#FitPregnancy 17 week update – Essential Tests During Pregnancy

By: Pearl Maalouf BS, FMSC, CPT, CF-L1

Let’s talk about TESTS baby! Since I’ve gotten pregnant I feel like I’m ALWAYS at the doctor…even more so I’ve done so many blood tests I even have my own preferred lab technician at my hospital. He does it so quickly and efficiently!! I summarize below most of the major tests needed in pregnancy….and this week I was able to convince the hubby to film me doing burpees (crossfit style) during a Le Workout class yesterday- YEP I’m just about 5 months pregnant and doing burpees! Scroll down to the end to find a link to that video from IG! (or click here)

I just got a call from my Doc confirming that the last two blood tests that he ran on me turned out fine! I am so thankful and feel so blessed that so far everything has been going well during this pregnancy. However the number of tests that we’ve done so far has amazed me and although I knew of a few of them beforehand, a few have caught me off guard so I figured a quick summary of essential tests pre and during pregnancy would be a great source of information!

When I first talked to my OB/GYN about getting pregnant he requested a blood test to double check some common immunizations (it was also my first visit to a Doc in Lebanon and I didn’t have my medical records). We also did a blood test to see if I was immune against something called Toxoplasmosis (from a parasite called Toxoplasma). For most people, toxoplasmosis is not dangerous and goes away on its own. But if a pregnant woman becomes infected and passes it on to her growing baby, it can cause blindness and brain damage in the fetus. Cats are the main source of toxoplasma infection but you can also get it from infected meat or not properly washed vegetables/fruits. Pregnant women are recommended to avoid changing cat litter and to wear gloves and a mask if they have to change cat litter. If you are immune to it then you don’t have to worry about it during your pregnancy because your body is immune to the parasite.

The toxoplasma test was repeated at my 8week checkup – and after I told the Doc “Hey I already did this,” he responded with “Yes, and we will do it probably 3 more times before you give birth!” This was the first test that surprised me because it’s not a universal test in the US and I’d never heard of it before. I’ve read that it is more common in central America, central Africa, and some European countries. France has universal testing for women starting from their first prenatal appointment and mothers are tested monthly thereafter. Lebanon follows a lot of French customs so I would imagine that this is why they test frequently for this parasite – I’m not sure if there are other reasons behind this frequent testing.

Summary of all tests they conduct at your first appointment:

  • Your blood group (A, B, AB, or O)
  • Indirect Coombs test – to see if your blood group (RH) is negative
  • Hemoglobin and hematocrit – to check for anemia
  • Urine analysis or culture – to check for a UTI
  • They may do an ultrasound depending on how far along you think you are (this is calculated from the first day of your last period).
  • Toxoplasma – to see if you have immunity
  • Rubella – to see if you have immunity to German measles
  • Hepatitis B virus 

Apparently in Lebanon there is an additional check for Lebanese people, called the Thalassaemia Carrier Status. People originating from the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Africa or Asia may carry some form of thalassaemia. It is common in these regions because it helps to protect carriers against malaria. Thalassaemia is rare in Northern Europeans. For more info click here.

Later on in your first trimester, in between your 11- 14th weeks, they will conduct an ultrasound (Nuchal translucency test) and blood test (to check levels of two hormones, PAPP-A and B-hCG). These tests check for various birth defects, Down’s Syndrome, or Trisomy 18.

In the second trimester you can do a Triple Screen or Quadruple Screen blood test to check for birth defects. (I also did my third toxoplasma screen along with this test) 

At this point if any tests came back positive you may be offered to do a CVS (placenta sample) or Amniocentesis (amniotic fluid sample) as a follow up.

Later on in the second trimester, around 18-22 weeks there will be a morphology ultrasound which is a detailed ultrasound to check the internal and external organs of the baby.

In the third trimester at around 24-28 weeks all women will be screened for gestational diabetes – one hour glucose challenge test. You drink a sugary drink and after one hour your sugar level is taken to see how your body reacts to the sugar. If this test results in an abnormally high sugar level then a second test will be done – oral glucose tolerance test. You will have to been fasting for 12 hours before repeating a similar challenge but this time they will take your blood sugar level every hour for 2-3 hours (depending on the specific test your Doctor requires).

Later on in the third trimester, between 35-37 weeks, you will take a Group B streptococcus (GBS) culture and may do another test for hemoglobin and hematocrit. GBS is a common bacteria which if present in the vagina/rectum during delivery it can cause serious illness in a newborn so they may give you an antibiotic during labor to protect the baby.

Thank you to AUBMC Patient Education for all of the great information provided. For any more specific information please email them at patienteducation@aub.edu.lb or leave a comment below!

A video posted by Pearl Maalouf (@pearlmaalouf) on

Pearl Maalouf

Pearl Maalouf

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