Trying to get pregnant? Make sure you know the bottom line on baby-making—what you don't understand can affect your bub-to-be's health.
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Starting with the drugstore kit that confirms you’re expecting, you’ll undergo scores of screenings, urinalyses, ultrasounds and other tests during pregnancy. Yet few expectant women undergo thyroid testing, a fact that disturbs some experts. When moms-to-be with thyroid problems go untreated, they’re more likely to have pregnancy complications, and their children may be at risk for decreased IQ.
I spent a few days after our amnio obsessively Googling “choroid plexus cyst.” Most of what I read was entirely reassuring – tons of message boards where parents who’ve gone through the same thing talked about their completely healthy babies. I found academic studies that pointed to positive outcomes most of the time, especially in cases where the cysts are “isolated,”—i.e. where no other markers like cleft palate, heart defects, club foot, or clenched fists are found on the ultrasound.
I sat in the car, crying, looking at our baby’s ultrasound photos and trying to figure out what to do: Should I get the amnio or not? Could I just sit tight and hope for the best, expecting everything to turn out fine? No, I didn’t think so—I’m a total worry wart. I would agonize over it for the entire pregnancy.
Marci's newly pregnant. She hasn't even gone to her first prenatal visit. She's a nurse and calls herself a by-the-books kind of girl. She sounds like she's already on the path to having a healthy pregnancy—eating right, exercising and all that. Like every newly pregnant woman on the planet, she's worried about miscarriage. Oh, honey, if only we could wave a magic wand and skip over the first trimester with all the worry, nausea and fatigue and get to the good trimester—the second one.
It goes with the territory: When you’re pregnant, you can’t help but worry about the health of your baby. Fortunately, there are a host of prenatal tests that can help ease your fears and make even a healthy pregnancy less stressful. Following is a rundown of the tests you’re most likely to undergo; see the chart at right for detailed information.
By her second trimester, Elizabeth Lampert, then 34, was used to the seemingly endless prenatal tests. So when her obstetrician drew blood for a routine procedure called a maternal serum screening (also known as a double marker, triple marker or alphafetoprotein [AFP] test), Lampert didn’t think twice. Until she got the results, that is: The test indicated that her baby might have Down syndrome or another defect. “I was just destroyed,” she recalls.
Today, expectant parents can take advantage of a wealth of prenatal tests to help ease fears and make even a healthy pregnancy less stressful — and sometimes treat serious problems. Here are the ones you’re most likely to undergo.
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.