If you are reading this – congratulations! You are probably expecting and a lot of things may seem overwhelming for you right now. Once you are sure that you are pregnant, it is best to consult with a doctor ASAP, so that you can get the best care that you and your baby need. This includes pregnancy scans and screening tests, which help to check if there is anything that may cause a problem during your pregnancy. While your OBGYN may advise you on all these, it would not hurt if you also have a thorough understanding of all the pregnancy scans and screening tests you will need to undergo. Especially if you are a new mum! In this article, we bring you A New Mum’s Guide to Pregnancy Scans and Screening Tests, providing you with everything you need for a smooth-sailing pregnancy.
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Why should I undergo pregnancy scans and screening tests?
Pregnancy scans and screening tests are crucial in any pregnancy to give expecting mums a peace of mind in their entire pregnancy journey. By taking these, mums can be more confident in avoiding pregnancy-related complications (i.e., high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.) since their OBGYN would be able to provide them with the right medication, diet, or treatment if needed.
As for your baby, these pregnancy scans and screening tests will help to determine if they have chromosomal abnormalities. Such abnormalities could then result in Down’s syndrome, Edward’s syndrome, Patau syndrome, etc. Hence, it is important to know the results ASAP so you can make informed decisions on how would you like to proceed in the pregnancy.
What should I know before undergoing pregnancy screening tests and scans?
Before agreeing to any tests, make sure that you know why you need to undergo them. This is especially important if you would like to stretch out your baby budget (note that pregnancy costs are no joke!) for as long as you can. You must also know what are the risks and benefits of undergoing each test, as well as if there are possible side effects or complications in doing them. You can also ask if there are any alternatives to doing one test over another because some would just yield the same results.
A quick glance…
In a nutshell, here are some of the pregnancy scans and screening tests that your OBGYN may ask you to go through. Your OBGYN may advise you to go through more tests, which could depend on your age, health status, and medical history, as well as the results from the major tests listed below.
- Full Blood Count Test
- Oscar Test
- Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT)
- Detailed Ultrasound Scan (Anomaly Scan)
- Glucose Tolerance Test for Gestational Diabetes
Aside from the major tests mentioned above, you will still need to visit your OBGYN regularly so that they could monitor your progress well. Most women usually go on 8-10 prenatal check-ups before their due date, but that still varies from one mum to another. Of course, your first check-up (ideally when you are about 6 to 8 weeks pregnant) will involve a thorough assessment to know more about you and your medical history. Afterwards, you will be asked to undergo the following tests during your regular visits.
- Ultrasound scan. This is used to detect and check the development of the foetus, as well as measure its growth and physical structures throughout the course of pregnancy.
- Doppler ultrasound. This would allow the expecting parents to hear their baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
- Urine test. You will be given a specimen cup for urine during every OBGYN visit, which will then be used to know if you have pre-existing diabetes, UTI, and so on.
- Blood pressure. Unusually high blood pressure could mean that you have preeclampsia, which should be treated as soon as possible to prevent further complications.
1st Trimester (Week 0-13)
1. Full Blood Count Test
This test determines if you have sufficient red blood cells and are not anaemic. All pregnant women are at risk of being anaemic but if you become severely anaemic, it can pose plenty of risks for your baby, including pre-term delivery and developmental delays. Anaemia can also cause you to feel more weak and tired during pregnancy. Once your OBGYN discovers that you are anaemic, they may prescribe you iron and folic acid supplements in addition to your usual prenatal vitamins. Your OBGYN may also advise you to make adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
Aside from anaemia, a Full Blood Count Test can also screen for the following illnesses:
- Thalassaemia – a common genetic blood disorder in Singapore where an abnormal form of haemoglobin is formed.
- Hepatitis B
- Human Immunodeficiency test (HIV)
- German Measles (also known as Rubella) – may cause deafness, cataracts, microcephaly, mental retardation, congenital heart and other defects to an infected fetus.
