Tests You Need During Pregnancy
Prenatal tests are important for your health and your unborn baby's health. Here's what to expect.
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.
"When you know ahead of time -- even if you find out that
both you and your partner are carriers of a specific illness -- you can prepare
yourself emotionally, you can find the proper doctor, etc. You'll have a
greater feeling of control when you know what to look for."
However many prenatal tests you have, try not to become too
anxious. Remember, says Lampley, that "the vast majority of unborn children
are perfectly normal, provided the mother has taken care of herself and her