Peeing on a stick is only the beginning. From the moment you see that second line on the pregnancy test, there are a number of prenatal tests and screenings you’ll need to do to ensure you and your baby are growing well.
From the heartwarming ultrasounds where you first see bub move, to the less enjoyable but essential blood tests, it’s hard to keep track of all the assessments throughout your pregnancy journey. But as always, we are here to help.
Some of your pregnancy tests and screenings may overlap or differ slightly depending on whether you are a public or private patient. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider as to which ones apply to you.
Here is a timeline of necessary tests and screenings throughout pregnancy.
Test to confirm pregnancy – from 4 weeks
Arrange a GP appointment to confirm your pregnancy. A urine test will detect a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (βhCG).
A blood test will measure the level of βhCG in your blood and confirm your blood type. Your doctor will also test your blood for any infectious diseases such as rubella, syphilis, hepatitis or HIV.
Dating ultrasound – from 6 weeks
A dating scan is an ultrasound scan to determine how many weeks pregnant you are and your due date.
Many private obstetricians recommend this first scan around 8-9 weeks when a fetal heartbeat should be clearly audible.
Those going through the public system, the dating scan may be done in conjunction with your Nuchal Translucency Scan at around 12 weeks gestation.
Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) – between 10-13 weeks
Non-invasive prenatal testing is a way of testing a fetus’s DNA through a mother’s blood. This routine blood test can detect the presence of certain chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, Patau syndrome, Turner syndrome and also reveal the baby’s gender. NIPT is optional and will not be covered by your Medicare or private health insurance.
Nuchal translucency scan – 12 weeks
An ultrasound is done in conjunction with blood tests to determine the baby’s risk of having certain chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome. The ultrasound looks specifically at the fluid space at the back of the baby’s neck. Usually performed at 12 weeks but can be performed between 11-13 weeks gestation.
Anomaly scan – 20 weeks
Your 20 week ultrasound, also called an anomaly scan, checks the developing baby. Several measurements are taken to check growth and development. This scan also assesses any major anatomical abnormalities (such as problems with the head, limbs, heart and other internal organs).
The sex of the baby can often be determined at this stage of your pregnancy.
As well as checking the baby and the position of the placenta, the cervix and the amount of fluid will also be assessed.
Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT) – between 24-28 weeks
The GTT screening test can identify women who may have elevated blood sugars. Gestational diabetes will be diagnosed if your blood sugar levels are above what they should be.
Group B streptococcus – 36 weeks
A vaginal swab test to check for the presence of Group B streptococcus (GBS, or group B strep) – a bacteria carried by up to 30% of people. Rarely harmful during pregnancy, in some cases it infects the baby either just before or during labour causing illness. If the test is positive your doctor may plan to give you antibiotics during labour.
At each antenatal appointment, you will have your blood pressure taken. A rise in blood pressure later in pregnancy could be a sign of pregnancy-induced hypertension. It is common for your blood pressure to be slightly lower during pregnancy. This isn’t harmful but it may cause you to experience lightheadedness. Seek medical advice if you are concerned.
Urine samples are taken during pregnancy to check for several things, including protein or albumin. If this is found in your urine, you may have an infection that needs to be treated. It can also be a sign of pregnancy hypertension, which can lead to pre-eclampsia.
Diagnostic tests can be used in some cases when there is an increased risk for a particular condition.
- Ultrasound – An ultrasound may be used to check the baby’s health if you are experiencing unusual pregnancy symptoms such as vaginal bleeding or decreased/lack of fetal movement.
- Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) – A CVS checks for specific medical conditions. A sample of the placenta to help provide information about the baby. Doctors insert a slender needle through the mother’s abdomen to collect a sample. The tissue (known as a chorionic villus sample) is then examined in a laboratory.
- Amniocentesis – a slender needle through the abdomen to withdraw a small amount of amniotic fluid. This fluid sample contains some of the baby’s cells and these are then examined in the laboratory.
As always, this information is general in nature and if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your healthcare provider.
Read next …
Now that you’ve read our handy guide to prenatal tests, why not take a look at some of our most popular articles on pregnancy health and wellbeing:
- 10 delicious ways to increase folate intake during pregnancy
- Everything you ever wanted to know about prenatal vitamins
- The best stretch mark creams for growing bumps
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