Antenatal Testing During Pregnancy
Getting regular prenatal care from a team of trusted obstetrical professionals is essential for a healthy pregnancy. A healthy pregnancy usually results in a healthy baby. During prenatal care, your obstetrician or midwife will recommend and perform testing on both you and your baby. Known as antenatal testing, or prenatal testing, these checkups, screenings, and procedures are designed to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery for both you and your baby.
Antenatal testing is offered to most women in developing countries. Having these tests done should not be a reason for you to worry about your health or the welfare of your baby. Rather, antenatal testing provides important information about your health and the health of your developing baby and can even help your obstetrician timely diagnose and treat pregnancy complications.
WHAT IS ANTENATAL TESTING?
The word “antenatal” simply means “before birth.” It follows, then, that antenatal testing is a series of tests given to expecting women before the baby is born. The goal of antenatal testing is to help the patient’s obstetrical team evaluate both the mother and baby during the pregnancy.
WHO NEEDS IT?
All pregnant women are encouraged to undergo regular checkups and testing with their obstetrical team throughout the course of the pregnancy. Additionally, Cedars-Sinai notes that antenatal testing is especially important for women that may be at risk for birth defects or problems during delivery. Examples include:
Those with pregnancies that have gone beyond their due date
Patients with diabetes or high blood pressure
Patients who have had multiple pregnancies
Those who experience bleeding during pregnancy
Individuals with too much or too little amniotic fluid
Pregnancies with poor fetal growth
WHAT IS INVOLVED?
Antenatal testing involves an evaluation of both the mother and baby during the pregnancy:
Mother: At each prenatal visit, there will be an assessment of any symptoms the mother might be experiencing. Blood pressure and weight are checked. A urine sample will be tested for protein and glucose (sugar). The uterus will be measured. The purpose of antenatal testing on the mother is to monitor for conditions during pregnancy that requires special attention such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
Baby: The baby will be assessed during the pregnancy. The baby’s heart rate will be checked at each prenatal visit. The most common antenatal tests done on the baby include fetal movement counts (kick counts), an ultrasound, a non-stress test (NST), and a biophysical profile (BPP).
Fetal movement or kick counts – Expecting mothers are usually very aware of the movement of the baby. If a decrease in movement is appreciated by the mother, the obstetrician will ask the mother to count the movements of the baby. In general, if the baby does not move 10 times in approximately 1-2 hours, the obstetrician may recommend further testing.
Non-stress test (NST) – A NST is another test to determine the health of your baby. An NST is a non-invasive test that monitors the baby’s heart rate with the use of an electronic fetal monitor. Accelerations (increases) in the heart rate are a good sign of fetal health. If two heart rate accelerations are seen on the monitor in 20 minutes, the test is deemed Reactive (normal).
Ultrasounds – Your obstetrician might order ultrasound examinations of the baby. It is common for pregnant women to have at least two ultrasound examinations during the pregnancy. Of course, more ultrasounds may be done during the pregnancy as needed. The first ultrasound is typically done during the first trimester of pregnancy to confirm the pregnancy, confirm the number of babies, confirm the fetal heart rate, and estimate the due date of the baby. The second ultrasound is done around at 20 weeks to assess the baby for any abnormalities. The second ultrasound confirms the due date, estimates the amount of amniotic fluid, and determines the location of the placenta.
Biophysical Profile (BPP) – A BPP uses an electronic fetal monitor and an ultrasound. The BPP measures the baby’s heart rate, muscle tone, movement, breathing, and the amount of amniotic fluid. A perfect score is a 10. A score of 6 or below may indicate problems with the baby requiring delivery.
All these tests exist to assess the development and well-being of the baby, to detect any conditions that may be developing, and to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery for you and your baby.
AM I REQUIRED TO DO ANTENATAL TESTING?
In the United States, no woman is required by law to seek prenatal care or undergo antenatal testing. However, it is highly important that you do so. Complications can arise during pregnancy. Unchecked, they can lead to lifelong conditions in the child such as Cerebral Palsy, which currently has no cure and impacts a child’s ability to move, think, and speak.
Beyond catching and possibly stopping certain conditions, antenatal testing can provide useful information for you about diet and exercise during pregnancy, your options when it comes to labor and delivery, and answer other questions you may have.
Finally, antenatal testing can be of great assistance if you find yourself having to grapple with filing a birth injury case after your baby is born. During prenatal care, an obstetrician can be negligent in many ways. While in an ideal world, obstetrical negligence would never happen, it, unfortunately, does occur when the obstetrician fails to provide proper obstetrical care. If the obstetrician has failed to perform antenatal testing, failed to accurately interpret antenatal testing, or failed to appropriately respond to abnormal antenatal testing, and his or her actions lead to injuries to either you or your baby, you may be able to file a claim for damages. Having records of antenatal testing that show you were diligent about your health throughout the pregnancy can provide important evidence in such a case.