Prenatal Checkups During Pregnancy
Prenatal checkups allow doctors to assess whether your pregnancy is progressing normally and to detect any anomalies. Learn more about these important checkups in this article.
Prenatal checkups refer to any visit to your doctor where you undergo tests and medical exams to assure that your pregnancy is evolving favorably. From the moment you discover you’re pregnant, you should make an appointment to see your doctor to initiate these checkups and to assure you’re receiving adequate care during your pregnancy.
Generally, the first checkup for pregnancy is with your general practitioner or regular doctor. Depending on the region where you live, you might alternate these visits with an appointment with an ob-gyn or a gynecologist.
The visits tend to occur at 2- to 4-week intervals approximately, although it also depends on the area where you live and the specific protocols they follow. It also depends on each individual case as some conditions warrant a closer following by medical staff.
In the first prenatal visit, your doctor will ask you about your complete clinical history. They’ll ask you about any conditions you suffer from and your family history. They’ll also ask if you take any medication or if you have any allergies, among other questions.
This is only a sample of some of the questions they may ask. Remember that this visit is one of the most important because it’s when you’ll receive a large amount of information about what changes to expect. You should also share this information with your partner or other person who is caring for you.
Your doctor will explain how you can minimize the risk of contracting toxoplasmosis, listeria, or cytomegalovirus (CMV) during pregnancy. They’ll also give you information and advice on your diet and healthy lifestyle choices during pregnancy.
In addition, your doctor will take your blood pressure, and weigh you and control your vital signs. In the subsequent visits, they’ll listen to your heartbeat and measure the height of the uterus. They’ll also discuss all your concerns and help clarify any doubts you have when you ask them questions.
During pregnancy there are a number of common analyses that are ordered by your doctor. The number of ultrasounds can vary depending on your insurance coverage or program that you attend. In some cases, you may also need more analyses and in some areas, the standard protocol may vary from what is outlined below.
The analyses carried out during your first trimester of pregnancy take place when you’re about 10 weeks pregnant. They’ll use the tests to study different parameters to evaluate your health and the health of your baby. Some of these tests and screenings are the following:
- Maternal serology
- Biochemistry panal
- Blood type and Rh of the mother
- Indirect Coombs test
- Thyroid hormone levels
- Urine analysis
- Noninvasive prenatal screening
In some cases, and according to the protocols in your health system, they may also carry out the O’Sullivan test or other tests if they’re recommended or considered warranted by your doctor.
If a first-trimester ultrasound is part of your health insurance protocol then that usually takes place around 12 weeks of gestation, and this will assess various parameters like:
- Number of embryos
- Presence of a fetal heartbeat
- Gestational age and length of the embryo
- Morphology of the embryo
- Measurement of nuchal translucency for any chromosomal abnormalities (this is a non-invasive screening)
- Assessment of the uterus and ovaries
The screening tests and controls that are administered during the second trimester of pregnancy take place between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. In this analysis some of the parameters that are studied are the following:
- O’Sullivan’s test (blood sugar)
- Biochemical panel
- Urine analysis
- Indirect Coombs Test if the mother’s blood group is Rh-negative
It could be necessary to add new parameters to these analyses or to modify them according to the individual cases if necessary.
The ultrasound in the second trimester of birth is taken around 20 weeks of gestation, and it’s also known as the morphological ultrasound because its principal objective is to evaluate if the organs and vital systems of the fetus are developing normally.
This ultrasound will do the following;
- Confirm the number of fetuses and their vitality
- Examine the placenta
- Evaluate the quantity of amniotic fluid present
- Evaluate the fetal growth
- Conduct an exhaustive study of the fetal anatomy
- Reveal the sex of the fetus
- Assess the uterus and the ovaries
The checkup in your third trimester of pregnancy usually takes place around 34 weeks into the pregnancy. In this analysis, the parameters most often taken into consideration are:
- Biochemical panel
- Maternal serology
The ultrasound, if taken, will usually take place between 32 and 36 weeks of gestation and will assess the following:
- Vitality of the fetus and position in the uterus
- Rate of fetal growth
- Location of the placenta
- Amount of amniotic fluid present
If necessary, a study of the fetoplacental blood flow (using eco-doppler technology) will be conducted as well.
These are the analyses and ultrasounds that are generally carried out to assure the pregnancy is progressing along a normal course. Therefore, these tests can vary depending on the country and the insurance program you have, and also based on recommendations of your doctors and your personal health.
There also exist other tests and procedures your doctors may carry out during prenatal checkups:
- Administration of Ig Anti-D in women with a negative Rh and with an Indirect Coombs Test that is negative. It’s administered intramuscularly around 28 weeks of gestation. In addition, another dose can be necessary after the birth if your baby is Rh-positive.
- Vaccination against whooping cough. With informed consent and according to the protocols in your area, doctors will recommend this vaccine around week 32 of pregnancy
- A swab of the vaginal and rectal area to screen for Streptococcus agalactiae. This is done usually around 35 to 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Remember, don’t hesitate to consult your healthcare provider regarding the tests and prenatal screening that you should undergo and also ask questions to address any concerns.