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Prenatal Care and Antenatal Tests

Updated on August 30, 2017

The Basics About Prenatal Care

Prenatal care is such an important aspect of being pregnant that every woman should be well informed about what it is all about. Prenatal care includes basic health checks and perhaps even genetic tests. All this ensures that everything is going well and that you will give birth to a healthy baby.

To provide you with a good idea of just how important prenatal care is, here are some statistics. Women who do not get prenatal care are 5 times more likely to deliver early. Premature births could mean serious problems as the baby might be underdeveloped or mentally retarded.

Doctors also have the ability to check for genetic disorders, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and Tay-Sachs disease. However, without prenatal care there is no way of knowing whether your baby suffers from any of these conditions.

Why is prenatal care important?

Prenatal care is extremely important. If women are so strongly urged to undergo this type of care it is for a number of very valid reasons: women who get the right prenatal care and follow the advice and guidelines provided are far less likely to miscarry their baby or suffer complications such as early delivery or unhealthy babies. Moreover, in many countries, prenatal care is free and there is thus, no reason or excuse to avoid it.

Prenatal care helps to have healthy babies
Prenatal care helps to have healthy babies

Should I be concerned?

You need to be overly concerned about pregnancy complications - the vast majority of pregnancies go smoothly, without any complications whatsoever. There are however, around ten per cent of pregnancies in which moms encounter some complication. To get things into perspective, many complications are small and easily resolved. In the past, the fatality rate was much higher, but thanks to advances in medicine, things have changed. Regular visits which involve screening techniques and diagnostic techniques will tell you just how healthy your baby is and whether it is suffering from any genetic abnormality or diseases. If tests confirm the baby will not be normal, the couples involve might choose to terminate the pregnancy. In other scenarios, couples will not even undergo tests to confirm whether or not they are carrying a “normal” baby as they do not want to undergo and risks whatsoever and are willing to except the possibility of a special needs member to their family.

Prenatal care specialists use a number of tests to ensure that everything is ok with the baby. They carry out evolutions of fetal health by carrying out a range of tests. Some tests are referred to as screening tests and others are referred to as diagnostic tests. The difference between the two types is basically that diagnostic tests are able to give a better indication of the child’s genetic health. Screening tests often just provide an indication that something might be wrong; this would raise the health care specialist’s suspicion who would thus, recommend further diagnostic tests. With these testing, analysis of DNA can be carried out to know how healthy your baby is.

Amniocentesis
Amniocentesis

Big words for small procedures

To be able to diagnose any genetic illnesses, doctors will need samples of your baby's DNA. You might have heard of mind-boggling words like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling. Well essentially these are just big words that refer to the procedures doctors use to extract a sample of your baby's DNA from inside your womb. Once they have the baby's DNA, they can examine it to know whether everything is ok with your baby. They can derive a wealth of information about your baby's genetic health thanks to these procedures. However, unless you are over the age of 35 when you conceived or unless you have had easier and earlier tests in pregnancy which gave iffy results, you will not need to think about these procedures.

The problem with diagnostic tests like the two mentioned here are that they can be a bit risky. Getting the sample of baby DNA really is not a complex thing and can be done in less than ten minutes by inserting a needle into the womb (of course, a qualified OBGYN would need to do this). The problem or rather risks of the procedures will be explained to you before and based upon how you feel, you can decide not to undergo any type of diagnostic test. The main risk, although small, is that of miscarriage.

Recently, scientists have made a tremendous lead in terms of baby DNA sampling in pregnancy. They have managed to get the baby's DNA profile from the mother's blood. The significance of this discovering is huge. It means that in future, mothers will be able to check for their child's genetic health by simply providing a blood sample. Scientists have already managed to confirm the presence of Down syndrome through this blood analysis which is, by the way, already widely being used to confirm the paternity of an unborn baby.

PUBS

Percutaneous umbilical cord blood sampling

This is a fetal blood sampling test carried out very late in pregnancy and is considered high risk. The blood sample require is actually extracted from the umbilical cord at around 21 weeks. It is only carried out when previous DNA sampling methods have provided inconclusive results (we are here referring to amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling). The sample can then be sent for analysis to detect any abnormalities or blood disorders. Besides a higher risk of miscarriage, the other side effects are analogous to those of amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (fevers, chills and possible infection at point of puncture from the needle).

Risks

Invasive prenatal sampling procedures like amniocentesis and CVS carry certain risks. The procedure used which entails inserting a needle into the womb can cause stress on the unborn baby leading to a spontaneous abortion. Although miscarriage is rare, with around one in every one hundred cases, it is still a risk one must consider.

The latest discovery in the field of DNA testing is fetal sampling from maternal blood samples. This test means that invasive and risky tests are now zero risk. Although this type of sampling is still being studied to determine fetal abnormalities it has successfully been used to determine the paternity of an unborn child.

Genetic health testing and Prenatal Care

They following links could help you learn more not only about prenatal care but also about genetic testing and how our genes are intrinsically tied to our health.

Remember

Take your prenatal visits seriously. Use the internet as a valuable source of information ...

Ask your friends and family to tell you about their experience

Ask the experts

Relax and seek harmony during these nine months

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    • starfish26666 profile image
      Author

      starfish26666 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Glad you enjoyed the article. Prenatal care is not only important but is

      such a fun and informative part of being pregnant. It helps you know

      exactly what changes are happening to your body ...how best to live the

      pregnancy and finally to deliver a healthy baby...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      This article is a good reminder for why prenatal visits are important. Sometimes, if we have had a few children, we no longer feel the need to see a doctor as quickly as before. However, as you pointed out, there are many reasons why those doctors' visits are essential. Great lens, well-written and detailed!

    • profile image

      liz-rossi-39 4 years ago

      I found this article very interesting.... I do think prenatal care is really important and building awareness of such things is also pivotal.i was wondering whether we could get something more in this lens about this new non invasive prenatal care. i have read the link provided which gave some useful information but would be fab to have it all in one lens. I will definitely promote this lens with others moms....

    • profile image

      czczcz 4 years ago

      Excellent Lens. Prenatal care is very important and all mothers to be that are able to get support from their doctor to ensure the health of the baby during the pregnancy should do so.