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Your Guide to Prenatal Testing

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When you’re pregnant, prenatal tests give you information about your health and your baby’s. They help detect any problems that could affect him, like birth defects or genetic diseases. The results can help you make the best health care decisions before and after your child is born.

Prenatal tests are helpful, but it’s important to know how to interpret what they find. A positive test result doesn’t always mean your baby will be born with a disorder. You’ll want to talk with your doctor, midwife, or other health care provider about what the tests mean and what you should do once you have the results.

Doctors recommend some prenatal tests for all pregnant women. Only some women will need other screening tests to check for certain genetic problems.

Routine Prenatal Tests

There are different prenatal tests you can get in your first, second, and third trimester. Some check your health, and others get information about your baby.

Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll get routine exams to make sure you’re healthy. Your health care provider will check samples of your blood and urine for certain conditions, including:

She’ll also check your blood type and whether your blood cells have a protein called the Rh factor. You may also get:

  • Pap smear
  • Group B Strep screening. Your doctor will swab the skin in and around your vagina to check for this type of bacteria. This usually happens in the last month before you give birth.
  • Ultrasound. This technology uses sound waves to make pictures of your baby and your organs. If your pregnancy is normal, you’ll have it twice, once near the beginning to see how far along you are, and the second time around 18-20 weeks to check your baby’s growth and make sure his organs are developing properly.

Prenatal Genetic Tests

Doctors also can use prenatal tests to look for signs that your baby is at risk for certain genetic disorders or birth defects. You don’t have to have these tests, but your doctor may suggest some to make sure your baby is healthy.

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