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Investigations in early pregnancy

During your pregnancy you will be offered several tests and examinations in order to better understand your pregnancy and to give your baby the best start in life. Every test (and the reason for doing the test) should be explained to you by your doctor or midwife. However please always feel free to ask questions or ask for clarity if you do not understand or are still unsure.

These preliminary tests are recommended to protect you and your baby’s health, however please know that it is your choice whether you have them or not.

  • Beta HCG

    A beta HCG tests is a blood test to check if you are pregnant and if so,  how far along into pregnancy you are by detecting the level of pregnancy hormone (HCG) present in your blood.

  • Blood group & antibodies

    One of the reasons your blood type is checked in early pregnancy is because some women have a blood type that can affect their pregnancy.

    What is RhD negative blood type and what does it mean for my pregnancy?

    Two combined systems are used to classify blood type – the ABO system ( blood types A, B, AB, or O) and the Rh type (positive or negative). Your blood type is a combination of these classification systems.

    Your baby’s blood type is jointly inherited from both parents. For this reason your baby may have a different blood type to you. This is normal and usually is not a problem. However in some cases, these differences can be very important especially if you are Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive.

    During pregnancy, there are times when there is an increased risk of your baby’s blood crossing the placenta into your bloodstream. Some examples include when tests such as amniocentesis are performed, if a miscarriage occurs, if the woman is involved in an accident with a major blow to her abdomen or at the termination of pregnancy. To reduce the chance of the mother forming antibodies to the baby’s red blood cells, at such times it is necessary to give all Rh (D) negative women an injection of Rh (D) immunoglobulin. Your doctor will know when to recommend an injection of Rh (D) immunoglobulin. This Rh (D) immunoglobulin injection contains antibodies to destroy the Rh (D) positive red blood cells that may have passed from the baby into the mothers bloodstream. The Rh (D) immunoglobulin injection is given before her immune system has the chance to make its own antibodies against the fetal Rh (D) positive blood, which could then cause harm to a future pregnancy.

    For women that are Rh (D) negative please go to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood for more information.

  • FBE & ferritin (iron levels)

    Your blood will also be checked to understand your iron (ferritin) levels. A full blood count checks for general health and can indicate the presence of anaemia. Making the extra blood cells needed during your pregnancy requires plenty of iron, vitamin B12 and folate. if your levels are low supplements may be recommended.

  • Urine test

    A urine test will be conducted to see if you have any urinary infections, which may cause problems later in your pregnancy. Not all people with a urine infection have symptoms, a simple test could be incredibly beneficial.

  • Immunity to rubella

    Pregnant women who contract rubella (Rubella | Australian Government Department of Health) are at risk for miscarriage or stillbirth, and their developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects with devastating, lifelong consequences.

    If immunity is found to be low, pregnant women are unable to have a booster immunisation until after their baby is born and will therefore need counselling on ways to reduced risk of contracting the disease.

  • Hepatitis B & C

    Hepatitis B (Hepatitis B | Australian Government Department of Health) & C (Hepatitis C | Australian Government Department of Health) are infections with a virus that affect the liver. It is important to check for evidence of infection or immunity so you can better look after yourself in pregnancy and minimise the risk of your baby becoming infected during birth.

  • Sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia, syphilis and HIV

    Syphilis (Syphilis | Australian Government Department of Health) is a sexually transmitted infection which may have no obvious symptoms. In pregnancy, it can result in spontaneous miscarriage or stillbirth or cause congenital syphilis infection. Syphilis in pregnancy can be safely treated with antibiotics, which can prevent these complications.

    Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) (Human immunodeficiency virus | Australian Government Department of Health) is the virus that causes AIDS. This can be passed on to babies during pregnancy and birth. If you are HIV positive, you will receive specialised care and health advice to reduce the chance of your baby getting the infection.

  • Cervical Screen Test (CST)

    A cervical screen test also known as a pap smear may be offered if you have not recently had one. This test checks for changes to cells in the cervix (neck of the womb).


  • Ultrasound 1 - Dating ultrasound

    Your GP may order a dating ultrasound, this measures your growing pregnancy and helps to determine the date your baby is due, and also if there are any problems present. In the few cases where ultrasound reveals an unexpected problem, you may be referred for further diagnostic tests. This ultrasound may also reveal if you are carrying one or multiple babies!

  • Ultrasound 2 - Nuchal Translucency test

    Available between: 11 weeks 3days – 13weeks 6 days

    The Nuchal translucency ultrasound is used as a screening tool for Down’s syndrome by measuring the thickness of a fold at the back of the babies neck.

    This ultrasound can be done on its own or in combination with a blood test collected in the 10th week of pregnancy, see  ‘Combined First Trimester Screening’ in the Prenatal Screen section below.

Prenatal Screening

Most babies are born healthy and well, but sometimes babies can be born with chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome. There are screening tests available both before and during pregnancy to detect a low or high chance of your baby having a chromosome abnormality and diagnostic tests to confirm a diagnosis.

Prenatal screening will be discussed with your GP or your obstetrician during pre-conception care or at your first pregnancy visit. If for some reason your appointment at the Women's Health Service is not until after 12 weeks gestation, it is important that the GP discuss these options with you prior. There are many types of prenatal testing available so please familiarise yourself with them. Your Doctor will discuss these options and refer you accordingly.

  • Prenatal screening for chromosomal and genetic conditions

    Information about Screening and diagnostic tests for Down Syndrome and other chromosomal disorders including what the tests involve can be found by following links in table below :

    Name of test What it involves
    Prepair+ carrier screening – Pre conception screening Saliva tests for both parents (or blood samples if you’re already pregnant).

    Results may take 5-6 weeks

    Combined first trimester screening

    Maternal Serum Testing

    Ultrasound at 11-13 weeks plus
    Blood test at 10-13 weeks
    Second trimester serum screening

    Maternal Serum Testing

    Blood test between 14-20 weeks
    Cell-free DNA screening or non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT)

    Blood test from 10 weeks
  • Second trimester screening

    Only a diagnostic test, such as an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS), can confirm if your baby definitely has a genetic or chromosomal condition. Both diagnostic tests come with risks, therefore most women will be offered non-invasive screening first before deciding if they wish to have diagnostic testing.

    It is important to remember that even a normal amniocentesis or CVS result cannot 100% guarantee a baby is born without a condition. There are many conditions that cannot be detected before a baby is born, but is a very useful guide.

Page last updated: 15 February 2024

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