Naturally, you want to have a healthy baby. So, after a urine test declares that you are, indeed, pregnant, you may wonder what other tests you should have. Although neither your doctor nor any amount of testing can guarantee that your child will be healthy, many–but not all–conditions of concern during pregnancy can be detected. Some tests will help determine that your pregnancy is progressing in the expected way, while others will test for specific abnormalities in the fetus.
Test only when necessary
Keep in mind that no matter how many tests you undergo, there’s no guarantee that your pregnancy will be free of problems. However, the odds are very good–over 95 percent. Unless you have some reason for concern about a specific condition, your doctor will probably test only for the most common things that can be detected at the various stages of your pregnancy. If you’re tempted to ask for every test available, remember that tests themselves also carry risks and can be quite costly.
Glossary of tests
In deciding which of the following tests you need, your doctor will consider your general health status, age, and any inherited conditions that either you or your husband have. It’s important to consider beforehand–and discuss with your doctor and your spouse–what you would do if the tests’ results were not what you’d hoped.
Blood tests–to determine your blood type, whether you are Rh negative or positive, and whether you have antibodies in your blood that might increase the likelihood of your baby being anemic or jaundiced as a newborn. Even if you have other children and know your blood type, it’s still a good idea to be tested for these antibodies.
Pap smear–to test for the risk of developing cervical cancer.
Urinalysis–to ensure that you don’t have a bladder or kidney infection or diabetes.
Amniocentesis–which uses a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding your baby to detect chromosome abnormalities, inherited disorders, or developmental defects.
Maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP) test–which may detect brain or spinal cord defects.
Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling–which requires highly skilled personnel and involves directly sampling your baby’s blood to check for certain disorders, drug levels, infection, or genetic conditions.
Triple test–which detects developmental defects and chromosomal abnormalities to a greater degree than the MSAFP test.
Ultrasound–which produces a picture of baby by using sound waves.