Prenatal care can vary greatly according to your location, budget, and doctor. Ultimately, your doctor will be the one to recommend any lifestyle changes and prenatal testing necessary to ensure that your baby’s health is always the highest priority.
Based on the results of prenatal tests throughout your pregnancy, your doctor may also order important treatments and make recommendations that could affect your child’s future. These tests are crucial for understanding the health and wellbeing of your child while in the womb and long after they enter the world. But, what kind of testing should you be prepared for? When should this testing occur?
Many women first discover they are pregnant from an at-home pregnancy test. These are usually purchased over the counter and easily performed according to the instructions printed on the box. After this initial test, you must go into your chosen OBGYN’s office for a blood test to confirm the at-home results. During this visit, a pregnancy will be identified, a schedule of additional visits will be laid out, and the next steps for prenatal care will be explained. Your doctor may also recommend other preliminary tests like a pap smear, or STI testing at this point.
In the first few weeks after receiving confirmation that you are pregnant, you will be scheduled for an ultrasound to confirm that the pregnancy is normal, that the baby is developing, the baby’s due date, and that your uterus and other organs are well-equipped to handle the stress of pregnancy.
Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing
As early as nine weeks into the pregnancy, your doctor might recommend non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) if:
- Your pregnancy is determined to be high risk
- You are over the age of 35
- You have a genetic disorder that runs in your family
- You’ve had a high-risk pregnancy in the past
- You have a medical condition that could affect the pregnancy
- Or you have a history of miscarriage or stillbirth
NIPT consists of a blood test that identifies the likelihood that your child will have a chromosomal or genetic abnormality. It does this without risk to the developing fetus, however, if your baby is found to be at risk for being born with a genetic abnormality, additional prenatal diagnostic testing will be recommended to you to confirm the NIPT results.
Prenatal Diagnostic Testing
Prenatal diagnostic testing is not recommended for every pregnancy because it carries a low risk of miscarriage. This type of testing is used to diagnose genetic disorders and is usually performed between 10-15 weeks of gestation.
The two most common types of prenatal diagnostic testing are amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Both types of testing involve using a needle to remove fetal DNA from either the placenta or amniotic fluid of the baby. Depending on the results of this test, your doctor may recommend additional testing to get a better idea of the baby’s health.
Throughout the course of your pregnancy, your doctor will likely recommend additional kinds of prenatal testing as needed. These can include additional ultrasounds and blood tests to confirm that both mother and baby are healthy.
Your doctor should be able to answer any of your questions or concerns about prenatal testing and prenatal care. They may refer you to a specialist, or genetic counselor, if your baby is found to be at risk for being born with a genetic disorder. A genetic counselor will be able to better explain your testing options, what test results mean, and any next-steps or preparations that should be made for the health of your baby.