Routine, run-of-the-mill tests are the ones your doctor will conduct almost every time you visit him or her for a checkup. These include an evaluation of weight, blood pressure, urine, and blood.
For this "test" you will probably want to put down your pocketbook and take off your shoes, rings, earrings, barrettes, clothing, and maybe even your makeup. Although you're expected to gain weight during pregnancy, you should try to keep the total gain between 25 and 35 pounds. And so the climbing numbers on the scale will be closely watched by your health-care provider.
Fortunately, the weight you gain during pregnancy is not all from your baby. (Imagine delivering a 35-pound baby!) Only 6 to 8 pounds are from the baby; the other 14 to 27 pounds are from the placenta, uterus, amniotic fluid, breasts, blood, fat, tissue, and fluids. Of course, women who are carrying twins (or more) gain much more weight.
Although nobody can say exactly how much weight you will put on each month, a general guideline says you should gain a total of about three or four pounds
in the first three months; one pound a week for the next five months; and, finally, one or two pounds (if you gain any at all) in the ninth month of pregnancy.
Your health-care provider will be watching carefully for a sudden weight gain, which, combined with excessive swelling, could mean trouble. She will also take note if you aren't gaining enough weight, which could be dangerous for the developing fetus.
Blood pressure is tested every month. The test is no big deal, but it is very important. A health-care provider will wrap a Velcro sleeve around your upper arm. She will then check the blood pressure at the bend of your inner elbow with her stethoscope (the instrument medical people always wear around their necks to make them look official). The first reading will be used as a base to compare with all the others every month. A sudden rise in blood pressure is a warning for a problem such as preeclampsia--a high-tech word for high blood pressure during pregnancy.
How good is your aim? By the end of your pregnancy you will probably be very good at peeing into a little cup because you get to practice this skill at every medical visit. Urine is tested for three things: (1) infection; (2) protein, which can be a sign of high blood pressure; and (3) sugar, which can be a sign of diabetes.
If your health-care provider doesn't already know the details about your blood, he or she will draw some blood early in the pregnancy. The blood will be taken from a vein on the inside bend of your elbow. This blood will tell a lot about…
- Your blood group: A, B, or O. This information is important in case a blood transfusion is ever necessary.
- Your rhesus (Rh) blood group: Your Rh factor may be negative or positive. The difference means nothing unless you are negative and the baby's father is positive. In this case, your baby may be incompatible with your rhesus blood group, which can cause problems with future pregnancies. Knowing your blood type in advance lets your doctor prevent any trouble from occurring.
- Hemoglobin levels. Hemoglobin keeps red cells filled with oxygen. Hemoglobin levels often fall during pregnancy, causing anemia; your doctor will want to make sure your levels don't go too low.
- Your immunity to rubella (German measles): If you have not built up an immunity to this disease, you will be cautioned to avoid exposure, especially during the first trimester.
- STDs: Because sexually transmitted diseases can cause many problems for the developing fetus and newborn, your blood will be tested for hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis.