Checks tests and scans

Checks, tests and scans

Every mum-to-be wants to know that she and her unborn baby are doing well. Antenatal care is designed to provide health support and advice throughout your pregnancy, as well as testing for any potential problems.

Antenatal care and appointments

Antenatal care and appointments

Once you've had a positive pregnancy test and been “booked in” with your local midwife or GP, you will be offered regular antenatal appointments to make sure you and your baby are healthy. For a first baby, expect to have up to 10 standard appointments over the course of your pregnancy, which usually take place at your GP’s surgery or local healthcare centre. If there are any concerns during your pregnancy you will be offered additional checks and consultations.

During the course of your antenatal care you will receive the following:

Urine tests - you'll be asked to provide a urine sample at every antenatal appointment to check for infections and pre-eclampsia, which affects 10% of pregnancies.

Blood Pressure tests - during the second trimester your blood pressure may be lower than normal; a rise in blood pressure later in pregnancy could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.

Blood tests – blood tests are normal during pregnancy, and additional tests may be offered if you are at risk of a particular infection or inherited condition. Standard blood tests check the following:

  • Whether your blood type is rhesus negative or positive (if you are rhesus negative it won't cause a problem during your first pregnancy, but may affect your next baby if you get pregnant again).
  • Anaemia – this condition makes you tired and less able to cope with losing blood during labour; if blood tests show anaemia, you'll be given iron supplements.
  • Infections – you will be offered blood tests to check for infections including syphilis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV and susceptibility to rubella.

Ultrasound scans

In addition to your antenatal appointments, most NHS hospitals offer pregnant women at least two ultrasound scans:

  • Dating scan – done between 8-14 weeks of pregnancy (usually the 12th week) this scan confirms that the pregnancy is progressing well and helps to determine your baby’s due date.
  • Anomaly scan – carried out between 18 weeks and 20 weeks 6 days, this scan checks for structural abnormalities in the baby. The position of your baby and placenta are also checked and you may be invited for another scan closer to your due date if, for example, your baby is breech or you have a low-lying placenta. Some hospitals ask if you want to know the sex of your baby during this scan.

Screening and diagnostic tests

Down's syndrome is caused by an abnormal number of chromosomes and affects around one in every 1,000 babies. Although the risk increases with a woman’s age, anyone can have a baby with Down’s syndrome and screening for this, and other genetic disorders, is offered to all pregnant women.

Screening tests can’t tell if your baby definitely has Down’s syndrome but these two tests will tell you how likely it is:

  • Nuchal translucency scan – usually combined with the dating scan, a sonographer measures the thickness of the nuchal translucency (a pocket of fluid) at the back of your baby’s neck.
  • Serum test - serum screening is a blood test carried out between 14 weeks, 2 days and 20 weeks of pregnancy.

If you are at an increased risk you will be offered counselling and then diagnostic tests:

  • Amniocentesis – at 15 weeks a small sample of amniotic fluid is extracted and tested for Down’s syndrome and other serious syndromes including spina bifida and sickle cell. This test carries a 0.5% to 1% risk of causing a miscarriage.
  • CVS – carried out from the 11th week of pregnancy a tiny piece of the developing placenta (chorionic tissue) is taken and tested for Down’s syndrome and inherited conditions such as muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. CVS has a 1%-2% risk of miscarriage, slightly higher than amniocentesis.

More Information:

For more information on pregnancy concerns, take a look at the following sites: