Pregnancy is an incredible experience, but for some moms-to-be it's also a time of a lot of uncertainty and fear. Although the majority of an expecting mom's worries are out of her realm of control, wondering if something could be wrong with your developing baby can occupy a great deal of your thought space if you let it. In most cases, birth defects are rare and out of a mother's control, but knowing the subtle, early signs of birth defects that your OB-GYN will be looking for can help you feel empowered and informed, regardless of the outcome.
According to Healthline, there are many birth defects that be diagnosed during pregnancy through ultrasound, maternal blood tests, or other more invasive screening if necessary. Tests like amniocentesis (taking a sample of the amniotic fluid,) or other blood tests can also be done for more in depth results and analysis.
Knowing what these pregnancy screenings look for can help moms-to-be become more aware of what may or may not impact their baby's life. Although birth defects are rare, and range from very mild to very severe, whatever the case may be, it's best to talk about the potential sickness that an ultrasound can reveal, loving your baby through it all, no matter what the test reveals.
1Low Or High Protein Levels In Maternal Blood Scan
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) a maternal blood screening is common practice in the first trimester of a pregnancy. These screens simply check for abnormalities and don't provide a diagnosis (that requires a diagnostic test.) The maternal blood screen measures two different proteins: human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and pregnancy associated plasma protein A (PAPP-A.) Having elevated or lower levels of either of these proteins may indicate an abnormality.
2Increased Fluid Behind Baby's Neck
Similarly, the aforementioned CDC piece noted that an ultrasound in the first trimester will often look for excess amniotic fluid behind baby's neck which, as strange as it sounds, could predict a chromosomal disorder or heart defect in the baby.
The second trimester ultrasound — called the anatomy screening — looks for abnormalities in your baby's anatomy and any internal problems that may affect their heart, brain, or other organs. Another article from the CDC stated that this screening will often look at baby's size to predict potential birth defects. For example, microcephaly (a condition where baby's head is much smaller than expected,) can often be detected via ultrasound before baby is born.
4Neural Tube Defects
Neural tube defects are often able to be detected via ultrasound, amniocentesis, or other methods of testing. According to Quest Diagnostics, these tests can detect conditions like down syndrome, trisomy 18, or other neural tube defects like spina bifida.