At your first prenatal visit, blood and urine tests will be performed. Findings from these tests will help our doctors and nurses determine several things, including your blood type, blood count, glucose level (blood sugar), Rh factor (an indicator related to blood compatibility between your body and the fetus’ body) and the presence of certain disease antibodies. Diseases generally tested for today include Hepatitis B, some sexually transmitted diseases and rubella.
Rubella, also known as German measles, has been found to cause birth defects when contracted by pregnant women. Ideally, all women would receive the rubella vaccine in advance of pregnancy, if they had not already achieved natural immunity. If your tests show you are not already protected from the disease, you will need to take special care to avoid exposure during your pregnancy. Because some diseases tend to run in families (or stated another way, genetically), knowing your personal family history helps our doctors and nurses know if genetic testing and counseling is need. Depending on your individual situation, our doctors and nurses may suggest certain prenatal tests and/or genetic counseling at this time.
For example we may recommend:
An Ultrasound: this can be performed transabdominally (through the abdominal wall) or transvaginally (through the vagina). This painless test is conducted by passing a sensor over the abdomen allowing ultrasound waves to create a picture of your uterus and your baby. Ultrasound can be used to confirm pregnancy, to determine gestational age, and to detect potential problems and provide information about your baby’s health.
Chorionic Villi Sampling (CVS). The chorion is a membrane surrounding the fetus inside your uterus. As pregnancy progresses, part of the chorion becomes the fetal placenta. CVS testing is performed by inserting a small catheter through the vagina and cervical opening. Guided by ultrasound, our doctors remove cells from the chorion’s hair-like villi so they can be studied for chromosomal abnormalities. This is usually done between 9 and 12 weeks of pregnancy; results are usually available within seven days.
Based upon the findings of these and/or other factors, our doctors and nurses may advise you and your partner to meet with a genetic counselor as early in your pregnancy as possible. Such a counselor can explain how the presence of certain indicators may signal the possibility of genetically related illnesses/conditions in your developing fetus. Our doctors and nurses may suggest genetic counseling if:
- Family history indicates likelihood of genetic abnormalities.
- You or your baby’s father is a carrier of a certain health condition or a birth defect.
- You already have a child with a genetic abnormality .
- If you have had multiple still births or miscarriages.
- You are over 35 years of age.
- You have had an infection such as rubella.
- You have taken potentially harmful drugs.
- Your ethnic or racial background places your baby at additional risk for genetic disorders such as Tay-Sachs, sickle cell anemia, or thalassemia.