prenatal testing

No sooner than you discover those two lines on your pregnancy test and break the news to those you love, you will probably turn your focus to wondering…what’s next?   And while there is a great deal of excitement to come there will also be many decisions to make, and a few bridges to cross before you can hold your baby for the first time.

There are a few tests that are very necessary, and should be conducted by your doctor with your first visit for prenatal care.  He or she will then work with you to identify if there may be a need for further testing later.  Not every woman will need to have every type of test, so remember that if your doctor doesn’t mention some of these, it’s okay.

1st Trimester Tests (Weeks 1-12)

Most physicians or midwives have a relatively similar set of blood work that they will need to collect on your first visit.  He or she will determine when you had your last Pap smear, and if needed, they will probably complete the test that day.  A Pap smear is a test that looks for abnormal cells of the cervix that could lead to cervical cancer. You will probably be screened for sexually transmitted diseases at the same time.  Women usually have a Pap smear every year with their annual exam.

Other tests combine blood work and ultrasound results into what is called a “First Trimester Screen” where the fetus is examined and blood work analyzed to help determine the risk for Down’s Syndrome  Trisomy-21 and Trisomy-18 genetic disorders, as well as some heart defects.

Currently, the test is successful in detecting an average of 85 out of 100 babies with an abnormality.  Only 5% of all pregnancies will have a positive result, and of those positives, mothers have a 1/100 to 1/300 chance of actually having a baby with any problems.  The test is currently optional, and can be considered controversial by some simply because some women choose to terminate their pregnancies based on the results of the test.

Are you pregnant and preparing for your first visit to Dr. Hessel? We want you to understand the types of testing that may be needed to help ensure a healthy and happy pregnancy.  Stay tuned for my post on the second trimester, and talk with Dr. Hessel if you have any questions.