5 Ways to Prevent Surprises During Pregnancy
Pregnancy can be an exciting but stressful time, so it’s best to avoid additional surprises. Being aware of your prenatal testing options and selecting the proper healthcare professionals for you and your baby ensures you will have the best possible pregnancy experience.
1) Schedule a fetal ultrasound
A fetal ultrasound, or sonogram, uses reflected sound waves to determine how your pregnancy is progressing in a noninvasive way. A first ultrasound is usually scheduled at around 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. This first sonogram will reveal your baby’s heartbeat and allow your physician to estimate how long you have been pregnant. At between 11 and 13 weeks, your doctor will schedule another sonogram as part of the nuchal translucency (NT) test. This test provides an early indication of potential birth defects such as Down syndrome and certain heart defects. In your second trimester, between 18 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, you are due for an additional sonogram, called an anatomy scan. The anatomy scan provides a thorough evaluation of the fetus, revealing potential birth defects and providing an early indication of the baby’s sex.
2) Consider amniocentesis
If you are at elevated risk of an abnormal pregnancy, you may wish to schedule an amniocentesis with your health care provider. Pregnant women of an advanced age (35 years or older at time of birth), whose earlier sonogram revealed potential problems or who have a familiar history of chromosomal abnormalities are typically offered amniocentesis between 14 and 20 weeks into pregnancy. This test is invasive, requiring a needle to be inserted through your belly and into your uterus, where amniotic fluid can be withdrawn and analyzed. Amniocentesis presents an estimated 1 in 200 risk of miscarriage.
3) Consider modern noninvasive prenatal tests
Noninvasive prenatal tests do not carry the same risks as conventional but more invasive techniques such as amniocentesis. Indeed, prenatal DNA testing requires only a blood sample from the expectant mother. These noninvasive prenatal DNA tests can identify genetic disorders (including the trisomy 21 associated with Down syndrome, trisomy 18 associated with Edwards syndrome, and trisomy 13 associated with Patau syndrome) as early as week 10 of pregnancy. With tests such as the MaterniT21® PLUS prenatal genetic test offered by Sequenom Laboratories, your health care provider can receive results in as little as 5 days after your sample is received in the lab. Noninvasive prenatal genetic testing is particularly valuable to expectant mothers who meet increased risk criteria, including advanced maternal age (35 years or older at time of birth) or fetal ultrasound suggestive of chromosomal abnormalities.
4) Have a plan for where your baby will be delivered
Consult with your insurance provider on which hospitals and doctors are covered. While quality of care should probably be your primary concern, don’t forget to consider other factors, such as parking, convenient location, and availability of private rooms.
5) Select a pediatrician for your baby in advance
Having a great OB/GYN is important during your pregnancy, but don’t forget that your baby will need a doctor when he or she is born, too! It’s advisable to select a doctor for your child well before labor and delivery. Generate a list of candidate doctors (either pediatric or family practices) at least 4 months before your due date. By 7 or 8 months pregnant, you should know who your new baby’s physician will be.