These exams are performed for the following reasons during early pregnancy:
- Confirming pregnancy
- Correlating the size of the uterus with the date of the last menstrual period
- Estimating the size and shape of the pelvis
- Obtaining vaginal secretions to detect infection or cervical cancer (Pap smear)
Vaginal exams may be performed toward the end of pregnancy for the following reasons:
- Assessing effacement and dilation of the cervix
- Determining the station of the baby
- Obtaining vaginal secretions to detect infections
At times, vaginal exams can be uncomfortable and may cause a reddish or dark-brown vaginal discharge.
At each prenatal visit, it is necessary to test urine in order to:
- Detect infection
- Check for sugar and ketones, potential indicators of diabetes
- Check for protein, which may indicate infection or pre-eclampsia.
Blood may be drawn during the 1st or 2nd prenatal appointment, for the purposes of:
- Confirming pregnancy (1st visit)
- Testing for anemia
- Determining your blood type
- Testing for antibodies to HIV and AIDS virus
- Determining your Rh type
- Testing for syphilis
- Testing for German measles immunity
- Testing for antibodies to Hepatitis-B virus
Checking Blood Pressure
In order to detect pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), your blood pressure will be checked at every office visit.
Checking Your Weight
Sudden weight gains are potential indicators of pre-eclampsia, and checking your weight at every prenatal office visit is a method of monitoring general nutritional health.
Your abdomen will be examined at each prenatal visit to measure the growth of the uterus which indicates fetal growth and gestational age. In the last weeks of pregnancy, it will also give your doctor or nurse-midwife important information about the size and position of the baby.
Checking Fetal Heart Rate
Utilizing a handheld ultrasound device called a Doppler, the baby’s heart-rate is checked during every prenatal office visit to assess the well-being of the baby.
Breasts are examined to detect any abnormalities that would warrant further examination. For example, nipples are checked to see if they are flat or inverted, to ensure successful breastfeeding later.