Tests Carried Out During Pregnancy

During your pregnancy, you will be subject to many tests to ensure that both you and your baby are in good health.

These tests vary in purpose and invasiveness. Here is a list of the potential tests that you may undergo.

Urine Tests

A urine test is remains the most popular test to confirm pregnancy. It may also be able to detect the presence of sugar, which can be indicative of gestational diabetes; the presence of the protein (albumin), which may be a sign of high blood pressure (hypertension); or leucocytes and nitrates, which can suggest the presence of bacteria that indicate urinary infection.

Blood Tests

Your doctor may prescribe a blood test to confirm your pregnancy. This is done by determining your HCG hormone levels, which confirms the pregnancy and shows how far along it is.

A blood test can also be used to determine your blood group and rhesus (Rh) status. An Rh negative means that the mother can develop antibodies against her baby if her baby is Rh positive. If a mother is Rh negative, an injection of Anti D is usually given to her within 72 hours of childbirth. There is no risk during the first pregnancy, but this situation can pose a problem for subsequent babies.

A blood analysis can also detect syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection, which, if left untreated, can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth. Along the same lines, an HIV can be requested and is strongly recommended, but is not mandatory. A blood test can also catch a previously undiagnosed case of Hepatitis B, a virus that affects your liver and that is easily transmittable to your baby. Finding out if you have Hepatitis B or are a carrier allows the doctors to vaccinate the baby at birth.

A full blood count test, which is performed at the beginning of and during the 6th month of your pregnancy, is used to detect if you are anemic. This is treated with iron and folic acid tablets.

A blood test will also show the presence of Rubella, or German measles, antibodies, meaning that you are immune. Rubella can cause fetal abnormalities in up to 90% of cases, especially in the first 8 to 10 weeks. Ideally, you should ensure that you are immune to the disease before trying to conceive.

This analysis may also be used to identify the presence of Gestational diabetes, a condition that occurs in approximately 1 in 400 pregnancies. If glucose is detected in your urine, then an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is performed. An OGTT is also offered to women with risk factors (i.e. obesity, family history of diabetes, women over 40 years old, women from certain areas of the world, women with a history of fetal abnormality). Women who develop diabetes run the risk of having their baby grow quite large, leading to a difficult delivery.

The alphafetoprotien (AFP) blood test, along with an ultrasound, can help to detect chromosomal and structural disorders. This includes conditions such as Down's syndrome, cystic fibrosis, dwarfism, and spina bifida. High levels of AFP are associated with spina bifida and low levels can indicate a high risk of Down's syndrome. If Down's syndrome is suspected amniocentesis may be offered. The test is performed at about 15 weeks.


Ultrasound examination is essential to check for defects, perform measurements of the baby, and monitor growth. It's also important in calculating the age of the baby, check the position of placenta, see if there's more than one baby, and for some parents, to determine the sex of the child.

An ultrasound is performed using an ultrasound probe, which is put on the abdomen of the mother. A gel is applied to the surface of the skin to facilitate the transmission of ultrasounds. The emitted ultrasounds are reflected differently depending on tissue density. They are, then, converted into signals by a computer system and visualized onto a monitor as images.

The first ultrasound is recommended at 12 weeks of pregnancy. This ultrasound allows your doctor to check fetal development by obtaining measurements of the head, neck, length of body, etc.; know the exact progression of the pregnancy; check for more than one baby; detect certain malformations; detect the risk of chromosomal abnormalities; and locate the placenta. In some cases, a Doppler examination may be required at this stage. This test measures the flow in the blood vessels of the uterus and umbilical cord and the size of the umbilical cord from the uterine artery to the cerebral artery of the fetus.

The second ultrasound, called the morphology ultrasound, is scheduled between 20 and 22 weeks. It examines in detail the fetal anatomy and growth. It also helps to identify any potential defects. It often also identifies the baby's gender and helps to find the exact location of the placenta.

Occasionally, additional ultrasounds are done from 24 weeks onward to monitor growth or abnormalities detected in earlier ultrasounds, check the position of the placenta, or clarify the position of the baby in the womb. It is possible to perform an ultrasound at any time during the pregnancy in cases of suspected abnormalities or if health of the mother is compromised.
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