus is a type of bacteria which can lead to serious infections in the baby such as meningitis or blood infection. The bacterium is commonly found in the vagina and rectum of a female and is harmless to adults. It can cause infection to the newborn during childbirth. If the bacterium is detected in a pregnant female, antibiotics are given intravenously during the birthing process. Once the baby is born, she is observed in the nursery for a longer time. GBS screening is performed in the 35th-37th week of pregnancy.
Other tests are recommended according to the physical health of the female, family and personal history.