Pregnancy Tests And Procedures

By: Dr.Scott Pendergraft

Pregnancy tests vary depending on the age of pregnancy. Here we are going to detail some of the most common pregnancy tests and procedures done.
First trimester prenatal screening tests
The test carried out in the first trimester is important to determine the risk of certain birth defects in fetus. This screening test consists of the maternal blood testing and fetal ultrasound. This test can be carried out alone or in combination with other tests.
The first trimester first trimester screening is carried out in 3 parts:
• Ultrasound test for fetal NT (nuchal translucency)
• Maternal serum (blood) tests twice-one for Pregnancy-associated plasma protein screening (PAPP-A) and second for Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
When the results of first trimester screening is taken with nuchal translucency screening and maternal blood tests, the outcome has the highest possibility of determining any kind of birth defect in fetus like the Down syndrome.
If due to any reason the first trimester screening test is not normal then genetic counseling is recommended by doctors. Your doctor may also advice amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling, cell-free fetal DNA, and other types of ultrasounds for more accurate diagnosis.
Second trimester prenatal screening tests
This screening test is more complicated as compared to first trimester screening tests. In second trimester prenatal screening several blood tests are carried out that are known as multiple markers. These markers are indicators of the woman’s risk of carrying a child with certain birth defect. Blood samples from mother are collected for screening between 15th and 20th weeks of pregnancy.
The multiple markers include AFP or Alpha-fetoprotein screening for conditions like spina bifida and Down syndrome, chromosomal abnormalities and twins. You should understand that multiple marker screening is not a diagnostic in itself. Its result is not 100% accurate and therefore it can give false positive results.
The most important of all procedures are regular ultrasounds that are carried out throughout the 3 trimesters. Here’s a breakdown of what do ultrasounds diagnose in each trimester.
In the first trimester
• Help in determining the most accurate due date
• Identify placenta structures and determine number of fetuses
• To determine a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy
• To examine pelvic and uterus anatomy
• To determine fetal abnormalities
During Mid-trimester
• To confirm the due date-rarely changed as determined in first trimester
• To assist with prenatal tests like amniocentesis
• Examine fetal anatomy for any abnormality
• To check the level of amniotic fluid
• To determine the blood flow patterns
• To observe activity and behavior of fetus
• To measure cervix length
• To monitor the growth of fetus
During Third trimester
• To examine growth of fetus
• To check the amniotic fluid amount
• Included as the biophysical profile test
• To examine the position of a fetus
• To assess the position of placenta
You should understand that these are general pregnancy tests and procedures. Based on the condition of your pregnancy your doctor can advise some other tests as well.

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Dr. James S. Pendergraft opened the Orlando Women's Center in March 1996 to provide a full range of health care for women.

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