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Why Nuchal Translucency Testing May Be Right for You

by Editorial Team October 22nd, 2015 | Women's Health
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pregnantIf you’re going through your first pregnancy, or are unfamiliar to the new types of prenatal care options available since your last pregnancy, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the prenatal tests available.  Prenatal tests allow expecting mothers to learn more about the health of their growing baby, and to better plan for their future.  This article provides information on nuchal translucency testing – a first trimester prenatal screening tool that’s used to help your healthcare provider identify signs of genetic disorders in your unborn baby.

Nuchal translucency testing does not diagnose or confirm a genetic disorder, and will need to be combined with other tests to confirm a positive diagnosis. The test can be conducted until the end of the 13th week of pregnancy, and it may also be offered in conjunction blood work to detect genetic abnormalities.

Translucency testing requires special equipment and specially trained staff, so not every healthcare provider will be able to offer this test. If you’re considering having it done, ask your doctor for a referral or locate a provider who offers it.

What is nuchal translucency?

Developing babies have a pocket of fluid inside the tissue at the back of the neck – this is called a nuchal fold.  Research has shown that babies who have certain genetic abnormalities or some heart conditions will have more fluid inside this tissue than other babies.  Measuring the size of this fold can help healthcare providers and parents decide what steps to take next.

How is a nuchal translucency test performed?

Your healthcare provider will use ultrasound to check the nuchal fold. Ultrasounds are non-invasive (meaning there’s no cutting or entering the body) and painless. Ultrasounds use a smooth wand that passes over the skin, which sends out sound waves that pass through the skin, bounce back off the structures inside the body, and send a picture back to the machine. There is no risk to you or the baby during an ultrasound.

How should I prepare for my screening?

The test is usually performed between the 11th and 14th week of pregnancy. Your baby will still be quite small, so many providers recommend that you come for your test with a full bladder. A full bladder will help push the uterus up higher and provide a clearer picture of the baby. Your healthcare provider may also tell you to drink two or three glasses of liquid an hour before your exam. Remember not to go to the bathroom.

What will happen after my screening?

How you move forward after your test will be up to you. You’ll be given the results of your screening right away. From there, your doctor may offer additional tests to confirm the presence of a genetic disorder. Remember that nuchal translucency testing isn’t a confirmation of a problem. Your healthcare provider may suggest additional blood work or a more invasive test like an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling to confirm the diagnosis.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that every woman be offered first and second trimester screening options. Your healthcare provider should cover the pros and cons of each test with you. If you are uncertain about a test, its reliability, or how it’s performed, make sure to speak up. Some women decide not to have any testing or screening at all. This is your choice.

Brought to you by our friend, Amanda.

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All health and medical information is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to replace the medical advice or treatment of your healthcare professional.