Healthy Quad Screen- 17 weeks

19 04 2011

I didn't know much about pregnancy screening before becoming pregnant, and there have not been too many words of advice about our choices from our practitioners. I think women make a wide variety of choices here, depending on their situation.

With my being 35, we were eligible for an early blood screening and extra ultrasound with a specialist at 12-14 weeks, however we opted not to do this screening. I did some research and realized that all it would tell me is some range of risk that might highlight the need for additional testing such as amnio or the option to abort a baby with high risk. I knew that we would not do either of these things, so we decided not to take the early screening test. Every time I go into the doctor's office they always ask me again whether I did that test, or whether I wanted to- I wish our choice was made clear in patient history or something.

At 16 weeks, our OB offered the quad-screening. We decided to take this test because as the baby grows bigger, if there are potential problems, we would like to be prepared at the birth.

About the test- 
A blood sample is tested for the presence of the following four substances, which are normally found in the baby's blood, brain, spinal fluid, and amniotic fluid:

  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP): A protein produced by the baby's liver.
  • Unconjugated Estriol (UE): A protein produced in the placenta and in the baby's liver.
  • Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): A hormone produced by the placenta.
  • Inhibin-A: A hormone produced by the placenta.

High AFP levels may indicate that the baby has an open neural tube defect. Lower than normal AFP levels could indicate that a woman is at higher risk for having a baby with Down syndrome. Levels of hCG and Inhibin-A are higher than normal when a woman has an increased risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. Lower than normal levels of Estriol may also indicate that a woman is at high risk for having a baby with Down syndrome.

This test has an 80% accuracy rate, so I was preparing myself for the possibility of false-positive results too...But thankfully we have very normal results and no problems have been detected. Hooray- I am so happy!

As a side note, I have just noticed real heartburn this week. I don't think I have ever had heartburn before. What I thought was heartburn in the past, I realize is really indigestion or acid reflux. This burning/stinging across the top of my belly/lower part of my chest has to be heartburn. I saw a 5 month old baby over the weekend at our favorite brunch spot who had a very full head of hair. I asked the mom if she had heartburn and she said yes, every day after the first trimester.

16 weeks....4 months along

12 04 2011

One thing I did not realize is that pregnancy is actually 10 months long. How did I miss this? Now I understand the takes 40 weeks to get to the birth of the baby, which is 10 months!!! So all along I thought if I could just get to four and a half months, then I would be half way there. Wrong! I have to get all the way to 20 weeks, or 5 months in order to be halfway there. It definitely feels like time is dragging on. Many people tell me it drags even more after the halfway-hump. Great!

Here are some updates on how I have been feeling....
Nausea- I did not have any consistent problems with this in first three months. Interestingly in this fourth month I have many times sporadically throughout the day when I feel sick, gaseous, and acid reflux. I figure the baby is  bigger so this makes sense, but it is hard to predict! Sometimes I feel awful in the morning, sometimes right after dinner...and a lot of different foods are adverse to me. The most consistently adverse foods are anything green, chicken, and raw looking meats. Unfortunately this makes it tricky for me to make sure I am eating healthy.

Tension Headaches- I get these A LOT. Probably two or three times a week. Thankfully I picked up some Excedrin tension headache (acetaminophen and caffeine) and it miraculously seems to work. I hear the headaches are due to all of the "extra" blood in the head that the baby is helping me produce.

Fatigue- Again, oddly, I was not really noticing this in the first trimester, but now I am tired ALL the time. Between 11 and 3pm it is sooo hard to concentrate at work. My eyes droop and I look longingly at the floor where I could lie down. I feel scatter-brained throughout the day and feel like I am sleep-deprived even if I had 8 hours the night before. Also, after about 9pm if I have not had a nap, I pretty much fall asleep during anything  (watching TV, driving somewhere, etc.)

Mood- For the last two weeks my moodiness has gotten significantly worse. I'd like to believe it is because we are in the process of buying a new house which is a stressful time no matter when it occurs in life. But honestly, it feels like anything can set me off. I described it recently to a friend as if all of the joy and positivity that I can muster in a day is immediately sucked out of me. I feel overly pessimistic, I can't stop worrying about things, I have occasional insomnia from anxiety, and overall I just feel sad for a good portion of the day. There are good days or good hours interspersed but I have really been shocked that I can feel this "down" about things. It is also unsettling that all of these feelings can make me cry at any moment throughout the day. And by crying, I don't mean teary eyed, I mean balling! It's exhausting! My friend pointed out to me that maybe the baby is sucking the joy and positivity out of me because it needs it and will therefore be a happy and joyful baby. I hope this is true!!!

My body- I am now in the "Awkward In-Between phase" according to most pregnant women and mothers. My clothes don't fit right and pants don't always close. I went maternity shopping once and have borrowed some clothes from friends, but it is a little depressing at this point. I don't appropriately fit most pregnancy tops yet without the distinct belly and the pants with pregnancy panels don't seem needed yet. Most friends tell me not to worry that it will come soon enough.

On the upside (which is hard enough for me to muster these days!)...we are getting excited to begin collecting baby things. So far, we have a couple of toys friends have shared with us, and one super cute outfit that I couldn't help but purchase. It still feels too early to "load up" on stuff, but as we draw closer to moving into a bigger home, I am feeling the excitement of preparing a nursery. We have been very blessed to have friends and family share lots of big-ticket baby items with us like car seats, strollers, changing table, etc..