Introduction to Prenatal Tests
These screenings and diagnostics can check for common problems.

powered by healthline

Average Ratings

Introduction to Prenatal Tests

Prenatal tests can tell a lot about the health of you and your unborn baby. Tests are done throughout pregnancy. Many tests are given to almost all pregnant women as part of their prenatal care. Other tests are suggested to certain women by their doctors based on any risk factors they may have.

Common risk factors during pregnancy include:

  • A family history of genetic or birth defects
  • A mother with diabetes, high blood pressure, HIV or other health conditions
  • Previous pregnancy complications, miscarriages or stillbirths
  • A pregnancy with multiples (twins, triplets or more)
  • Exposure to something harmful during pregnancy (radiation, chemicals or certain drugs including tobacco and alcohol)
  • Screening tests that show abnormal results
  • A mother who is 35 or older
  • A mother who is underweight
  • A mother who is overweight

Your blood and urine will be tested at your first doctor's visit. This is to confirm your pregnancy and to check for blood problems or signs of infections. These infections could pass to the baby. Expect to have your urine tested and blood pressure taken at each visit. These are easy ways for your doctor to identify any problems.

Routine prenatal tests can show if you have:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Immunity to certain diseases, such as chicken pox and rubella
  • Infections, such as STDs, hepatitis B or urinary tract infections
  • Rh incompatibility (your blood type is different from your baby's blood type)

It is important to find and treat these conditions early to keep you and your baby healthy.

Screening tests can tell if you are at risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder or birth defect. These are usually offered in the first and second trimester. Screening tests include ultrasound and blood tests. They can check for conditions like Down syndrome and trisomy 18. You can also have a test to see if your baby is at risk for neural tube defects.

Depending on the initial test results, your doctor may suggest diagnostic testing. These tests confirm or rule out genetic disorders or birth defects in your baby. They include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS).

  • Amniocentesis is usually done between weeks 15 and 20 of pregnancy. A sample of amniotic fluid is taken and analyzed. Lab results can take up to three weeks.
  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) can be done earlier, between weeks 10 and 12 of pregnancy. The doctor takes a sample of tissue from the placenta and the laboratory examines it. Lab results can take up to two weeks.

These tests are not risk-free. There is a slight risk of miscarriage as a result of amniocentesis or CVS.

Some discomfort is common during pregnancy. This includes nausea, back pain and fatigue. If you're not sure what's normal, call your doctor or midwife.

By Susan Warner, Contributing Writer
Created on 08/01/2001
Updated on 09/08/2013
Sources:
  • Medline Plus. Health problems in pregnancy.
  • Medline Plus. Prenatal testing.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Routine tests in pregnancy.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Chapter 2: Month 3. In: ACOG’s Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month. Fifth edition. Washington, D.C.: ACOG; 2010.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
Top of page
General Drug Tools
General Drug Tools view all tools
Tools for
Healthy Living
Tools for Healthy Living view all tools
Search Tools
Search Tools view all tools
Insurance Plan Tools
Insurance Plan Tools view all tools

What is a reference number?

When you register on this site, you are assigned a reference number. This number contains your profile information and helps UnitedHealthcare identify you when you come back to the site.

If you searched for a plan on this site in a previous session, you might already have a reference number. This number will contain any information you saved about plans and prescription drugs. To use that reference number, click on the "Change or view saved information" link below.

You can retrieve information from previous visits to this site, such as saved drug lists and Plan Selector information.