By Sally J. Hall
Confirming Your Pregnancy
Waiting for the image to appear on a pregnancy test is one of the most exciting – and nerve-wracking – moments of any woman’s life. Tests you buy over the Pharmacy counter can tell if you’re pregnant from the first day of a missed period. If you get a negative result, you may want to try again in a few days, as there may not be high enough hormone levels to register.
However, if you’ve been anxiously trying to get pregnant; if you’ve been having fertility treatment or using an ovulation kit, you may want to find out sooner. You can get a test done privately by a doctor or clinic, which will give pretty accurate results from a few days after conception.
This scans for three pregnancy hormones; follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), Luteinizing hormone (Lh) and Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). A positive test is almost always accurate.
Early Ante-Natal Blood Test
This test rules out health problems – or draws your attention to things you weren’t aware of. It can be had on the NHS but a private test includes testing for additional infections, such as Toxoplasmosis, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Syphilis and HIV.
The test includes screening for Full Blood Count, Haemoglobin, Blood Group (including Rhesus type), Atypical Antibody Screen, Hepatitis B and C, Toxoplasmosis, Syphilis, Rubella (German Measles), HIV 1 & 2, CMV and Varicella Zoster Anitibodies
For an explanation of all these terms, go to What Do Pregnancy Tests Mean
You’ll be excited about your early ultrasound, called the dating or Nuchal scan – your first chance to see your baby growing inside you. Though your baby looks like a tadpole – or an alien – at this stage, you can see her head, eyes and often a faint pulsing that is a tiny heart, already beating strongly.
Typically performed between 11 and 13 weeks plus six days gestation, this confirms the pregnancy is progressing well, checks baby’s size – and determines how many babies are in there! It it also used to screen for Down’s syndrome. Performed by ultrasound, the Nuchal test is pertinent if you’re older than average or your blood tests show a higher risk. The sonographer looks at the fluid at the back of your baby’s neck, because in Down’s, there is often more fluid than with a baby that does not have it. Whilst it does not definitely confirm Down’s, it allows you to decide on other scans and tests. This test is usually done on the tummy, though some women may need a vaginal scan.
20 Week Scan (Anomaly Scan)
This looks at baby’s development and your uterus and placenta to check there are no problems; for example, if your placenta is across the cervix, a Caesarean may be necessary. “Anomaly” is a scary name for a scan, as we’re excited to see our baby but it’s useful to rule out problems and baby will be given a full MOT. You’ll be able to watch the screen, though the sonographer may need to turn it away to take measurements. You can also get pictures to show your family! You can find out the sex of your baby with 90% accuracy, depending on her position – tell the sonographer if you don’t want to know!
3D Scan and 4D Scan
4D gives a moving image of your baby. You’ll be able to see her skin, hair and eyes, watch her yawn and move. You can share this with friends and search for family resemblances! This scan can also be used for diagnosis, as it picks up on problems such as a cleft palate (hare lip). The ideal time to have one is between 24 and 34 weeks. The sonographer can tell your baby’s sex and weight.
New Test To Check UVF Embryos For Genetic Disorders
UK doctors have developed a test for embryos likely to have genetic disorders. The technique, karyomapping, means healthy embryos can be implanted. Taking two weeks, it doesn’t interfere with IVF treatment cycles.
An ultrasound scan uses sound waves to provide a black and white picture of your baby. It is usually done on your tummy with with a hand-held scanner and a little gel is smeared on you. You lie on your back with your abdomen exposed (keeping underwear on). You need a full bladder, which is a little uncomfortable! If you have a low-lying placenta or excess weight on your stomach, you may need a vaginal ultrasound. This may be uncomfortable, not painful. If your blood tests and nuchal scan indicate a likelihood of birth defects, you then have several choices to help you know how your baby is affected – and what decisions to make. Tests include:
Quadruple Blood Test
If you have not had the combined blood and ultrasound screening test at around 12 weeks, you can have a blood test between 14 and 20 weeks. The quadruple test measures four pregnancy proteins. This, combined with your age, gives your likelihood of having a Down’s baby. A low risk does not mean, however, that there is no chance of having a Down’s baby and a high risk is not a certainty of a defect – so many women choose to have further tests to allow them to make decisions with all the facts at hand.
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
A fine needle is passed through the wall of the abdomen into the placenta and some cells collected from it, from the 11th week of pregnancy. If the placenta is in a difficult position, this may be done via the vagina and cervix. Ultrasound is used to make sure the needle is in the right place and a local anaesthetic used. It talks 10 to 15 minutes and is a little uncomfortable. It also carries a 1% risk of miscarriage*. Results for Down’s can be had in as little as three days.
In a similar procedure to CVS, a needle is inserted into the womb and some of the amniotic fluid is drawn out. It can be performed from your 15th week. The test takes five to 10 minutes, is mildly uncomfortable with no need for an anaesthetic and checks for chromosomal abnormalities. Again, the results for Down’s syndrome should be available from three days later, though full results can take up to three weeks. The risk of having a miscarriage* is 0.5 to 1% and the test will also reveal your baby’s sex, so tell your doctor if you really don’t want to know yet.
What is Down’s syndrome?
The presence of an extra copy of one of the body’s chromosomes, Down’s causes problems from mild to severe learning difficulties, physical defects and health problems. Sufferers may have heart defects and reduced hearing and vision. It affects one in every 1,000 babies in the UK and is more prevalent with older mothers. There is no cure but with good health care, many sufferers can lead long and active lives.
Find out more at downs-syndrome.org.uk