Pregnant women have to be well prepared and take multiple precautionary measures to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of the baby. Regular prenatal visits to the doctor are important. Health care providers will be able to adjust the provision of care in accordance to the woman’s individual needs. Furthermore, they will be able to track the progress of the pregnancy, which includes the growth of the fetus and the health of the mother.
The doctor will conduct a range of tests, including a blood test for pregnancy to screen the mother for any abnormalities or potentially harmful conditions. This is usually done during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is not mandatory, but if the mother is interested, the health care provider will extract a certain amount of blood to assess any or all of the following:
Undoubtedly, there is always a certain degree of blood loss upon delivery of the child. Sometimes, too much blood loss may occur or there may be other conditions that require the mother to undergo blood transfusion. It is important to know whether the mother is blood type A, B, AB or O as early as the first trimester so that blood compatibility can be screened in advance, a compatible blood pack is readily available at any point in time, and transfusion reactions may be prevented.
This is an important blood test for pregnancy that is usually conducted at the first few weeks of pregnancy. The Rhesus factor is a protein that can be found on the surface of RBCs (red blood cells). The presence of which is termed Rh positive and the absence is called Rh negative. Problems arise if the mother is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive – a condition called Rh incompatibility. The woman’s body will produce antibodies that will attack the fetus’ red blood cells. Early diagnosis prevents this from happening. Cases of Rh incompatibility are managed with the administration of Rh immunoglobulin (RhIg) via injection during the 28th week of pregnancy to prevent sensitization.
Iron levels are checked during the 28th week of pregnancy. Iron is important for the body to produce hemoglobin – the oxygen-carrying component of blood. It is also necessary for the body to maintain sufficient energy levels and proper organ and muscle function. A lack of which may indicate iron-deficiency anemia. Symptoms include dizziness, headaches, pallor, general body malaise and shortness of breath. Women with this condition are advised to eat iron-rich foods such as green, leafy vegetables. They may also be asked to take iron supplements once a day.
German Measles (Rubella)
In most cases, the vaccination of the MMR vaccine during infancy or a prior infection and successful recuperation from German measles grants a lifetime of immunity to the disease. However, some mothers are not immune to this ailment. In which case, a vaccine will be administered to the mother after the delivery of the baby (not during pregnancy as this may harm the child).
The contraction of rubella during pregnancy can cause congenital deformities for the child. Most involve hearing, vision, or abnormalities of the heart, lungs and brain. As a general rule, all mothers should avoid contact with people who have the disease.
Test for STDs
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause congenital abnormalities or even death to the growing fetus when left untreated. Though optional, it is still important to screen for the presence of the following diseases:
In modern times, this is considered as a rare condition due to the invention of antibiotics. However, contraction of this disorder during pregnancy could pose serious harm to the fetus. Blood tests may sometimes result in a false positive reading due to the similarity of the bacteria treponema pallidum (the causative agent of syphilis) to other non-STD bacteria. Women with this condition are treated with penicillin (the only known antibiotic that does not cause fetotoxicity or teratogenicity).
HIV / AIDS
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) / AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) makes infected individuals immunocompromised. That means that they can easily be infected by opportunistic organisms. The disease can be transmitted from mother to child therefore early detection (preferably during the 1st trimester) is important so the disease can be treated right away.
Infected women will be given a combination of HIV-fighting drugs from the start of the 2nd trimester until the delivery of the child. Also, to further decrease the risk of transmission by 66%, the drugs will also be administered to the baby within the 8th – 12th hour of life for six weeks.
This is an infectious disease of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. Some people may present the disease while others remain carriers of the virus. Blood tests can determine the presence of the virus in the body.
This disease can be passed on to the fetus and deal a good amount of damage to the liver. Women who have not developed immunity to hepatitis B need to be immunized as soon as possible.
Blood Cell Disorders
Though this is an uncommon practice, blood tests may also be conducted to assess for the presence of blood cell disorders such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. These are forms of anemia that can be transmitted to the unborn child if left untreated. Testing will also include a thorough assessment of family history of the disorders.
All expectant mothers must be screened for the presence of genetic abnormalities. This helps both the mother and the health care team prepare for and plan out future interventions for the child. An accurate method is by conducting a series of blood tests followed by a nuchal translucency scan during the last week of the first trimester. This is called the combined screening test and although it does not confirm the presence of a genetic abnormality, it may point out the possibility of such. For further investigation, diagnostic tests may be conducted.
Additional Blood Test for Pregnancy
Although these aren’t part of the routine checkup conducted by doctors, these tests may be performed on pregnant women who believe that they are at risk of such. They are preferably conducted during the first trimester. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
This is a parasitic condition that is transmitted by coming into contact with infected cat feces or eating contaminated undercooked or raw meat. It is mainly asymptomatic and first-time contraction of the disease during pregnancy may cause serious health problems to the fetus. In worst case scenarios, it may lead to spontaneous abortion or stillbirth.
Group B Strep
Newborns that contract this disease can become extremely ill, thus reducing their chances of survival. This test can be conducted between the 35th to 37th weeks of pregnancy. Preventive measures can be taken to avert the infection of the newborn in group B strep positive mothers.
Women who have previously been subject to blood transfusion before the year 1992 or who have tattoos or body piercings are at high risk of contracting hepatitis C, a disease of the liver. Additional steps may be taken to prevent progression of the disease and infection of the fetus in women with hepatitis C.