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What Prenatal Tests Should I Expect?

 

It's completely normal to worry about the new life growing inside of you. Thankfully, modern medicine offers a multitude of prenatal tests to give you reassurance. While not a crystal ball, these can give you a glimpse into the future as far as overall health is concerned. Your doctor will be able to explain what each of these tests can determine, the process, and if there are any risk factors involved.

Early Pregnancy Tests

Some of the more common pregnancy tests are performed after your first trimester, or 12 weeks, and come in the form of screenings and blood work. However, there are a few prenatal tests that can be done in those early weeks of your pregnancy.

  • Ultrasound testing for Fetal Nuchal Translucency, or NT, is done during the first trimester. This particular screening is used to examine the fetus for any increased fluid at the back of the neck, which can be an indication of Down Syndrome.
  • Blood tests during the first trimester will look for a pregnancy-associated plasma protein and human chorionic gonadotropin. The placenta produces both this protein and hormone. Increased levels of either could mean a higher risk of chromosome abnormality.
  • A close evaluation of these screenings and blood tests during the first 12 weeks could reveal if the fetus has a birth defect like trisomy 13, trisomy 18, or Down Syndrome (trisomy 21).

While all pregnancy tests are recommended, they are optional. No one can make you take them. Screenings and prenatal tests are strongly encouraged if you are over 35 or have a family history of genetic problems. The older you are at the time of your pregnancy increases the chance of delivering a baby with abnormalities. Discuss which tests are right for you during your pregnancy tests.

If you decide to go ahead with prenatal tests, you should consider seeing a genetic counselor if any of your results come back abnormal. Additional testing, like amniocentesis, may be available. This prenatal test is a fluid draw from the placenta sack itself. Doctors are able to look at the fluid and determine further results.

Additional Prenatal Tests Available

  1. Chorionic Villus Sampling. CVS is a test that looks at samples from the placenta to diagnose Down Syndrome and other genetic disorders.
  2. Nuchal Scan. This ultrasound is also able to look for Down Syndrome.
  3. Alfa-Feto Protein. AFP is a blood test that looks for proteins of spina bifida.
  4. Triple Screen Test. These blood tests can detect spina bifida, neural tube defects, and Down Syndrome. But the common diagnosis is inaccurate pregnancy dating.
  5. Amniocentesis is able to determine several chromosomal abnormalities including Down Syndrome as well as fetal infections.

During pregnancy checks, it is important to understand what each screening or blood draw is before you do it. Having all your questions answered can alleviate a lot of your anxiety.

 

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