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Prenatal Screening Procedures

In an uncomplicated pregnancy, expect about a dozen doctor visits

First Visit Blood tests: To check the woman's blood group and sometimes, to check for presence of hepatitis B virus, which might be transmitted to the baby.
Cervical smear test: To test for an early cancer of the cervix (if a test has not been performed recently). Also called a Pap smear.
First Visit and Throughout the Pregnancy Blood tests: To check for anemia in the woman, and in women with Rh-negative blood groups, to look for the presence of Rhesus antibodies.
Urine test: To check for proteinuria, which could indicate a urinary tract infection or preeclampsia.
Blood and urine test: To check for diabetes mellitus.
Blood pressure check: To screen for hypertension, which interferes with blood supply to the placenta and is a sign of preeclampsia.
First Visit and After ANY Infection Blood tests: To screen for rubella, which can cause defects in the baby, and for syphilis and HIV (the AIDS virus) which can also be passed on.
First 12 Weeks Chorionic villus sampling: May be performed if there is a risk of certain genetic (inherited) disorders being passed on.
16 to 18 Weeks Ultrasound scanning: Is carried out to date the pregnancy accurately and to detect any abnormalities present in the fetus.
Amniocentesis: Carried out on older women and those with spina bifida or Down's syndrome to detect possible abnormalities in the fetus.
Blood test: In some cases, the amount of alpha-fetoprotein in the blood is tested to determine whether the baby has spina bifida.
Fetoscopy and fetal blood sampling: In some cases, these are carried out if there is doubt about the normality of the baby.
High-risk or overdue pregnancies Blood and urine tests: To assess placental function and fetus health.
Electronic fetal monitoring: To check on the fetal heart beat.
Ultrasound scanning: Extra scans may be recommended to assess fetal growth and development, location of placenta, amount of amniotic fluid.

SOURCE: Encyclopedia of Medicine, American Medical Association, Random House, 1989.


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