Tests You Need During Pregnancy
Prenatal tests are important for your health and your unborn baby's health. Here's what to expect.
"Taking good care of yourself during pregnancy is the most important way to have a healthy baby," says E. Charles Lampley, MD, assistant professor at the Chicago Medical School and an ob-gyn at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago.
There are a number of prenatal tests you'll go through while you're pregnant, but the very first test you'll take is the one that will tell you whether you're actually pregnant in the first place. "To get off to a healthy start, it is important to know that you are going to have a baby as early into the pregnancy as possible," Lampley says. If you have regular periods and you miss one, that's a pretty good sign (although not a foolproof one). Another indication, he says, is simply whether you think you're pregnant. "It's a life-altering event, and the psychological part can clue you in."
If you do think you're pregnant, have your hunch confirmed through a blood test at your doctor's office or a health clinic, Lampley says. You can use a drugstore test first, but he cautions that these are only about 75% accurate. Tests performed at the doctor's office are almost 100% accurate.
Once you know for certain that you're pregnant, schedule regular appointments -- even if you're feeling fine. "Unless there are risk factors, you should see your obstetrician once a month for the first 28 to 32 weeks," Lampley says. "Women who develop diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, or who have a history of delivery before 37 weeks, should see the doctor more often."
According to Boris Petrikovsky, MD, PhD, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y., and author of What Your Unborn Baby Wants You to Know, your first prenatal visit will include blood tests to determine your blood type; your iron level to see if you're anemic; your blood glucose level to check for diabetes; and your Rh factor (if your blood is Rh negative, and the father's is Rh positive, the fetus may inherit the father's Rh-positive blood, which could cause your body to make antibodies that would hurt your unborn child). You will also be tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis, as well as whether you're immune to rubella (German measles), since coming down with this illness while pregnant, especially in the first three months, can cause birth defects.