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10 Health Tests To Help You Manage Your Pregnancy

For an average of 40 weeks, a woman\’s body goes through a series of changes as her unborn child develops in her womb. Prenatal care is important for both mother and child during pregnancy. Lifestyle, diet and tests as well also contribute to a healthy pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy pregnancy increases your chances of having a healthy birth.

Health testing is one of the ways in which you can manage your pregnancy. These tests are to find any health issues that could affect you and your baby. Knowing of any conditions can allow you to manage and maintain a healthy pregnancy. You are able to decide on further tests, treatment or a change in diet or lifestyle.

1. Blood tests 

Blood tests are very insightful and are required during your pregnancy. These can include; a full blood count, blood group and Rhesus group (also known as RH Factor). 

  • A full blood count is used to check haemoglobin – can indicate the presence of anemi, platelets – reveal issues with blood clotting and white blood cell count – how many disease fighting cells are in your blood.
  • Blood group – In case of a need for a blood transfusion during delivery, it is important to know what blood group you are. This makes it easier to have the blood available for you or to find a suitable donor.

2. Rhesus group (RH factor)

The Rhesus group is a routine blood test for pregnant women. The Rh factor is a protein that can be found on the surface of red blood cells. If this protein is present, you are Rh positive, if not, you are Rh negative. Having a different Rh factor from your fetus can cause complications. If you are Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive, what happens is your body will consider the baby\’s Rh factor a foreign object, and it may react by producing antibodies that attack the baby\’s blood cells. These antibodies can cause serious complications like newborn jaundice stillbirth. Early detection can reduce the danger of  Rh factor problems and manage your pregnancy. 

3. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Hepatitis is inflammation ( swelling of tissue due to infection) of the liver. Hepatitis B spreads through contact with infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. Hepatitis C spreads through contact with infected blood. Pregnant women who are infected with hepatitis B or C can pass the virus to their baby during labour and delivery. A hepatitis virus can be severe in babies and can threaten their lives. If you are infected with hepatitis B or C, both you and your baby will need special care during pregnancy and after birth.

4. STDs 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases can cause serious complications for a mother and her fetus. It is possible to have an STD, not show any symptoms and still be transmitted to a baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery. It is important to test so these infections/diseases can be treated or managed.

  • HIV prevalence in Nigeria is high so it is essential to screen pregnant women. If found positive, you would be advised on how to stay as healthy as possible during the pregnancy. Special medication would also be given to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby during birth.
  • STDs such as syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea can be treated and cured with antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy. If not treated they can be passed onto the baby and cause the fetus long term complications and even death.

5. Torch Panel Test

The TORCH panel test is used to help discover infections that could harm the unborn baby during pregnancy. This test may also be done on newborn babies to diagnose any suspected infections. These infections need to be known so as to be treated or managed with medication. Torch is an acronym for the following;

  • Toxoplasmosis – a disease that results from infection from Toxoplasma gondii parasite, a very common parasite. Infection normally occurs from eating undercooked contaminated meat, exposure from infected cat feces, or mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy.
  • Other infections – this can include syphilis, Hepatitis B or Listeria (food poisoning). All of these can cause low birth weight, premature birth, infection and even death.
  • Rubella – also known as German Measles is a contagious viral infection. Rubella can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects in a developing baby if a woman is infected while pregnant. It can also cause problems with the baby\’s heart, vision, hearing, and growth.
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – CMV is a type of herpes virus that can cause serious health issues in babies if contracted during pregnancy. CMV can cause long-term problems in infants, including problems with vision, hearing, and mental development.
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV) – this is an infection that causes genital and oral herpes. Pregnant women can get HSV through sexual contact with an infected person. The infection can then be passed to the baby during delivery. It can cause low birth weight, miscarriage, and preterm birth. It can also cause sores that affect the skin, eyes, and mouth, as well as brain and organ damage.

6. Urinalysis (Urine Test) 

Urinalysis tests your urine for protein, sugar, bacteria, red and white blood cells. Pregnancy can sometimes cause different health issues to come about. A urine test can assist in identifying and diagnosing some of these issues. This will then know if you need to adjust lifestyle and diet for you and your baby’s health. A urinalysis test can check for the following;

  • High protein levels may indicate preeclampsia 
  • Bacteria, red and white blood cells are to check if you have a urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Elevated levels of sugar (glucose) can be an indication of gestational diabetes

7. Glucose test

A glucose test measures the level of sugar or glucose in your blood. If your blood sugar is high, you will have another test to confirm a diagnosis. This test usually is done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. This test might be done in the first trimester of pregnancy if you have risk factors for diabetes. During pregnancy, a hormone made by the placenta prevents the body from using insulin effectively. This causes glucose to build up in your blood. Normally your pancreas can send out enough insulin to handle it. But if your body can’t make enough insulin or stops using insulin as it should, your blood sugar levels rise, and you get gestational diabetes

8. Hemoglobin Genotype 

A Hemoglobin genotype is a blood test that measures different types of a protein called hemoglobin in your red blood cells. It\’s sometimes called hemoglobin evaluation or sickle cell screen. There is a high prevalence rate of sickle cell anemia in Nigeria. It is possible to have some form of sickle cell anemia and not know. Once you know, the pregnancy can be managed accordingly. Having sickle cell while pregnant makes you more likely than other women to have health issues that can affect your pregnancy. This can include pain episodes, infection and vision problems. 

9. Malaria Test

Malaria is a disease that affects millions of people in Africa. Infection of Malaria during pregnancy is common in Nigeria. It recommended that pregnant women sleep in treated mosquito nets. Pregnant women have more severe symptoms. adverse effects on both mother and fetus, including maternal anemia, fetal loss, premature delivery, intrauterine growth retardation, and delivery of low birth-weight infants and even death. 

10. Blood Pressure Check 

Technically not a test but it is essential in checking for heart health, high or low blood pressure. During pregnancy, high blood pressure is concerning. This prevents blood from flowing to the placenta. Causing the baby not to receive enough nutrients or oxygen. Putting them at a higher risk of being born prematurely or having a low birth weight. In some cases, women already have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) or develop it around or after their 20th week of pregnancy (Gestational hypertension). Both these instances can lead to preeclampsia (a sudden increase in blood pressure in pregnant women), which is a serious health condition for both mom and baby.

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