Dr. Suzanne Trupin is a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from Stanford University and completed her medical training at New York Medical in Valhalla, New York. She received her residency training at the University of Southern California Women's Hospital in Los Angeles, California. She is Board-Certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Several tests may be conducted while a woman is pregnant.
Pregnancy tests: The woman's urine or blood may be tested.
Women may choose to use a home pregnancy test. This
is a urine test kit that can be purchased at a pharmacy or grocery store.
The test can indicate whether a woman is pregnant. This type of test is
known as a qualitative test. It can only test yes or no for the pregnancy
hormone, beta-hCG. If a doctor is considering prescribing a medication that
might not be appropriate to take during pregnancy, one of these simple tests
may be performed in the office to determine if a woman is pregnant or to
make sure she is not pregnant. If the test is performed very early in a
pregnancy, the hormone level may still be negative. Some home pregnancy
tests might not show positive results until 7-10 days after a missed period.
More sophisticated tests are called quantitative
because they measure hCG levels in the blood. This type of testing is completed by drawing blood for testing at a hospital or doctor's office. These levels indicate how far along a woman is in her pregnancy. If levels of hCG do not rise as she progresses in her pregnancy, it could indicate something is wrong (such as an ectopic pregnancy with low levels) or surprising (high levels may indicate twins).
Ultrasound: A doctor may use sound waves to examine the internal structures such as the uterus, ovaries, and the embryo or fetus.
Transabdominal ultrasound: A jelly is put on the abdomen, and a hand-held sound-wave
wand is moved around to look at the internal structures. The woman's bladder
must be full to help transmit the sound waves, so she may be asked to drink
two to three glasses of water starting an hour before the test. This method
works best later in pregnancy when the fetus is well developed. The doctor
may have a scan performed during the first trimester to make sure the
pregnancy is in the uterus and not outside it (ectopic pregnancy) and to
assess the woman's risk for having a miscarriage. The scan can also tell if
more than one fetus is developing. During the remainder of the pregnancy,
scans may be used to look for problems, assess the age and development of
the fetus, check out its position, and,by 17 weeks,determine the
sex. There is no risk to the woman or her developing fetus with ultrasound,
and it is not uncomfortable. Ultrasounds help doctors establish the due
date. Due dates can now be predicted within two to four days if the
ultrasound is performed early enough.
Endovaginal or transvaginal ultrasound: A long, thin, sound-wave wand is covered with a condom
and put inside the vagina. This type of ultrasound is usually performed
early in pregnancy to make sure that the embryo or fetus is inside the
uterus where it belongs. This type of ultrasound also gives more detail, for
instance, about the structure of the woman's cervix and the early embryonic
Targeted Ultrasound Tests: A targeted or level II ultrasound exam provides a detailed
assessment of fetal anatomy. It is recommended if there are concerns for
fetal problems based on other tests or history.
Nuchal Fold Translucency Tests: A non-invasive screening for genetic defects. A certified
ultrasound technologist measures the fold at the back of the neck.
Measurements are then formulated to calculate the risk factor for certain
birth defects. It is usually done at 10-14 weeks gestation and offered with
a blood test that also screens for birth defects.
Alpha fetoprotein tests or Quad Screen Test: A Quad
Screen looks for four specific substances, Alpha fetoprotein, human
chorionic gonadotropin, Estriol (an estrogen), and Inhibin-A (a protein
produced by the placenta and ovaries).