Congratulations, you’re pregnant! You’re beginning an exciting journey, one that includes frequent visits with your health care provider, and often times, those visits will include various pregnancy screenings to make sure you and your baby are healthy. But, what exactly do all the screenings during pregnancy do? We’ve put together a list of pregnancy screenings our UnityPoint Clinic – OB/GYN offices typically offer to help explain what you can expect over the next nine months. (*Note: These screenings apply to moms not of advanced maternal age. This is not a comprehensive list. Depending on the circumstances of your pregnancy, you may have additional screenings not listed here).
At your first appointment, your health care provider will run blood tests to gather knowledge about your overall health. The blood tests will help your provider determine:
- Blood type – the result will specify which of the four blood types (A, B, AB, O) you are.
- Complete blood profile (CBC) – this lab gives your provider an in-depth look at your blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin and much more.
- Iron level – baseline of iron levels. Low iron levels can lead to anemia.
- Rh factor – the name of a protein found on red blood cells. Testing Rh-positive, means you have this necessary protein; testing Rh-negative reveals your body lacks the antigen.
- Other tests – HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis and rubella (German measles), which can cause birth defects.
First trimester tests can also include urine samples. By testing your urine, your provider is able to look for signs of kidney infections. In addition, urine samples help monitor blood sugar levels (a sign of gestational diabetes) and albumin (a protein that may suggest pregnancy-related high blood pressure, known as preeclampsia).
Papsmear and Gonorrhea/chlamydia screening
If indicated, your provider may want to perform a routine Papsmear and Gonorrhea/chlamydia screening, which assesses the health of your reproductive system. These are standard exams, and if you’re up-to-date on your annual appointments with your provider, you may not need these.
Second and Third Trimesters
While ultrasounds can be done at different points during your pregnancy, typically, your appointment near the 20-week point of your pregnancy will include one. During an ultrasound, providers are able to verify your due date, make sure your baby is developing properly and check for signs of complications, such as placenta-previa (a low-lying placenta) or slow fetal growth. This pregnancy screening also allows you to see your baby, as you receive a two- or three-dimensional image of your child, as well as find out the gender of your little one, should you choose to!
This hour-long pregnancy screening usually occurs anywhere from 24 weeks to 28 weeks into your pregnancy. Your provider will give you a special drink, which after an hour, reveals your blood sugar level. Should your test results come back higher than what they’d like to see, your provider will have you take another test to further investigate whether you have gestational (pregnancy-induced) diabetes. Gestational diabetes can result in higher birth weights, tricky deliveries and other health problems for you and your baby.
Some providers may choose to do a hemoglobin screening. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that transfers oxygen from one cell to another. Iron is critical for maintaining necessary hemoglobin levels during pregnancy. This pregnancy screening detects whether or not your iron levels are where they should be. If it’s determined your iron levels are too low (anemic), your provider will most likely prescribe you an iron supplement.
Group B Streptococcal (GBS)
Group B Strep, or GBS, is a type of bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract, but it can be found in the vagina as well, meaning GBS could be transmitted to your baby during birth. The pregnancy screening for GBS occurs late in your pregnancy, at 35 weeks or after, as bacteria can come and go throughout your pregnancy; the bacteria present only becomes more of a factor the closer you get to delivery. The GBS screening itself is painless. If your test results come back positive, your provider will explain the next course of action, including antibiotics you’ll receive during labor.
Other Pregnancy Screenings
There are many more screenings expecting mothers can choose to have throughout the course of their pregnancies! Numerous other screenings give parents a more in-depth profile of their child’s overall health, such as whether underlying medical conditions are present, like Down’s Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, etc. If you’d like more information about the optional tests available to you, ask your provider.
Preparing for Your Baby
With so much information available, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But, don’t worry! If you have a question during your pregnancy, your provider will happily answer you (and probably make you feel much more at ease). If you’re simply seeking out more general information, feel free to visit our Maternity FAQ page, listing out some of our most commonly received questions from moms just like you! You can also get your questions answered at Oh, Baby! on April 18 from 9 a.m. – noon. This free event offers educational sessions, knowledgeable vendors, interactive exhibits and great giveaways!