Pregnancy involves a myriad of different tests and scans and generally being poked and prodded for 40 weeks. Having your first baby can be scary as it is, without being sent off for a heap of blood tests for this and that. Here are the most common pregnancy tests and scans and what they mean. Remember that not all pregnancies are the same and some of the tests you complete may differ to the ones listed below.
If you’re convinced you are pregnant but the home pregnancy test just won’t give you those two precious little lines, your GP may send you off for a blood test to confirm – they are more accurate than the urine tests.
Pregnant women are usually sent for another blood test at around 10 weeks to check your iron levels and determine your blood group, among other things. It’s important to know your blood group in case you need a transfusion at some stage, and your blood will be tested to see if it is Rhesus positive or negative. All pregnant women with RhD negative blood (including myself) are offered an injection of Immunoglobin RhD, or ‘Anti-D’ at 28 and 34 weeks of your pregnancy, because having a baby with RhD positive blood can be harmful to the unborn child if the two blood groups mix. You can read more about this here.
Your iron levels and cell count will usually be tested again around 28 weeks to make sure your iron levels haven’t dropped and that there are no complications arising. If you feel lethargic well into your second trimester, ask your doctor to test your iron levels again, as they can tend to dip to low levels at any stage of the pregnancy.
Ultrasounds are typically completed at around seven weeks, 12 weeks and between 18 and 20 weeks, unless there are concerns or complications with the pregnancy. The first scan is commonly known as a dating scan to confirm how far along you are, while the 12-week scan usually looks for signs of down syndrome. At the 18-20 week scan, the sonographer will complete a full anatomy scan to see how baby is progressing and to find out the gender – if you prefer! If you can’t wait until the 18-week mark, you can actually find out around 15 weeks, but talk to your GP about this.
Your doctor may send you for further ultrasounds later in the pregnancy to check the growth or wellbeing of the baby.
Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT)
The GTT is completed at around 28 weeks to check your body’s ability to process glucose and to check for the risk of gestational diabetes. It’s not the most pleasant test in the world and takes two hours to complete. The pathologist will do a first blood test before you drink a glucose drink, and then test you again an hour later and then again a further hour later. It also involves fasting – never great for a pregnant woman. The combination of the sweet tasting drink and fasting can cause nausea, so ask to lie down at the facility or go outside for some fresh air if needed. You can drink plain water throughout the test – sipping on icy cold water can help relieve the nausea. Remember to take a book or something to do while you wait.
Group Strep B swab testing
Pregnancy is just full of so many pleasantries, like swab testing your nether regions. This test is conducted at around 34 weeks to determine if you have Group B Streptococcus, a bacteria that is totally harmless for adults, but can cause serious illness or even death for a newborn baby. If you do test positive, you will generally be given antibiotics during labour to ensure the bacteria isn’t passed onto baby.
Your blood pressure is tested throughout the pregnancy. It may not sounds as significant as other tests, but sudden high blood pressure can signal pre-eclampsia, a condition that can cause growth problems for babies.
Once you start to attend antenatal appointments, your urine will be regularly tested for unusual protein levels, which can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
On top of these common tests and scans, your GP may feel the need to send you for other tests, so if you are unsure of the reasoning, always ask or gain a second opinion.