Antenatal Tests for You and Your Baby

Carrying a child inside your womb entails extra care and attention. To make sure that you and the baby are healthy, it is important that you get regular check-ups and have antenatal tests.

From the root words “ante” meaning before and “natal” meaning birth, antenatal or pre-natal tests are conducted on pregnant women before giving birth to help your ob-gyn check for potential risks of pregnancy and childbirth complications that can affect you and your baby.

In addition to detection of risks and addressing them early on, antenatal tests are also designed to clear your doubts and help you have a safer pregnancy through proper monitoring of the fetus’ development throughout your pregnancy journey.

This article will help you have a better understanding of the purpose of antenatal tests and why they are important—so you can make an informed decision whether to have them or not.

When should I get antenatal tests?

Usually, during pregnancy, doctors base fetus development in weeks, not in months. The count starts from the first day of your last period until the baby becomes full-term at 40 weeks, although most of the time, as soon as they reach 37 weeks, babies are considered to be in full-term. In some cases, women may even be pregnant for 42 weeks and this is normal. During your early check-ups, your doctor will already be able to estimate your Estimated Delivery Date (EDD) and antenatal tests can help monitor the baby’s development. Typically, a series of tests are performed at:

  • Every check-up appointment (Routine tests)
  • The 6-12 weeks and 18-22 weeks mark (specific antenatal tests are performed)
  • Beyond 22-week mark (supplemental tests)

What routine checks should I expect every check-up appointment?

  1. Weight and Height

During check-ups, your doctor will usually start by checking your weight and height to determine if your body mass index (BMI) is normal and appropriate for the specific pregnancy stage. The weight also signifies if the mother is properly nourished. Routine weight and height checks are necessary to be monitored because being overweight or underweight  poses increased risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery.

  1. Urine Test

At your antenatal appointments, you will be asked to give a sample of your urine.

Urine tests are designed to detect the presence of protein, which may signify that you have a urinary​ tract infection (UTI) or kidney problems that need to be treated immediately.

The presence of protein in the urine may also suggest pre-eclampsia. Sometimes, sugar can be detected which may indicate gestational diabetes​ and additional screenings may be required to surely determine the condition.

  1. Blood Pressure Check

At each antenatal visit, your blood pressure will be checked. Later in pregnancy, an increase in blood pressure may be a sign of pre – eclampsia. Though it affects a small percentage of women, early detection of pre-eclampsia is important because it can cost lives if left untreated as it can affect the health of both the mother and the developing fetus.

How can I know if my baby have fetal abnormalities?

To make that the baby is healthy, further tests should be conducted during 18-22weeks of pregnancy.

At this stage, the baby’s form can now be viewed with the use of detailed ultrasound scan or what doctors call as “anomaly scan”.

This scanning procedure helps your doctor see the baby inside the womb to ensure proper development and that there are no major fetal abnormalities as it looks in detail at the baby’s organs.

What tests should I expect during 6-12 weeks of pregnancy?

  1. Blood Tests

At 6-12 weeks of pregnancy, a series of blood tests will be conducted to determine multiple infectious diseases such as:

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus​ (HIV)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases such as syphilis
  • German Measles​ (or Rubella)

A full blood count is also necessary to screen for low blood count and thalassemia—a common genetic blood disorder where an abnormal form of hemoglobin is formed. Low blood counts are often caused by a lack of iron due to insufficient intake or higher pregnancy demands.

Tests to determine blood group is also performed during this stage of pregnancy. These tests are very useful to know your blood group in case you need to accept blood in heavy bleeding (hemorrhage) situations during pregnancy or labor.

Rhesus status test is performed to tell you if you have negative rhesus or positive rhesus. Women with negative rhesus may need additional attention to lessen the risk of the child to develop rhesus disease or commonly known as haemolytic disease—a condition where the mother produces antibodies and destroy her baby’s blood cells.  This can cause the baby to become anaemic and develop jaundice.

  1. Dating Scan

To estimate the due date, your doctor will perform an ultrasound scan that can be scheduled from week 6 to week 12 at any time.

This will be your first view of the fetus inside the womb and you will see his/her position and location.

This scan also allows you to hear his/her heartbeat for the first time.

  1. Down Syndrome Screening

At the start of 11 weeks of pregnancy, you can choose to get screening for Down Syndrome.

These tests do not tell you if you have a baby with Down syndrome, but they tell you that you are at risk of having one.

Additional diagnostic tests are needed to determine if your baby will have down Syndrome.

Read here for more information on Down’s Syndrome screening.

How does anomaly scan procedure work?

Like the dating scan, the anomaly scan produces a 2-dimensional (2-D) black and white image that gives a side view of the baby. The procedure is carried by a sonographer who will place some specialized gel on the mother’s belly and move a transducer across it.

The images formed are projected into in on a screen. The scan takes about 30-45 minutes and will not harm your baby inside the womb.

What results can be obtained from anomaly scan?

With an experienced and well-trained sonographer, there are at most fetal abnormalities can be detected through anomaly scan. These conditions include serious cardiac abnormalities, bilateral renal agenesis, lethal skeletal dysplasia, gastrochisis, exomphalos, anencephaly, open spina bifida, cleft lip, diaphragmatic hernia, Edwards’ syndrome and Patau’s syndrome.

Based on the results of the scan, if these fetal abnormalities are suspected or detected, you may be required to undergo further tests.

Your doctor or midwife will help you understand the condition and the options you will have. If the need arises, he/she may recommend that you speak with a genetic counsellor, a pediatrician or a specialized doctor depending on the severity of the condition. However, it is important to note that scans can’t find all problems, and there’s always a chance that the baby will be born with fetal abnormalities that scans weren’t able to detect.

In addition, if the baby is being cooperative, the gender can be determined through this scan.

What other supplemental tests do I need to take beyond 22-week mark?

Test for Anemia

During pregnancy, anaemia can be very common especially when you give birth. Your body will become tired and less able to handle blood loss. Test for anemia can be offered to you by your doctor at 28 weeks of development. If tests show you are anaemic, iron and folic acid supplements are likely to be prescribed to you.

Test for Gestational Diabetes

Women who are overweight and have had diabetes in pregnancy before may be at higher risk of developing gestational diabetes.

If you are a candidate for high risk of gestational diabetes, your doctor may be offer you a test called the OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test) which involves consuming drinks that have high sugar content and having blood tests afterwards.

This test can be taken when you’re already between 24 and 28 weeks of development. It is important for this condition to be detected so your doctor can address it and help regulate your blood glucose levels.

Am I required to get all of the antenatal tests?

No, you are not required to have any of the tests – it’s your choice.

You can talk to your doctor and your partner regarding your options. Nevertheless, based on what have been discussed above, having antenatal test offers a lot of benefits for both the mother and the child.




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