Tests and scans during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when you’ll get to know your medical team, including your doctor and midwife, very well over nine months or so. It might seem like you’re always having different tests and scans, but it’s important to know what these tests are for and how they support the health of your baby.  

Appointments, tests and scans might look a bit different depending on whether you’re going public or private, or whether you’re seeing an obstetrician or a midwife.

Generally, you’ll see your doctor or midwife about every 4 weeks until you reach 28 weeks. You’ll then have appointments about every fortnight up until 36 weeks before you start to check in weekly up until the birth. This schedule might look a bit different depending on whether you’re going public or private, or whether you’re seeing an obstetrician or a midwife. Check-in with your team to get an up-to-date schedule for your pregnancy. 

Blood tests

Your blood will be taken and tested regularly throughout your pregnancy to make sure you and your baby are healthy. Regular blood tests will look for iron deficiency, rubella immunity, and transmissible infections like HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis. 

See Transmissible diseases for more information.

Rh blood test

Your Rh factor is whether your blood carries a specific protein. People with the Rh protein will have a positive blood type, and people without it have a negative type. 

There can be issues if a parent is negative and the baby is positive, so special Anti-D injections are given between 26-28 weeks and 34-36 weeks of pregnancy. Anti-D will stop your body from making antibodies that attack your baby's red blood cells and make them very unwell, so it’s important to have. You’ll get a final Anti-D injection when your baby is born, and their blood type is confirmed as Rh-positive. 

Urine tests

Along with blood, your doctor or midwife will also want to test your urine regularly by having you pee in a sample cup after every appointment. These routine checks help monitor things like preeclampsia proteins, blood sugar levels, and infections that can impact your baby's health. 

See Preeclampsia for more information.

OGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test)

This test is done between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy to check for gestational diabetes. You’ll have your blood tested before and after fasting and drinking a high-glucose drink to see how your body handles the sugar. 

The OGTT is simple. It starts with fasting overnight before having some blood taken. Then, you’ll be asked to drink a bottle of glucose liquid before your blood is tested again to see how your body processes the sugar.  

Group B strep screening

Group B streptococci (GBS) is a bacteria that normally lives in the bottom and vagina. Not everyone has it, and it will generally exist without causing any issues. When you give birth vaginally, there is a risk that the bacteria will spread to your baby. 

Newborn babies don’t have a fully functioning immune system, so infections can cause serious health issues and make them very unwell. Your doctor or midwife will test you for GBS at 35-37 weeks. They will take a light swab of your vagina and anus and send it off for testing. If the test is positive, you’ll be given intravenous antibiotics during labour to reduce the risk of your baby getting an infection. If you’re planning to have a c-section, your doctor or midwife will talk to you about GBS and antibiotics, as it can be different depending on whether you go into labour before your surgery date.  

Ultrasound scans

Ultrasound scans can give you a sneak peek of your baby while giving your doctor and midwife important information about how they’re growing. If you see a private obstetrician, they might have an ultrasound in their office. This means you’ll probably get to have a look at your baby at each appointment. If you’re in the public system, you won't get to see your baby as often, but extra scans can be arranged if needed. If you’re feeling anxious in between ultrasounds, let your care team know. 

The standard ultrasound scans you’ll have during your pregnancy are for dating how old your baby is in the first trimester at 11-13 weeks and then checking their anatomy in a longer, more comprehensive second trimester at 18-20 weeks.  

Screening tests

Screening tests are available during your pregnancy to check your baby’s development in more detail and any signs that your baby might have a genetic syndrome or birth defect. Screening tests can include: 

  • first trimester combined screening test, where results from blood tests taken at 10-12 weeks of pregnancy are compared with ultrasound results taken at 11-13 weeks of pregnancy  
  • maternal serum screening, a blood test taken at 15-20 weeks of pregnancy  
  • non-invasive prenatal test (NIPT), a blood test taken after 10 weeks of pregnancy; this test can also tell you the sex of your baby. 

These tests will give you some information about your baby, including the likelihood that they have a syndrome or disability. These tests aren’t included under Medicare, so there’s usually an out-of-pocket fee. 

If your screening tests are positive, your doctor or midwife will chat with you about diagnostic tests that will either confirm or rule out the result. 

These tests are optional, and it’s important to note that they can carry a small risk of miscarriage. 

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS):  where a small sample of tissue is taken from the placenta and tested, done between 11-12 weeks of pregnancy  
  • Amniocentesis: where a sample of the fluid that surrounds your baby is collected by a needle for testing. 

It is up to you to decide whether you want to do any screening and diagnostic tests for your baby. Some parents might have a family history of health conditions or syndromes, and diagnostic testing can help them prepare to support their baby better or decide on treatment options.  

The decision is personal, and there is no right or wrong answer.

Last updated Monday 19th February 2024