If you receive prenatal care from a medical doctor, the four following tests are offered to ascertain whether your baby is developing normally during their first trimester:
- Blood test which determines yet again that you’re definitely pregnant
Ultrasound allows your doctor to check your baby’s nuchal translucency and general development. Plus, you’ll get to "see" your little bean for the first time! Warning: your first ultrasound may be vaginal. In other words you'll get a "d***o cam" shoved where the sun don't shine.
Via the ultrasound and blood tests, your doctor can then screen for both Down Syndrome and Trisomy 18.
- Trisomy 18 babies are extremely rare. They have an extra 18th chromosome which causes them to develop severe deformities. Usually they die in utero or within the first year after birth. It is highly unlikely you’ll test positive for Trisomy 18, but if you do it’s very likely that the test is correct.
- Down Syndrome (trisomy 21) babies have an extra 21st chromosome which causes mental retardation and other health problems. Down Syndrome occurs at increasing rates as women age from 1 in 1667 in 20 year old women to 1 in 30 at age 45. This test is a bit more of a pot-shot as the test has a 15% failure rate - creating undue stress until later tests conflict with the initial positive results.
For many women, the idea of screening their unborn child for rare but life-altering conditions is inherently stressful, a reaction which is likely for nothing as the chances your unborn child is less than healthy, are quite low.
Despite the potential stress, these tests may bring a certain peace of mind to those women who would worry otherwise. Ultimately, it's up to you to consider your risk factors and stress response: prenatal tests are not mandatory even if your doctor makes it seem like they are.