Pregnancy is a delicate time in a woman’s life and equally so for the fragile baby developing within you. There are many complications that can arise and need to be identified as soon as possible to ensure that both mother and baby are healthy. This involves more than just your regular antenatal visits at your gynecologist with ultrasound scans to see the baby growing and to hear the heartbeat.
A whole host of medical tests may be necessary depending on your personal or family history, known risk factors for certain diseases or the signs or symptoms that may be evident while you are pregnant or even before pregnancy. Some of these tests are routine and even if you are not at risk and do not show and signs of any problem, your gynecologist may feel that it is necessary.
We look at 5 tests that you should consider doing while you are pregnant or preferably before you fall pregnant. There are many other tests that may be equally important for your case.
Gestational diabetes is a condition where the body is unable to regulate the blood glucose levels during pregnancy. It may resolve after childbirth but high blood sugar can cause a host of complications while the baby is developing within the mother’s womb. Sometimes mothers have diabetes even before falling pregnant but may not show any symptoms. If diabetes is suspected then your doctor may request an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) where your blood glucose levels are recorded before and after drinking a measured dose of glucose solution.
Blood Iron and Hemoglobin
Iron-deficiency anemia is common in pregnancy as the growing fetus increases the demand for various nutrients. Iron is mainly used to form hemoglobin, a molecule within red blood cells that help with carrying oxygen through the bloodstream. A blood hemoglobin test can be done separately or as part of a complete blood count (CBC). If necessary, your doctor may also request an iron profile to see how your body is absorbing, utilizing and storing iron.
German Measles Test
German measles (rubella) is a viral infection that is very dangerous if contracted if contracted during pregnancy. It can cause a host of defects in the fetus especially if caught within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Rubella can also lead to stillbirth and miscarriage. You may not remember whether you had the German measles vaccination in childhood. Ideally a woman should have this test before falling pregnant. If the rubella immunity test indicates that you are not immune then you will need a vaccination before falling pregnant. If you are already pregnant, then your doctor will have to be more cautious about congenital rubella syndrome in the event that you do contract the infection.
Down Syndrome Test
Down syndrome is a genetic anomaly that can affect a child for a lifetime. Testing for Down syndrome can give parents a choice about whether to terminate the pregnancy if positive. It involves testing for pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A (PAPP-A) and free beta HCG. Abnormal levels of this protein and hormone are a good indicator of Down syndrome, leaving parents with the choice of continuing pregnancy or not. Although it is not mandatory, mothers over 35 years of age should consider it.
HIV and STDs
There are a number of sexually transmitted infections that should be tested for as the infection could be transmitted to the baby or affect fetal development. The microbes could infect the baby while in the womb or be contracted as the baby passes through the birth canal in a vaginal delivery. HIV and syphilis are two major concerns as well as gonorrhea. Your doctor may feel it necessary to test you for these infections during or even before pregnancy. Starting ARVs for HIV and other drugs during pregnancy or having a cesarean section could spare your baby the infection and the associated complications.