When you become pregnant, your head might start spinning with all of the tests and evaluations that will suddenly fill your calendar. You might feel like, after a few weeks, there is simply nothing left on your body to test. While your doctor will continue to recommend different pregnancy evaluations until the very moment you’re giving birth, it’s important to know which tests are accurate and which tests are even important to the health of you and your baby. One important set of tests might be recommended in your last trimester to determine whether or not you’re at risk for preterm labor. It’s important to test for preterm labor because there are certain interventions your doctor can perform to help keep your baby healthy. However, it’s difficult to know which of these tests will be useful.

Your doctor might suggest you take a salivary estriol test to determine whether or not you might deliver preterm. Essentially, this test measures the amount of estriol in your saliva, which is supposed to determine what your uterus is secreting. High levels of estriol usually indicate that childbirth is imminent. However, there are many factors that can affect the levels of estriol in your body, so studies show that this test is not accurate on its own. In fact, doctors sometimes give unnecessary treatment based on positive salivary estriol tests. Many studies also suggest that multiple salivary estriol tests must be performed and compared to determine which are accurate. You should ask for more testing if your doctor decides to treat you based on a single positive salivary test outcome.

If your doctor is supplementing a Creasy score with the salivary estriol test, there is a good chance the outcome is accurate. Your Creasy score evaluates your maternal and family history to determine whether or not you’re at risk for delivering preterm. If you have a high Creasy score and positive salivary estriol results, it might be time for treatment.

Usually, it’s safe to assume your doctor knows best. However, it’s also good to know about certain tests before going into them, because being informed can prevent you from getting unnecessary treatment, and it can promote conversations between you and your doctor to determine which plan of action to take. If your doctor is relying on a single salivary estriol test to plan your treatment, consider seeking out a second test or second opinion.

Source: S Khani et al: Relationship Between Preterm Delivery and Salivary Estriol Level. The Journal of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences Volume 20 Issue 79 September 2010

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