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Oh, baby! Prenatal testing can give parents peace of mind

Expectant parents often worry that their baby might be born with health problems. While most babies are born healthy, understanding the options available for obtaining valuable information about your unborn baby’s health can go a long way toward easing your anxiety.

Steven W. Crawford, M.D., and his fellow Kettering Health Network physicians partner with their patients from the very first prenatal visit. They not only inform patients of the various tests available, but they also help their patients to understand the purpose, as well as any potential risks, behind the tests.

Prenatal testing

Prenatal testing includes both screening and diagnostic tests. Screening tests CANNOT make a definitive diagnosis but, rather, are used to determine whether your baby is more or less likely to have birth defects, many of which are inherited disorders. Screening tests are non-invasive and include blood tests, a specific type of ultrasound, and prenatal cell-free DNA testing.

Diagnostic tests typically are given after a positive result from a screening test. They are more invasive and can carry a slight risk of miscarriage.

Here are common prenatal tests and screenings you can expect:

First trimester

  • Every doctor visit:
    • Urine test: Looks for gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia
  • First doctor visit:
    • Blood work: Looks for STDs, blood type, anemia, Rh factor, hCG levels and (sometimes) chromosome disorders
    • Pap smear: Looks for STDs
  • Optional tests your doctor may recommend, based on risk factors
    • Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT): Tests for chromosome and genetic disorders
    • Nuchal translucency screening (NT): Non-invasive; tests for congenital heart defects, chromosome and genetic disorders
    • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): Diagnostic test in which a needle removes a small sample of cells from the placenta to be tested for chromosome and genetic disorders

Second trimester

  • Ultrasound: Non-invasive; looks at baby’s size for normal development, baby’s gender, amniotic fluid levels, placenta, fetal heart rate
  • Glucose tolerance test: Non-invasive; looks for gestational diabetes risk
  • Optional tests your doctor may recommend, based on risk factors
    • Quad screen: Non-invasive; looks for chromosome and genetic disorders
    • Amniocentesis: Diagnostic test in which a thin needle is used to draw out a small amount of amniotic fluid and cells from the sac surrounding the fetus, to be tested for chromosome, genetic disorders and neural tube defects

Third trimester

  • Group B strep: Non-invasive; tests for a common type of bacteria that can be risky for baby during birth
  • Optional tests your doctor may recommend, based on risk factors
  • Non-stress test: Non-invasive; belt is placed around the mother's belly to measure the baby's heart rate in response to its own movements
    • Biophysical profile (BPP): Non-invasive; involves an ultrasound as well as a non-stress test and measures baby’s heart rate, activity level, muscle tone, breathing movements and amniotic fluid

When the time comes to deliver your baby, Kettering Health Network offers four maternity centers throughout the Greater Dayton and Hamilton areas. Click here to find out where your physician delivers.