Routine tests available during pregnancy

What routine tests will a pregnant woman be offered?

All women who are pregnant, regardless of age, will have a range of tests and most of these usually happen at confirmation of pregnancy, at around twelve weeks.

Blood tests:

These are done done to check the following:-

  • Blood group
  • Rhesus factor (if a mother has the rare rhesus negative blood group, she may need careful monitoring throughout the pregnancy in case her baby is from a different blood group. If this is the case, she might produce antibodies to her baby's blood. If it is her first baby problems rarely happen, but in a subsequent pregnancy if the mother doesn't have injections at the right time, complications may occur).
  • Haemoglobin (the essential protein in blood which transports oxygen) levels (this should be checked again at 28 and 36 weeks)
  • Antibodies
  • Platelets
  • White cells
  • Syphillis
  • Rubella immunity (if a mother does not have an immunity to rubella (German Measles) she has to take great care not to come into contact with the virus, which can cause serious disabilities to unborn children).

What are the disadvantages of blood tests?

There are no disadvantages only advantages, as blood tests pose no risk to either mother or baby and are easy to administer. Also, because they are carried out early in pregnancy, any potential complications can be addressed early on too.


Urine tests:

Urine tests are usually done at each visit to a clinic, or midwife. This is done to check the following:-

  • High sugar levels
  • High protein levels

If protein levels are high it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, which can stop the placenta operating properly and thus affect the baby. It can also cause liver and kidney problems and blood clots in the mother. If sugar levels are high this can be a sign of diabetes and referral to a diabetes specialist will be necessary. Additionally, too much sugar can harm the unborn baby. If the urine test shows high protein, further tests will be offered.

What are the disadvantages of urine tests?

None. Urine tests are simple to carry out and have no adverse effects on either mother or baby.


Bacteruria test

About half of all pregnant women will be given a test for a bacteria called bacteruria which can cause premature labour and low birthweight. Several well-documented studies have shown that pregnant women who get a kidney infection (pyelonephritis) in the second and third trimester are at increased risk for delivering preterm (this doesn't apply to a bladder infection). If the test for bacteruria shows positive, you will be given antibiotics.


Do all older women choose to have other tests during pregnancy?

The link between an increase in a woman's age and the risk of her having a baby with chromosome abnormalities makes one believe that every mother will want every available test, but about one fifth of women in western Europe, Australia and the United States prefer not to. One advantage of being older is that you will probably feel more confident about making the decision that is right for you.


Non-routine tests

Read about the non-routine tests available during pregnancy.


NHS Direct - 24-hour nurse-led helpline with confidential healthcare advice and information
List of NHS Trusts - information on children's health & diseases
The Fetal Medicine Foundation
Harris Birthright Research Centre (originators of nuchal fold scan)
Medical Dictionary