Prenatal appointments: What to expect during each trimester

Add these appointments to your calendar! Here's the standard plan for prenatal tests, bloodwork and ultrasounds.

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

First Trimester

Urine Samples
Tested at every prenatal visit to check for protein, which may indicate pre-eclampsia.

Dating ultrasound 
Done after the first few weeks to check conception date, or if you’ve had problems with prior pregnancies.

12-week nuchal translucency test
This ultrasound measures the fluid beneath the skin at the back of your baby’s neck to help estimate the odds of Down syndrome. (If there’s a high likelihood, an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling gives you an actual diagnosis. Depending on the policies where your test is performed, partners are welcome either for the entire scan or are allowed to come in at the end.

Bloodwork
Tests include: blood type, anaemia, hepatitis B, rubella, syphilis, HIV, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, rhesus (or Rh) factor (whether you have a positive or negative blood type). If your Rh factor differs from your baby’s, you may have an immunological reaction to your baby’s blood, which can be managed by your doctor.

Second Trimester

Urine samples
See first trimester.

20-week ultrasound
Involves an “anomaly scan” to ensure the baby is developing normally. The umbilical cord, placenta and amniotic fluid are also checked. Gender can often be determined at this stage (though not all hospitals will divulge the info, even if you want to know). A thorough scan can take longer than an hour.

Gluclose challenge
This test, performed around week 26, checks for gestational diabetes. You down a sweet drink and blood is drawn one hour later. If high glucose levels are found, you’ll be asked to return for a glucose tolerance test, where you’ll have to fast for eight hours, drink the sugary bev again, and have three blood tests at one-, two- and three-hour intervals.

Third trimester

Urine samples
See first trimester.

Ultrasound
Follow-ups can be necessary if you’ve had complications in previous pregnancies; your blood pressure is high; you have diabetes or gestational diabetes; the position of your placenta is being monitored (placenta previa is checked to see if it corrects itself); you’re carrying multiples; or if your health-care provider is concerned about baby’s growth (too big or too small).

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
Between weeks 35 to 37, a swab of your vagina and rectum is taken to check for the bacteria, which is harmless to the mom, but can be dangerous to the baby.

The test

Chronic Villus Sampling (CVS)
A first-trimester test of placental tissue cells, which contain genetic information.

Amniocentesis
A test of the amniotic fluid for chromosomal abnormalities. Recommended for women who are older than 35, for women with high nuchal translucency test results, or if there’s a family history of birth defects. Discuss the risks of both amnio and CVS with your doctor.

* Please note this is a general list of what to expect. Talk to your health-care provider if you have questions or concerns.

A version of this article appeared in our Spring/Summer 2013 Pregnancy baby book with the headline “Prenatal Planner,” pp. 14.

Read more:
Prenatal anxiety: Tips and treatment
What tests you need before you conceive
What prenatal testing can tell you

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