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Common Pregnancy Tests and Screens

There are many tests that your doctor may order for you that can cause some confusion or anxiety.  Many of these tests are perfectly normal, some you may even elect not to have, but in all cases the health and well-being of your little baby is the goal.  Below we have outlined a list of the most common tests and a little more information about each of them just in case you find yourself a little confused about what to expect.

First Trimester Screen

Typically performed during 11 to 14 weeks to detect any high risk of:

  • Trisomy 18 and Down Syndrome (Chromosomal Disorder)
  • Other risk factors, such as heart defects

Information from a blood test and an ultrasound exam will be combined with the age of the mother to help doctors determine risk to the baby.  This early screening can also detect multiple births and confirm due date accuracy.

Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)

A test done at 10 to 13 weeks to diagnose certain birth defects, to include:

  • Cystic Fibrosis (Genetic Disorder)
  • Down Syndrome (Chromosomal Disorder)

*This is how DNA is extracted for paternity tests.

A sample of cells is taken from the placenta via a small needle and is sent to a lab for testing.


This test, which is performed at 14 to 20 weeks, looks for certain birth defects, including:

  • Cystic Fibrosis (Genetic Disorder)
  • Down Syndrome (Chromosomal Disorder)
  • Spina Bifida (Neural Tube Defect)

Amniotic fluid and cells from the sac around the fetus are drawn out using a thin needle and then sent to a lab for testing.

*This is how DNA is extracted for paternity tests.

Maternal Serum Screen (AKA – AFP, Multiple Marker Screen, Quad Screen, Triple Test)

This blood test, done at 15 to 20 weeks, is a screening test to check for high risk of:

  • Trisomy 18 and Down Syndrome (Chromosomal Disorder)
  • Spina Bifida (Neural Tube Defects)

Based on test results, your doctor may suggest other tests to diagnose a disorder.

Glucose Challenge Screening

Most often performed at 26 to 28 weeks, you will first drink a sugary drink and then one hour later a blood sample will be taken to look for elevated sugar levels.

If your results indicate elevated levels, your doctor may order a glucose tolerance test to further evaluate your needs.

Glucose Tolerance Test

Used to diagnose gestational diabetes, this test is done at 26 to 28 weeks.

It is important that you follow strict instructions on preparing for the test a few days in advance.  Most often, you are asked to only have water 14 hours before your first blood draw to determine your baseline level.  The next step is to drink a sugary substance, which is later followed by a blood test every hour for three hours, to indicate your body’s natural process of sugar.

Group B Streptococcus Infection (AKA – Strep Test)

There are certain bacteria that, if found, can cause pneumonia or other serious infections in your newborn baby.  Around 36 to 37 weeks, a swab of cells found in your vagina and rectum and sent of for testing

Biophysical profile (BPP)

BPP involves a non-stress test and an ultrasound exam to look at the heart rate, baby’s breathing, movement, muscle definition, and the amount of amniotic fluid.

Nonstress Test (AKA – NST)

How a baby’s heart rate responds to its own movements is one of the things this test can look at by placing a belt around the mother’s waist.  Typically performed around 28 weeks, this common test monitors the overall health of the baby and can show fetal distress, for example a lack of oxygen.

Urine Test

A urine sample can look for signs of health problems, such as:

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary Tract Infection

Based on the results, more tests may be ordered by your doctor.

* information reported was found at

About Tidewater Parent Staff

One of our staff who provides news and information for families in Hampton Roads.

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