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Health & Pregnancy

Tests You Need During Pregnancy

Prenatal tests are important for your health and your unborn baby's health. Here's what to expect.
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Between weeks 24-28, you will be screened again for diabetes (some women develop pregnancy-related diabetes, known as gestational diabetes, which usually clears up after the baby is born), and patients who are Rh negative will be checked for Rh antibodies (which can be treated through a series of injections), says Petrikovsky.

At the end of the pregnancy, between weeks 32-36, you may be retested for syphilis and gonorrhea, as well as for group B strep (GBS), a type of bacterium that can cause meningitis or blood infections in newborn infants; if you test positive for GBS, you will be given antibiotics during labor and delivery to minimize the risk of transmitting the bacterium to your infant.

Though these are all routine tests, there may be other prenatal tests that your obstetrician will recommend, depending on your racial or ethnic background or family medical history, says Vivian Weinblatt, MS, CGC, regional manager of genetic services for Genzyme Genetics in Philadelphia and former president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Certain populations, for example, are at risk for certain diseases, Weinblatt explains. Ashkenazic Jews (those of Eastern European descent) as well as French Canadians and Cajuns are at high risk for Tay-Sachs, a debilitating neurological disease that usually results in a child's early death. Since the increased use of screening tests to determine whether parents-to-be are carriers of Tay-Sachs became more prevalent in the 1970s, the incidence of the disease has dropped dramatically, says Weinblatt.

Weinblatt says other illnesses that are specific to the Jewish population and can be screened with a blood test or tissue sample are Canavan disease; mucolipidosis type 4; Niemann-Pick disease type A; Fanconi anemia type C; Bloom syndrome; familial dysautonomia; and Gaucher disease.

Africans, African Americans, Southern Europeans, and Asians are at higher risk for blood-related illnesses such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, says Weinblatt.

If you have a family history of illnesses such as muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, or cystic fibrosis, you may also want to consult a genetic counselor, Weinblatt advises. "A genetic counselor can't treat you or your unborn child, but he or she can let you know how your risk factors can affect your pregnancy.

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