Pregnancy over 35 Tests and Screenings available to the Older Women

At 35, pregnancy is taken much more seriously than at 20. A lot of tests and screenings are offered to the older pregnant woman. That is because after 35, pregnancy is considered riskier for the health of the baby and the mother.

Blood tests are performed with any pregnancy for several reasons. Blood types and Rh factor are the first information the hospital will want to have from your blood work. Iron level and immunity to certain diseases like measles and parvovirus, STDs like syphilis, herpes, HIV, Hepatitis and Chlamydia, and conditions like toxoplasmosis, a condition that is given through manipulation of cat feces are likely to be screened. Other conditions may also be screened depending on your origins (Tay-Sachs, Thalassemia, Sickle cell anemia)

At 12 weeks of pregnancy, a nuchal translucency screening test is done to determine the risks for the fetus to have a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down syndrome. This test consists in measuring the thickness of the nuchal fold of the baby. A normal thickness will increase the chance of having a normal baby. A thicker nuchal fold can mean a chromosomal abnormality. However, this test is not a diagnosis and cannot determine 100% that the baby will be normal. This test is done via ultrasound.

Along with the nuchal fold screening a series of tests are offered.

The Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) is a prenatal screening test that can detect chromosomal abnormalities and hereditary diseases such as hemophilia. It is a rather invasive procedure which encompasses certain risks for the fetus as a sample of the chorionic villus (a tiny piece of the inside of the placenta) is removed for analysis. The risks of miscarriage are higher than with the amniocentesis because the test is taken during the first trimester of the pregnancy. A mother should have good reason for wanting the CVS performed. It is offered more likely in cases of pregnancies that are more at risk, like in pregnancies over the age of 35.

The Multiple Marker test is generally given between the 15th and 20th weeks of the pregnancy. Doctors take a sample of blood from the mother and measure the levels of several hormones and substances like hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), estriol, and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). The results will help determine if a fetus is at risk for certain birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities.

Along with the Multiple Marker test, the Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) test can be done. It is a screening that measures the level of that protein in the mother’s blood. It is done between their 15th and 20th week of pregnancy. A high level of that protein may mean that the fetus presents a congenital abnormality. That screening is also offered in high risk pregnancies.

An ultrasound is usually performed at 20 weeks in all the pregnancies to check the development of the fetus. The head, limbs and internal organs are measured and compared to that of other fetuses as abnormalities in those measurements can indicate a malformation, birth defect or chromosomal abnormality. This sonogram usually reveals the sex of the fetus.

Amniocentesis is offered to women between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy in cases of a high risk. It is an invasive procedure which consists in inserting a needle in the placenta through the abdomen to take some of the amniotic fluid. The fluid is taken to the lab where it is screened for certain conditions, and another part of the fluid may be allowed to mature in order to test it for the presence of genetic abnormality. This test is a diagnostic that has an accuracy rate of 99% to 100%. This test also reveals 100% what the sex of the fetus is, as the 23rd pair of chromosome is identified.

High blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes are the main concerns for the pregnant women over 35. There are also considerations that older women will experience preeclampsia, low-birth weight babies, and pre-term labor more often than younger women. Older women seem require caesarean section more often than younger women.

In cases of high risks pregnancies or when pre-term labor can occur, another sonogram can also be performed at 32-35th week of the pregnancy to monitor the development of the fetus as well as his readiness for birth.

Technological and medical progresses make older women pregnancies safer today than they were decades ago. That means happier families.

We can all be thankful for that.