Initial Blood Tests

You start to feel like a human pincushion when you’re pregnant. You’ll soon adjust to the constant pricks, however if it is causing you angst, remember that it’s all in the name of keeping you and your baby safe.

When you first fall pregnant you may have your bloods taken to confirm the pregnancy by your hCG levels. Following this, your bloods will be taken again to establish the baby’s blood type and their Rh factor. The Rh factor is a protein found on the red blood cells of some individuals and it’s used to indicate whether blood from two different people is compatible when mixed – so in this case, the blood of a mother and her baby at birth. From here onwards, you may have routine blood tests to confirm that no health concerns or complications arise over the pregnancy. Examples of concerns you’re monitored for include STD’s, infections such as rubella, hormone deficiencies and anemia.


For some women scans welcome sheer excitement as it’s time to see your baby! For others however, scans can welcome overwhelming anxiety and crippling fear. If you’re in the latter category, you are not alone. Taking someone into the appointment with you, or bringing something to distract you in the waiting room (perhaps a book, or a calming podcast) are options to consider.

Before summarising the scans that are commonly routine, it’s a good time to remind you that every pregnancy is different. While many women will have the scans listed below, others may require many more along their journey. The reasons why are widely varied but can include; the need to check the position of the placenta to determine the safest delivery plan, to monitor a woman who has had previous pregnancy complications, or to monitor the baby if they’re measuring on the smaller side. None of which are uncommon.

Dating Scan

Usually the dating scan occurs around week 8. The aim is not only to “date” the pregnancy but also to ensure the pregnancy is intra-uterine, a heartbeat is present and to determine how many babies are present. During the dating scan, a woman's uterus and ovaries will also be assessed to check or monitor any potential issues during the progressing pregnancy.

12 Week Scan

The baby is starting to take shape now! The 12 week scan is not compulsory for all women however many women choose to have it booked for personal reasons. This scan may also be recommended by your GP, particularly if you are in a high risk or geriatric category. During this scan the sonographer will assess the babies development, check for any structural abnormalities and evaluate where the placenta is lying, as well as the position of the umbilical cord.

Anatomy Scan

AKA ’the 20 week scan.’ This scan ideally takes place between week 19 and week 21. During this appointment the sonographer will look at the anatomical makeup of the fetus, the placenta, umbilical cord and the amniotic fluid. On top of this, the sonographer will also assess the mothers uterus, cervix and ovaries. The anatomy scan is typically the longest scan you’ll have, and in some cases, the last scan before the baby is born. The amount of time required is often determined by the cooperation of the baby, so pack some extra patience!

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Gestational Diabetes Test

While this test is not loved by all (if any), it’s so important to get it done. The Gestational Diabetes (GD) Test comprises of fasting for a period of time, three back-to-back blood tests and drinking an intensely sweet drink (glucose). While it’s not glamorous, this test can be a gift.

Contracting GD and going undiagnosed or untreated can be extremely dangerous. In terms of the baby, it can cause problems such as Macrosomia (where the babies size is much larger than average) and shoulder dystocia. In terms of the mother, untreated GD can lead to preeclampsia, premature birth and stillbirth.

For those unsure, Diabetes is a disease where the body fails to sufficiently produce adequate insulin, or when the body fails to use the insulin as well as it should. GD is a unique form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy. After birth, in most cases GD will dissipate, however there is a percentage of women who will go onto have high blood glucose levels after birth.

Given GD comes with almost no physical symptoms, it’s critical (despite not being mandatory) to take the test. The test is usually booked by your OBGYN or midwife around the 24 week mark. Even if you feel well and you’re able to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, no-one is ‘exempt’ from GD.

Group B Strep Swab

At the later stages of pregnancy, around week 35-37, you’ll be offered a Group B Streptococcal (GBS) screening test. The test is a vaginal swab which you can conduct yourself in a matter of minutes. GBS is a bacteria that lives in the vagina and the rectum. It poses no real threat to the mother, however it can be dangerous if passed onto the baby during a vaginal delivery. If you test positive for GBS you’ll be given intravenous antibiotics (i.e. an antibiotic administered by a drip) during labour to protect the baby.

Urine Testing

You’ll get very used to weeing on a stick or in a cup during pregnancy, which bodes well for most, as pregnant women live in a state of ‘busting’. It’s not uncommon to deliver a urine sample at almost every antenatal appointment. Using a dipstick method, your sample will be checked for indications of UTI’s, preeclampsia, diabetes and dehydration.

Genetic Testing

Human DNA is organised into 46 chromosomes. Babies can be born with extra, missing or altered chromosomes which can affect their health and learning. Chromosome abnormalities include Down Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome, Patau Syndrome and other abnormalities to do with the number of sex chromosomes (i.e. the X and Y chromosomes).

Every baby carries a small chance of being born with a chromosomal abnormality.

During a pregnancy, screening tests are offered to determine whether there is an increased risk that your baby could carry a genetic disorder. The three main options offered are;

(i) The “noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT)”, a blood test taken from 10 weeks. The NIPT test can also reveal your baby’s gender should you wish to find out.

(ii) The “combined first trimester screening.” This involves a blood test around weeks 10 and 13.

(iii) The “second trimester serum screening.” This involves another blood test taken between weeks 14 and 20.

If the results from any screening test indicates an increased risk of a chromosome abnormality, you may be offered a diagnostic test, to determine whether a genetic disorder is present. These tests are invasive, so they carry a small risk of miscarriage.

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