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Tests Ordered at First Prenatal Visit

Ideally, a woman should have a medical check-up before conception in order to discuss special care during pregnancy and the need for genetic screening . If this is not possible then the first prenatal visit should be as soon as possible after becoming pregnant.

During the visit the doctor will ask about past illnesses, pregnancies, miscarriages , and abortions as well as recording a history of diseases in the mother's and her partner's family. Weight and blood pressure as well as a pelvic examination to evaluate the size and structure of the uterus , confirm the age of the foetus, and evaluate the size of the pubic bone.
If the mother-to-be suffers from certain diseases , the doctor should be fully informed before conception. Also certain medications used to treat some diseases, may also pose a risk for the baby and the doctor should be consulted.

A number of screening tests are routinely ordered during the first and subsequent prenatal visits. The table below lists the main tests performed at each stage of pregnancy.

Stage of Pregnancy Appropriate Tests (When Indicated)
First prenatal visit Blood type, Rh type , complete blood count , antibody screen, haemoglobin and hematocrit, rubella antibodies , syphilis , hepatitis B, gonorrhoea culture, Pap smear , and urinalysis .
8-18 weeks Ultrasound , alpha-fetoprotein , and amniocentesis or chorionic villi sampling . The latter 2 tests are recommended if the due date falls after the mother's 35th birthday, due to the risk of Down Syndrome.
24-28 weeks Haemoglobin and hematocrit, glucose challenge test for diabetes (especially if the mother is 30+), and Rh antibody screening (if Rh negative).
32-36 weeks Ultrasound, syphilis, gonorrhoea culture, and haemoglobin and hematocrit.
additional tests
Source [ 1 ]

After the initial examination, the doctor will probably want to see you about once a month until the 7th month, and then every 2 to 3 weeks in the 8th month, and every week during the last month. If it is a high-risk pregnancy more frequent visits will be required.
During these follow-up visits the doctor will measure blood pressure, record the mother's weight and the growth of the uterus, as well as performing a dipstick urine test to screen for abnormal levels of proteins and glucose. The baby's heartbeat, which can usually be heard by the 12th week of pregnancy, will also be monitored. The doctor will usually ask about the baby's movements and, if they appear to slow down, may order an ultrasound exam or electronic foetal heart monitoring .

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient's Guide to Medical Tests, Barry L. Zaret M.D., Senior Editor, published by Houghton Mifflin. Online: common_procedures/doppler_ultrasound.html

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Contact Last modified: Oct 20 2004