Pregnancy comes with its joys and celebrations. Pregnancy also comes with many risks that you are not even aware of until your doctor or midwife tells you some bad news. Luckily, science has made it all possible to know what’s going on with your little one inside of you. From the moment you get pregnant you will be offered a slew of blood tests to determine how your baby is doing and if there are any problems she will encounter after she is born.
Purpose of blood tests during pregnancy
You may wonder why the need for so many blood tests. One purpose for this evaluation is to check for and determine any problems that may affect the health of you and baby. Not only will a blood test help to diagnose a health problem. Your doctor will be able to deal with the problems as they arise. Genetic disorders start in the womb and the blood test provides that information from very early. If there are risks you can decide how you will move forward with the reality.
Some routine blood tests are required generally throughout the pregnancy. These are tests that all pregnant women would do. There are other tests that your doctor will ask you for as needed, especially if a condition arises that will affect the pregnancy. There are yet other tests that are offered to women who are at greater risks because of their age and other factors such as their medical history. You would also like to rule out occurrences of any family medical histories of either you or your partner that could affect your baby.
Routine tests during pregnancy
- Test for blood group:
Your doctor will want to know your blood group or type of blood in case you will need a blood transfusion which is however, unlikely. There are four main types of blood – A, B, AB and O. Your test will determine which group you are in. You have about 4 – 6 liters of blood carrying around in you. Your blood type depends on the antibodies and antigens that are in your red and white blood cells and plasma also which together make up your blood. Antibodies are substances that fight against germs and other foreign agents in your body. Antigens are other substances that recognize when a foreign body is present and signal the antibodies to fight against it.
- Test for rhesus (Rh) factor
Your blood type is determined also according to the genes that make up the cells. This is called the rhesus (Rh) factor and a person is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative depending on whether a certain protein molecule is present or not. If the blood of a Rh-negative person gets into that of a Rh-positive person there is going to be severe complications. If this happens in the case of mother and child, the doctor will have to give an injection of immunoglobulin at about 28 weeks pregnant to prevent the antibodies from attacking the baby’s immune system. So you can clearly see why doing this test is important.
- Blood count
Your doctor will also want to order a blood count which determines the amount of hemoglobin in your blood. Hemoglobin is a substance in your blood that carries oxygen around in your body to the cells. In making the rounds, hemoglobin also picks up iron and takes it to the cells, giving you energy to do activities. Low hemoglobin levels means little iron getting to the cells, and this makes you anemic. You will therefore feel weak, tired, listless, dizzy and having a headache. Your doctor will most likely start you on a course of iron supplements and require that you eat more iron-rich foods such as red meat, liver, poultry, green leafy vegetables, and iron fortified cereals.
- Immunity to rubella virus
The rubella virus is such dangerous disease that everyone is mandated to get a vaccination against it from early childhood. This will keep you immune for a lifetime. If you had contracted the disease you would have developed immunity against it. During pregnancy your doctor will want to know how immune you are to the disease frequently known as German measles. If you were not vaccinated or exposed to the virus through an infection, you will be required to keep away from anyone who has the virus while you are pregnant. You should also have yourself vaccinated as soon as your baby is born. If you contract German measles especially in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, you could have a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or your baby could have birth defects, usually hearing loss, brain damage, heart defects and possibly blindness.
- Test for sexually transmitted diseases
Several viral and bacterial causing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) could present a threat to your unborn child and your doctor will order a blood test to treat and prevent any effects. Hepatitis B for example is a serious liver disease caused by a virus and if you pass this on to your baby, she will need to be protected from its effects with injections of antibodies when she is born. The baby will also need to do a blood test when she reaches about a year to determine if she had actually avoided the disease.
Although syphilis is rarely seen these days, you need to understand the major impact that it can have on your child. If you have syphilis and it has not been treated, it could cause a stillbirth. A stillbirth occurs when a baby is born dead. Death could happen from the uterus or during labor. In the case you are diagnosed with syphilis, your doctor will recommend that you be treated with antibiotics, commonly the penicillin injection.
It is a fact that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be passed between mother and child during pregnancy. A blood test will tell if you have this virus that causes AIDs. More importantly you would get the appropriate treatment to maintain your own health, and lessen the chance of your baby becoming infected.
Other blood tests
You could be offered first trimester screening for Down syndrome and other conditions that result from a disorder in the chromosomes of the baby’s cell. For example, there has been a recent announcement that pregnant women in England will now be offered the specific test for Down syndrome. Those who have a 1 in 150 chance or greater of having a baby with Down syndrome will be specifically targeted. In addition, a new blood test has been found that could identify pregnant women who are not likely to develop the known dangerous pregnancy complication called preeclampsia.
Very often it is through a blood test that it is determined that there is diabetes or some other condition to challenge the pregnancy. Your doctor will take the step and recommend that you do a test even where you are not a high risk person. A test may be required for genetic disorders also.
Be mindful that blood tests are a routine part of antenatal care and that they provide vital information for you and your baby. They are optional however. But trust your doctor’s lead and do them. You don’t know what you may prevent.