The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Will my baby be healthy? Of all the concerns that accompany pregnancy, this one usually tops the list. Despite the reassuring statistics that most babies are born normal, peace of mind is something that pregnant women crave even more than pickles and ice cream.
Tremendous advances in genetic testing have helped fulfill the need to know, but some of these tests pose a small amount of risk. Therefore, it’s important that all pregnant women be familiar with the value of the tests and who should take them.
One of the top questions on Julie Hoegee’s mind when she found out she was pregnant at age 34 was whether she should have an amniocentesis. “There was just something scary about a big needle going into my belly,” says the Los Angeles mother of 8-month-old Charlie. “And I knew there was a slight miscarriage risk.” So when Hoegee’s nurse-midwife and doctor told her about combined first-trimester screening, a blood test and new ultrasound technique that can reliably determine risk for chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, as early as week 11 of pregnancy, she jumped on it.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women be offered a diagnostic, or level-3, ultrasound, and I heartily agree. This is the gold standard not only for confirming the age of your fetus, but also for evaluating its health--whether or not you want to know its gender. The optimum timing for a diagnostic ultrasound is 20 weeks, at which time the size and anatomy of the fetus can be well-visualized.
Yes. Your overall health will undoubtedly benefit you and your baby, but since your history includes a first-degree relative who has diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes while pregnant. Testing you in the first trimester rather than the third--the standard for women without risk factors--is also important.
Laura Randolph 30, California
Laura's tips for dealing with a potentially problematic pregnancy:
•Talk to friends about your situation--they may have dealt with a similar dilemma.
•If you're dealing with AFP test results, focus on the statistics that show a high number of false positives.
•Try not to let your emotions get the best of you or to allow worries to spiral out of control.