The aim of antenatal care is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the mother and baby during pregnancy. Ideally, antenatal care should begin before a woman is pregnant.
If you are planning a pregnancy, it is best to see your GP for a check-up. Routine tests are available to detect whether you may have some conditions or illness that could affect you or the baby’s health during pregnancy.
Your first examination should ideally take place during the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy or when your menstrual period is two or four weeks late.
Some tests are required to detect specific problems in pregnancy. Most tests are routine. Other tests may be needed, depending on your medical history and family background. These include;
Urinary screen: Your urine may be tested for protein, sugar and blood. This test may be repeated at other antenatal visits.
Ultrasound (US) examination: If US examinations are performed, the best times are between 11 to 13 weeks for a nuchal translucency assessment and 18 to 20 weeks for the detailed US scan to assess fetal development. An US examination may also be offered at other times depending on clinical need.
Amniocentesis and chronic villus sampling: If you will be older than 35 at your due date or if you have a positive screening test, you may be offered amniocentesis or chronic villus sampling (CVS).
Screening for diabetes: Diabetes can be brought on by pregnancy. It can interfere with fetal growth and can affect up to one in 10 pregnant women. If diabetes is diagnosed, a management program will be established.
Screening for Group B Streptococcus: Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterium often found in the bowel, genital tract or urinary tract. GBS is not a sexually transmitted disease.
About one in four women have GBS without being aware of it. If GBS bacteria pass from a woman to the baby during pregnancy or delivery, the baby may develop GBS infection. This happens in about one of every 200 babies whose mother has GBS. GBS infection in an infant can be life threatening.
Swabs may be taken from the vagina (and sometimes the perianal region), and tested for GBS three to five weeks before the due date. If GBS is present, antibiotics will be recommended as a preventative treatment during labour or when your waters break.