Once it’s established you are pregnant, you will need to book a prenatal appointment.
During your prenatal appointment, your doctor may perform some simple tests to make sure everything is ok with you and the baby.
It’s important to understand what is happening at every stage of your pregnancy so this is a simple guide to some of the tests that can be carried out during the first trimester.
Rhesus factor testing
Rhesus factor or Rh factor refers to a protein carried by the red blood cells. This is present in most people but about 15 per cent of people are Rh negative.
It’s important to find out if you are Rh negative while pregnant because your baby could be Rh positive and this means your immune system may release antibodies to attack the baby’s “foreign” red blood cells.
This check is usually performed at the first prenatal checkup and involves a simple blood sample from the arm.
If you and your baby are “incompatible”, it can be treated with an injection to prevent the harmful antibodies from forming. Rhesus incompatibility usually won’t affect a first pregnancy but it will affect subsequent pregnancies.
You will usually give several urine samples throughout your pregnancy as there are several conditions that your doctor needs to assess you for. Among the conditions they will check for are diabetes, preeclampsia and urinary tract infections.
They will monitor levels of glucose in your urine to check for gestational diabetes or type two diabetes.
High levels of protein in the urine could indicate preeclampsia.
UTIs can also occur during pregnancy but are easy to treat.
Sexually transmitted infections pose a massive risk to your unborn baby, so be aware that your doctor may want to test you for these.
STIs can be transmitted to your baby and can low birth weight and even stillbirth. Some STIs have no symptoms so it’s important to get checked to keep you and your baby safe.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing
After 10 weeks of pregnancy, you have the chance to test for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome. This is usually in conjunction with a special ultrasound.
Usually you will have to go to a private clinic if you want to get this check done.
These tests are commonly used to test for Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome) and Trisomy 13 (Patau syndrome).
As the name suggest, it is non-invasive and requires only a blood sample. The test can indicate the likelihood of a chromosomal disorder but it cannot diagnose it.You may need a more invasive test such as amniocentesis to confirm the presence of a disorder.
These tests are sometimes recommended for older mums or those who have had a baby with a chromosomal disorder previously.
Your doctor will advise you on whether you need this kind of test.
If you have questions about prenatal tests, talk to your doctor.