2. OSCAR Test
In every pregnancy, there is a small risk that your baby develops genetic disorders, with the most common one being Down Syndrome. Most children with Down Syndrome suffer from learning difficulties and other health problems, so detecting it earlier is important. Thus, most mums are advised to undergo the OSCAR Test. Though more cost-effective, this test is not really a confirmatory test. Instead, it reports a risk assessment (whether low-risk, medium or high) of Down Syndrome.
If the OSCAR test results are not ideal, you will be advised to go for other diagnostic tests like amniocentesis. Unfortunately, diagnostic tests for Down Syndrome can be more invasive, which means that they could be really risky and cause miscarriage.
The OSCAR Test consists of an ultrasound scan and a blood test and is taken usually at around 11-14 weeks into your pregnancy. The ultrasound scan will measure nuchal translucency (NT) which is a fluid-filled space behind your baby’s neck, while the blood test will detect and measure certain hormones.
3. Non-Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT)
Non-Invasive Prenatal Test is a broad term that covers a range of prenatal tests that includes: HarmonyⓇ, VerifiⓇ, IGeneⓇ and PanoramaⓇ. Like the OSCAR test, NIPT can also determine the risk for Down Syndrome and other genetic conditions, but with a much higher accuracy level (and comes with a higher price as well). However, it is also not confirmatory, so you will still need to take a diagnostic test when the NIPT results are not ideal.
NIPT is non-invasive and essentially like a simple blood test, which can be done starting from your 10th week of pregnancy.
In addition to genetic conditions, NIPT can also reveal the gender of your baby and detect if there are any sex-linked chromosomal conditions.
2nd Trimester (Week 13 to 26)
1. Detailed Ultrasound Scan (Anomaly Scan)
This is an important detailed scan that is used to view each part of the fetal body and check if there are any physical abnormalities. The sonographer will take photos of your baby’s features and organs from head to toe. Plus, you may also request to find out the gender of your baby with this scan.
3rd Trimester (Week 26 to Delivery Day)
1. Oral Glucose Tolerance Tests (OGTT)
This test measures your body’s ability to handle glucose, which can then tell if you are diabetic, pre-diabetic, or have gestational diabetes. If not detected ASAP, diabetes can cause pregnancy complications, including macrosomia (excess growth) and pre-term birth.
OGTT is usually done around your 28th week of pregnancy. You are required to fast overnight, and then take a blood test for glucose in the morning. After which you will take a 75g glucose drink and repeat the blood test for 1 and 2 hours after the drink.
Cord Blood Banking
The beginning of your 2nd trimester will also be a good time to prepare for cord blood banking should you decide to do so.
Moreover, thanks to recent technology, your baby’s cord blood can be potentially used as treatment options for other family members. Cord blood from a related donor will result in fewer complications and improved medical outcomes.
Many cord blood banks, including Stemcord, prefer if expectant mums reach out to them as early as possible. You will need to make an appointment with the cord blood bank to register and sign the full set of Stemcord agreements. You may also inform your OBGYN first to give him a heads-up, at the same time, help you and your partner make an informed decision. But then, keep in mind that the final decision is ultimately up to the expecting parents.
After enrolling, you will not have to worry about anything else about cord blood banking – except for a completely safe delivery. Upon enrolment, Stemcord will be giving you and your partner a Collection Box, which you can pass to the nurse-in-charge at the labour ward during delivery. The collecting process is harm-free for both you and your baby and is safe whether you will have a normal or caesarean delivery. Upon collection, Stemcord will process your baby’s cord blood for long-term storage, and your child’s cord blood test report will be shared with you post-birth.
Looking for a reliable cord blood bank to handle your baby’s precious cord blood? Here are some reasons StemCord is your preferred choice!
StemCord is one of the few cord blood banks worldwide that stores cord blood in two separate bags for added security and peace of mind. Founded by medical doctors, we understand the value of these stem cells and the importance of preserving them potentially to save lives.
Visit here to find out more today!
Congratulations on your pregnancy, and wishing both mum and baby the best of health! We hope that this guide on pregnancy scans and screening tests will help you have a more smooth-sailing pregnancy. Do also share this with your friends and family members who may find this guide useful.