Prenatal Care

Prenatal tests and monitoring at Scripps

A medical professional examines a pregnant woman who is lying in a hospital bed, representing comprehensive prenatal care at Scripps.

Prenatal tests and monitoring at Scripps

Throughout your pregnancy, your obstetrician will monitor you and your baby and perform various tests and examinations. These checkups are important to detect any signs of problems as early as possible, and to provide you with peace of mind about your baby’s development.

Scripps Clinic and Scripps Coastal prenatal guide

Do you have a Scripps Clinic or Scripps Coastal OB-GYN physician? This important prenatal guide (PDF, 1.4 MB) can help you learn what to expect throughout your pregnancy and at appointments with your Scripps Clinic or Scripps Coastal physician.

Common tests throughout pregnancy

The following provides an overview of what to expect during your prenatal visits, including pregnancy blood tests and ultrasound examinations. Every pregnancy is unique; your obstetrician will determine which tests are appropriate for you and when, and answer any questions you may have. 

The most common prenatal tests include:

First trimester (fertilization to 13 weeks pregnant)

Blood type and Rh Factor

This blood test determines the likelihood of you and your baby having an incompatible blood type. If your blood type is Rh negative, there is a higher probability that you and your baby will be incompatible. Your doctor may prescribe a supplement of Rh immunoglobulin to reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy.

STI tests

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) can be passed on to the fetus if left untreated. Your physician may recommend Pap smear, gonorrhea, HIV and chlamydia tests to check for STIs.

First trimester screen

This simple blood test screens the fetus for chromosomal abnormalities.

Nuchal translucency

Also referred to as a nuchal fold scan or NT, this ultrasound test screens for Down syndrome by measuring the amount of fluid accumulating on the back of the baby’s neck.

Second trimester (14 to 27 weeks pregnant)


This imaging scan uses sound waves to safely create a picture of your baby in the womb. Ultrasounds allow your obstetrician to examine the size of the baby and the placental placement, and identify the sex. Also referred to as sonograms, ultrasounds are usually performed at regular intervals throughout your pregnancy.

Complete blood count (CBC)

This standard blood test checks for anemia during your pregnancy.

Glucose tolerance test

This fasting blood test checks your blood sugar levels for signs of gestational diabetes, a temporary form of diabetes that may occur during pregnancy.


This test involves removing a small amount of fluid from the amniotic sac to look for birth defects and chromosome issues.

Alpha fetoprotein (AFP) test

This blood test examines the levels of a protein produced by the fetal liver and yolk sac. Abnormal levels of AFP in the mother’s blood can indicate brain or spinal defects, as well as increased risks for Down syndrome in the baby.

Third trimester (28 weeks pregnant to birth)

Vaginal beta strep culture

This test checks for strep, a common infection that could be passed on to your baby during labor. If you have strep, you’ll be given an antibiotic during labor to protect your baby from infection.

Checking for swelling of the hands, ankles and face

These can sometimes be signs of preeclampsia, a condition of high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Checking the position of the baby 

During the last weeks of pregnancy, the obstetrician may check to see if the baby is in a breech (feet first) position. Most babies in this position will turn around before delivery.

Additional prenatal tests

In some pregnancies, your doctor may request additional prenatal exams. These exams are often suggested for pregnant woman over the age of 35 because of the increased risk of complications including Down syndrome.

Multiple marker screening (triple or quadruple screen testing)

This blood test checks for birth defects, similar to the first trimester screen.

Biophysical profile (BPP) 

This includes multiple tests to evaluate the baby’s heart rate, movement, breathing and amount of amniotic fluid.

Chorionic villus sampling 

This involves removing a small sample of placenta tissue to test for genetic defects.

Non-stress test 

This test measures the fetal heart rate while the baby is moving.

A contraction stress test using a fetal Doppler (heart monitor)

This is used to ensure that the baby will stay healthy during labor when there are reduced oxygen levels.

Early detection of health problems can help your obstetrician prepare for a safe delivery. Our perinatologists – medical doctors specializing in high-risk obstetrics – will work with your doctor to perform and interpret results of prenatal testing and design treatment plans for high-risk pregnancies.