Important: This is intended as general information only. It may not apply to your specific situation. It is not a substitute for medical advice. If you have a question or concern, please raise it with me at your next appointment or contact me sooner if it's urgent.
First trimester tests
One of the first things that happens when you see a doctor with a new pregnancy (after the pregnancy is confirmed of course) is that your doctor will order a number of tests. This is a summary of the ‘routine’ or ‘standard’ tests ordered at a first pregnancy visit. Remember that there is no such thing as a ‘routine’ woman or a ‘standard’ pregnancy. You may end up needing a different combination of tests, depending on your medical history and individual situation. For the vast majority of women, the results of these tests come back as ‘normal’ and nothing further needs to be done. For this reason, they may seem unimportant. As you’ll see below, they are all important to your or your baby’s health (or both). Essentially, what we’re trying to do with these tests is catch anything that may cause problems later in the pregnancy so that we sort them out in the early stages of the pregnancy and, hopefully, prevent any complications later on.
Blood group and antibody screen
It’s important to know your blood group when you’re pregnant as it's possible for there to be a ‘mismatch’ or incompatibilty between your blood and your baby’s. We check everyone even if they think they know their blood group as it’s an important thing to be sure of. See the Blood Group and Pregnancy page for more information.
Regardless of your blood group, it’s possible (although uncommon) for women to develop antibodies that can affect the baby’s red blood cells. If these are present, it’s important for us to know about them so we can monitor the antibody levels and address any problems that may arise.
Full blood examination
This test looks at all the different cells in your blood. These include red blood cells (which carry oxygen around the body), white blood cells (which fight infection) and platelets (which help form blood clots to prevent bleeding). One of the most common things we find in this test is anaemia, or reduced red blood cells. See the Anaemia in Pregnancy page for more information
In this test, we are looking for iron stores that are too low (which causes anaemia) or the much less common situation of people having too much iron.
We test for a variety of infections in pregnancy, most of which are quite uncommon (for example syphilis in 21st century Melbourne). Fortunately, most common infections (for example the common cold) don’t cause any problems for unborn babies. However, there are a group of infections that are known to cause problems for unborn babies. Importantly, many of these are treatable and by treating the infection or changing the way we manage the pregnancy, we can often improve the outcome for the baby. So, even though most of the things we test for are rare, we would hate to miss the chance to treat one of these infections and help the baby. (Of course, treatment is usually good for the mother as well!)
It’s also important to know whether you are already immune to some infections such as chicken pox (Varicella Zoster Virus) or Parvovirus B19 (also known as ‘slapped cheek’). If you are already immune, you don’t need to worry about catching the viruses again, and therefore your baby won't catch them either – the only way for an unborn baby to pick up an infection is if his or her mother catches it first. If you are not immune, I can give you instructions about what to do if you are exposed to these infections. See the Chicken Pox in Pregnancy and Parvovirus B19 in Pregnancy pages for more information about these conditions
The infections we usually test for are: rubella (German measles), varicella zoster virus (chicken pox), hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, syphilis, parvovirus and toxoplasma.
Thyroid disease in common in young women and can cause problems in pregnancy. In early thyroid disease, symptoms can be quite mild and nonspecific. It’s usually fairly straightforward to treat and treatment is good for the mother and the baby.
The hormones of pregnancy can (temporarily) cause your thyroid function to be abnormal.
It’s very common for people living in Melbourne (where we don’t enjoy the world’s sunniest climate…) to have low vitamin D levels. Unborn babies need vitamin D to develop strong healthy bones and many women will need to take a supplement. See the Vitamin D page for more information.
Mid stream urine
People seem to be more prone to urine infections in pregnancy, and urine infections can be more severe than when you are not pregnant. We test people at their first visit and at any other stage during the pregnancy if they have symptoms.