Checkups are a huge part of pregnancy. They allow your doctor to monitor your health and the health of your baby. Most of your doctor’s visits during pregnancy will be routine, but every once in awhile you’ll be offered additional tests that aren’t always as easy to understand. During the second trimester screening in pregnancy, you’ll have the routine monthly checkups as well as screenings to check for developmental or chromosomal conditions your baby may be at risk for.
It’s important to remember that these screenings are not definitive. Just because your baby is at risk does not mean he or she will develop a condition. It’s a good idea to go into your appointments understanding what you’ll be tested for so you won’t have any unneeded stress in your second trimester.
At each visit your doctor will check your weight and blood pressure. If you have any questions about certain signs or symptoms you’re beginning to experience, these visits are also your opportunity to ask questions and put your mind at ease. After assessing your health and addressing your concerns, your doctor will check up on your baby’s progress by listening to its heartbeat, measuring growth and asking about fetal movement. Your doctor may also use a fetal ultrasound to track your baby’s growth and development.
During your second trimester screening in pregnancy, your doctor will take urine and blood samples to check for urinary tract infections, yeast infections, iron levels, your risk level for gestational diabetes, and other common screenings. You may also have blood tests to check for developmental or chromosomal conditions your baby could be at risk for.
The quad screening is a popular screening in pregnancy during the second trimester. This blood test assesses the levels of four substances in your blood (hence the name quad) — alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), unconjugated estriol (uE3), and the hormone inhibin A. Different levels of these substances will help your doctor determine your baby’s risk level for some developmental and chromosomal conditions.
High AFP can mean you’re carrying more than one baby, your baby is older than originally thought, or it could mean your baby is at risk for spina bifida. Low AFP, low estriol, high hCG and high inhibin A are associated with Down Syndrome. It’s important to remember that your test results from this screening are not predictions of whether or not your baby will have any of these conditions. The tests are not exact and can result in false positives and false negatives and are only meant to assess risk level. If any of your test results reveal a high risk, your doctor will help you determine the next step to take.
The quad screening in pregnancy will only assess your baby’s chances of having genetic diseases or birth defects. Just because a risk level measures high, doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a problem. And even if the chance is low, it’s not necessarily a guarantee that your baby won’t have that problem. Once you have your results, you and your doctor will determine if you should consider having amniocentesis, a more invasive diagnostic test that will determine whether or not your baby actually has any of these conditions. Amniocentesis does carry a small risk of miscarriage, so you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons with your doctor.
The tests and checkups you have during your second trimester screening in pregnancy will alert you and your doctor to any health issues you may be at risk for in order to get you and your baby back on track. It’s completely normal for parents to be worried about these tests, but it’s important to remember that they only assess risk level and are not guarantees that your baby has a condition.
One of the most important things to remember about your second trimester screening in pregnancy is to take a deep breath, relax, and let your doctor walk you through your results before you jump to any conclusions. Once it’s all over, you’ll be able to get back to preparing for your tiny new addition to the family!