Children are the best blessing parents can receive in their entire lifetime. No fortune or any amount of wealth can define the indefinite and immeasurable value of a child to both the mother and father. For newlyweds and first-time parents, there is so much excitement and joy that the incoming new addition to the family can bring.
As part of the parents’ preparations during pregnancy, it is a must to put the baby’s health and condition a priority. To give parents ideas and information, here are the tests and scans that should be done during the entire pregnancy.
First Trimester Screening (between 10 to 14 weeks of gestation)
The first trimester of pregnancy is the period when parents get to meet for the first time their gynaecologist or antenatal care provider. Anticipation and delight start to manifest upon hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. The first trimester is also the best time to do a genetic screening and identify the chances of the baby having an irregular number of chromosomes.
- Nuchal Translucency Scan (NT)
Nuchal Translucency Scan or NT Scan is an ultrasound scanning procedure that will evaluate the baby’s risk of having Down syndrome (trisomy 21), Edward Syndrome (trisomy 18), and other possible chromosomal abnormalities. NT Scan measures the translucent portion at the back of the baby’s neck if there is an increasing amount of fluid that is thickening. This test is usually done between 11 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. During these periods, the base of the neck tissues of the baby is still clear or translucent. If the doctor noticed a high likelihood of chromosomal defects during the NT scan, moms are advised to take amniocentesis test.
- Maternal Serum/ Blood Test
The test calculates the two components of the mother’s serum or the watery portion of the blood, namely the Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) and the Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
Pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A), a protein formed associated with the placenta during the first trimester can be screened for parents between 10 to 14 weeks pregnant. Results of PAPP-A maternal serum test will assess the risks of chromosomal abnormalities of the baby. If the level of PAPP-A is low on or before 14 weeks of gestation, there is a higher risk.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), on the other hand, is a placenta hormone that will also measure the possibility of chromosome abnormalities. It is best tested from 8 to 10 weeks of pregnancy. The amount of hCG level is directly proportional to the amount of chromosomal abnormalities risks.
The first trimester screening and risk assessment report are summarized by doctors through the analysis of biochemical markers PAPP-A and hCG, clinical factors (maternal age, ethnicity, insulin-dependent diabetics, and IVF pregnancy), and ultrasound marker nuchal translucency scan.
As prenatal care must be observed properly, early detection of chromosome disorders during the first trimester screening can be further examined on the remaining trimesters of the pregnancy. It is important to note that there are other risks that are not assessed during the first trimester period.
Mid-Trimester Screening (between 14 to 26 weeks of gestation)
On the mid-trimester or second trimester of gestation, more tests and screenings are recommended as compared to the first trimester. Multiple markers using blood test are tested to determine the risks and possible genetic disorders of the baby.
- Maternal Serum Triple Screen/Quad Screen
Triple screen (also called triple marker) quantifies the three substances present in the blood of the mother namely, alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and estriol (uE3). Quad screen, on the other hand, has an additional test of the hormone inhibin A.
The results obtained by the doctors after this test will discover the chances of the baby having birth defects like spina bifida (a condition where there’s no formation of bones around the baby’s spinal cord), anencephaly (spinal cord and brain are partially shaped), Down syndrome, and Edward Syndrome. The test is usually carried out from 15 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test prepared to accurately detect neural tube defects and genetic abnormalities of the baby inside the womb. Expecting mothers are tested by inserting the needle into the uterus to obtain a sample of the surrounding amniotic fluid of the fetus. This test is usually done around 15 to 18 weeks of pregnancy.
Ultrasound or sonogram utilizes sound waves that travel through the mother’s body hitting different bones, tissues, and fluids. The sound waves bounce back to the probe which then signals the ultrasound machine the echoes and time of each sound wave’s return and then produces a two-dimensional image of the baby inside the womb.
The suggested time for pregnant women to do ultrasound is around 18 to 22 weeks of gestation. Sonograms will give details about estimated delivery time, the possibility of ectopic pregnancy, number of fetus inside the womb, growth rate of the unborn, placenta’s position, heartbeat and breathing of fetus, and other detectable problems acquired before giving birth.
- Glucose Screening
Also known as diabetes test, glucose screening examines the blood glucose or sugar level of the mother. The goal of this test is the detection of potential gestational diabetes. Done between the 24th to 28th weeks, moms are instructed to drink a beverage containing at least 50 grams of sugar. After an hour or so, a blood sample is tested to determine the blood sugar level of the mother.
Third Trimester Screening (last 27 to 40 weeks of gestation)
On the last three months of pregnancy, screenings and tests should be properly performed to guarantee the health and safety of the mom and child before the big day.
Just like the second trimester ultrasound procedure. The size, position, and movements of the baby in the third trimester are observed together with the level of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby and the placenta’s position.
- Group B Strep (GBS) Testing
Performed during 35 to 37 weeks of pregnancy, Group B Streptococcus screening identifies possible Group B Strep infection. It is caused by a bacteria existing in the female reproductive region that can affect and instigate harm to the well-being of the baby.
Mothers are tested by swabbing the vaginal area or rectum. Then the swab is further examined for bacterial infection. Antibiotics are prescribed to moms positive with group B strep bacteria.
- Nonstress Test (NST)
The baby’s heart rate during movement is observed for about 20-30 minutes through a nonstress test by positioning a monitor to the abdomen of the baby’s mother for the period of 28 to 32 weeks of gestation.
- Biophysical Profile
This non-invasive type of test consists of two kinds that will check the health status of the baby— ultrasound and non-stress test. A biophysical profile is typically administered when the mother is still pregnant past her expected date, provided that the pregnancy is low-risk.
- Contraction Stress Test
Contraction stress test or oxytocin challenge is optional. The rationale behind this test is to determine the heart rate of the baby inside the mother’s womb when uterine contractions happen.
There are many means and ways for parents who are expecting a baby to protect and safeguard the well-being of their child before welcoming them to the world. It is important to consult legitimate health practitioners and doctors with regard to the tests and screenings applicable to the condition and situation of the pregnancy. Most importantly, enjoy the wonderful journey of pregnancy because nothing compares to the happiness your bundle of joy can bring to your family.