The types of screening & diagnostic tests done during pregnancy

pregnant woman getting a scan

Pregnant women can expect to undergo a variety of different screening tests during each stage of their pregnancy. These prenatal tests are conducted to provide the medical professional with information about the health of the baby and mother. This information is also used to assist in the prenatal care and development of your baby. Discover more about tests done during pregnancy in each trimester. Bloom Financial Services and medical partner, Momentum Health4Me, unpack the details of the tests taken during pregnancy.

What is prenatal testing?

There are several types of tests needed during pregnancy. Prenatal testing, which includes screenings and diagnostic tests, are used to provide information about your baby’s health. They are carried out in the first and second trimesters of your pregnancy. There are typically two types of prenatal tests:

  1. Screenings. This includes blood tests, ultrasounds and DNA testing. Prenatal screenings are used to determine the risks of certain birth defects or medical conditions.
  2. Diagnostics. Should a screening test reveal a risk for a certain condition, like Down Syndrome, then a diagnostic test, such as an amniocentesis, will be conducted

How are tests done during pregnancy?

Many tests are conducted using a blood sample. Other screening tests are conducted using a urine sample while others will require a sample of your tissue that is taken from your vagina or cervix. There are several routine tests done during pregnancy, some of which include the following:

  • Blood pressure. Your blood pressure will be monitored throughout your pregnancy as raised blood pressure can be a sign of preeclampsia.
  • Urine tests. These are used to check for infections and proteins. A urine sample can be used to check for conditions, like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. 
  • Blood tests. Routine blood tests will be taken at different stages of your pregnancy. Blood tests are used to check your iron levels. They are also the means used to establish your blood group and rhesus status. Certain infections, like hepatitis and HIV, can be detected through blood tests, as well as medical conditions, like anaemia. 

For the full range of antenatal screenings and tests done during pregnancy that are covered by medical insurance, take a look at Why Antenatal Testing is Important for Pregnant Women. 

First-trimester screening

First-trimester antenatal screening is comprised of a combination of foetal ultrasound and blood tests. Blood tests are used to check for certain substances that pregnant women should be producing. The ultrasound screenings are used to identify any possible birth defects, like Down Syndrome. Some of the first-trimester pregnancy tests include: 

  • Ultrasound for foetal nuchal translucency. This test examines the area at the back of the foetal neck to check for extra fluid or thickening.
  • Ultrasound for foetal nasal bone determination. This ultrasound is performed at 11-13 weeks as some babies who exhibit chromosome abnormalities, like Down Syndrome, may not display a nasal bone. 
  • Pregnancy-associated plasma A and Human chorionic gonadotropin. These blood tests are used to check for a protein that should be produced by the placenta. Atypical levels are associated with an increased risk of abnormal chromosomal activity. 

Should any of the first-trimester screening tests done during pregnancy detect any abnormalities, then additional tests will be done, like amniocentesis or other types of ultrasounds.

Second-trimester screening tests

The second-trimester prenatal screening includes more blood tests that are called ‘markers.’ These markers provide valuable information about any potential risks your baby may have for certain genetic conditions or birth defects. Second-trimester tests are conducted between 15-20 weeks and include:

  • AFP screening. This is a blood test that is used to measure the level of AFP protein in your blood during pregnancy. Abnormal levels of AFP are an indication of Down Syndrome and open neural tube defects like spina bifida. 
  • Estriol and Inhibin. These are hormones that are both produced by the placenta. These markers can be measured with a blood or urine sample and are used to determine foetal health.

Abnormal test results will mean that additional, specialised tests will be required.

Ultrasounds tests during pregnancy

Ultrasounds are diagnostic tests conducted during the course of your pregnancy to determine foetal health and development. The ultrasound will be used to determine or identify different types of risks or milestones. These can be broken down into your trimesters. 

  • First trimester. The ultrasounds are used to determine the due date, and the number of foetuses, identify certain birth defects, examine the uterus and pelvic anatomy and identify the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Second trimester. The ultrasound can be used to monitor foetal growth, health and development, confirm the due date, examine blood flow patterns, measure the length of the cervix and identify possible birth defects.
  • Third trimester. The ultrasound is used to assess the placenta, the amount of amniotic fluid, determine the position of the foetus and monitor foetal growth and development.

Get health insurance with maternity benefits

Health insurance companies, like Bloom, offer health insurance plans with maternity benefits. Ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy with the required screenings and tests done during pregnancy. Momentum Health4Me provides comprehensive health insurance options for expectant mothers. Be advised that these do come with a 3-month waiting period. Contact Bloom’s office to speak to a trained consultant about your health insurance options and get a free quote for affordable medical insurance.

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