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Prenatal tests are performed during your pregnancy for several reasons. One of the reasons is to diagnose and treat any existing maternal conditions that may affect fetal development. Another reason is to detect any health problems in the growing fetus. Ideally, mums-to-be should seek a consultation with their obstetrician or gynaecologist as soon as they are pregnant to allow scheduling of the appropriate tests.
At every prenatal visit, the future mother’s weight, height and blood pressure are taken, and a urine analysis is performed. This helps to screen for maternal conditions such as high blood pressure, infections or diabetes. In most cases, complications can be avoided with detection and treatment. Ultrasound scans of the baby are also conducted to determine the growth of the baby.
At around six weeks of pregnancy, an early ultrasound scan will help confirm the location and gestational age of the embryo and detect whether it is a single or twin pregnancy. Details of prenatal screening and testing options may then be provided, and further investigations including blood tests will be scheduled. Routine prenatal blood tests include the following:
• Maternal Full Blood Count Screening Detects anaemia, sickle cell disease and thalassaemia. If necessary, paternal blood testing is undertaken to assess the probability of the fetus being affected by any condition of the father.
• Maternal Blood Group & RhD Status To screen for haemolytic disease of the newborn. All non-sensitised pregnant women who are RhD negative are offered routine antenatal anti-D prophylaxis.
• Hepatitis B, HIV and Syphilis Screening Effective pre and postnatal intervention can be offered to infected women to decrease the risk of mother-to-child transmission.
• Rubella (German measles) Immunity Screening If a woman is found to have no immunity against rubella, it’s recommended she avoid contact with infected individuals during her pregnancy and receive a vaccination after giving birth.
If there are any concerns over foetal abnormality, diagnostic tests are definitive tests to determine if the fetus truly has a health issue. They are, however, invasive and carry a risk of miscarriage. Techniques such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling are used, with the latter posing a higher risk of miscarriage.
Dr Kelly Loi Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist