Doppler magnifies the sound of the baby's heartbeat enough to hear it. It is different from a stethoscope. You should be able to hear your baby's heartbeat at around the 12-week visit. If your healthcare provider doesn't offer it to you, ask about it.
Avoid X-ray Tests
Avoid exposure to X-rays during pregnancy unless it is an emergency. There is no known safe amount of radiation for a developing fetus. Dangers to the baby include an increased risk of birth defects and an increased risk of cancer later in life.
Greatest risk to fetus.
Risk to a fetus appears to be the greatest between 8 and 15 weeks of pregnancy (between the fetal age of 6 weeks and 13 weeks). Some believe the only safe amount of radiation exposure for a fetus is no exposure.
If possible, avoid dental X-rays while you are pregnant. If you must have a dental X-ray, be sure your abdomen and pelvis are completely shielded by a lead apron.
Medical need for X-ray.
There are medical reasons for X-rays, but the need for the X-ray must be weighed against the risk it poses to your pregnancy. If you have an injury to your foot or hand, it is fairly easy to shield the uterus with a lead apron while the area is X-rayed. However, if your injury is in your back or any place near the pelvic area, the risks increase. Discuss it with your physician before any X-ray is taken when you are pregnant.
Problems other than broken bones may occur that require X-rays. Pneumonia and appendicitis are two possibilities. Again, discuss the situation with your doctor.
Computerized tomographic scans, also called CAT scans, are a very specialized type of X-ray. The technique involves the use of X-ray with computer analysis. Many researchers believe the amount of radiation received from a CT scan is much lower than a regular X-ray. However, it is probably wise to avoid even this amount of exposure, if possible.
Magnetic resonance imaging, also called MRI, is a diagnostic tool widely used today. It is not an X-ray. At this time, no harmful effects in pregnancy have been reported from its use, but pregnant women are advised to avoid an MRI during the first trimester of pregnancy for the safety of the fetus.
A Pap smear removes some cells from your cervix and tests them for abnormal cells. You may have a Pap smear at your first prenatal appointment. If it has been a year or more since you had the test, you should have a Pap smear. If you had a normal Pap smear in the last few months, you won't need one. The goal of a Pap smear is to find problems early so they can be dealt with more easily.
Abnormal Pap smear.
If you are told your Pap smear wasn't normal, you may or may not need a biopsy. It depends on how serious the problem might be. Usually a biopsy is not done while you're pregnant. Your doctor will probably wait until after your pregnancy for further testing. Instead of removing tissue for a biopsy, he or she may do a colposcopy (a very careful look at the cervix). An abnormal Pap smear during pregnancy must be handled carefully.
Home Uterine Monitoring
With home uterine monitoring, contractions of a pregnant woman's uterus are monitored in her home. This type of testing or monitoring is used when the doctor believes there could be a problem with premature labor.
A recording of uterine contractions is transmitted from the woman's home by telephone to a center where contractions can be evaluated. With the use of a personal computer, your doctor may be able to view the recordings at his or her own home or office.
Conditions that require home uterine monitoring include:
|previous preterm delivery|
|infections in the mother-to-be|
|premature rupture of membranes|
A nonstress test is a procedure done in the doctor's office, the labor room or the delivery room. While you are lying down, a fetal monitor is attached to your abdomen. Every time you feel the baby move, you push a button to make a mark on the monitor paper. At the same time, the fetal monitor records the baby's heartbeat on the same paper.
Information gained from a nonstress test gives reassurance that your baby is doing OK. If the test reports things are not OK, additional tests are done, including a biophysical profile or a contraction stress test.
Repeated Pelvic Exam
A pelvic exam is needed late in pregnancy because it reveals a lot of things, including:
|whether the baby is lying head-first or is in a breech position (presentation of the baby)|
|how much the cervix has opened (dilation of the cervix)|
|how much the cervix has thinned (effacement)|
|shape and size of your birth canal or pelvic bones|
|how low the baby is in your birth canal (station)|
If your healthcare provider does a pelvic exam and tells you that you are not dilated and your cervix has not thinned out, it doesn't mean you have a lot longer to wait for labor to begin. The pelvic exam tells you where you are at that particular moment. No matter what the condition of your cervix, labor may begin at any time.
In many hospitals, a baby's heartbeat is monitored throughout labor to detect problems early so they can be resolved. There are two types of fetal monitoring during labor—external fetal monitoring and internal fetal monitoring.
External fetal monitoring.
A belt with a receiver is strapped to your abdomen, and it records the baby's heartbeat. This type of monitoring can be done before your membranes rupture.
Internal fetal monitoring.
This is a more precise method of monitoring the baby. An electrode is placed on the fetal scalp to give a more exact reading of the fetal heart rate than external monitoring provides. Your membranes must be ruptured for internal monitoring.