Pregnancy is a period that demands proactive and extra care because it is a phase that involves two lives.
It is a process that changes a woman's body. These changes are not only physical, but most of them are functional and imbalance in chemical levels.
It is often advised that if you have even the mildest feeling that you are pregnant, confirm it immediately. It will help you know your status, the type of lifestyle adjustments to make, and the necessary tests to seek.
As the body tries to adapt and accommodate a growing foetus by increasing body composition, it may overshoot sometimes. This can be dangerous, particularly when such changes surpass the normal and safe range.
This is where routine testing during pregnancy comes in. Failure of pregnant women to carry out tests contributes to the alarming rate of maternal and child death recorded in Nigeria.
Regular testing during pregnancy, with improved lifestyle choices such as exercising and dietary changes, will reduce the incidence of maternal and child death. In addition, it will provide a decent pregnancy experience.
Now that you know why pregnancy checkups are a must-do, here are five tests that pregnant women should be doing.
It is commonly called ultrasound. This is a type of diagnostic technique that uses sound energy to produce an image of an internal organ. In this context, the images of the embryo or foetus.
It is a unique kind of test in that it can be carried out at any point during the pregnancy—from the first trimester to the third. An ultrasound may be done for various reasons which include:
- To determine the due date in the first trimester and confirm it later on
- Detect placenta and ectopic pregnancies
- Diagnose fetal abnormalities
- Determine the number of foetus in cases of multiple conceptions
- Monitor blood flow pattern and amount of amniotic fluid
- Track foetal growth
- Check the position of the foetus
There are different types of ultrasound. The most common of them is the 2-D type which shows a flat picture of the baby. 3-D and 4-D images are created with the use of sophisticated machines. While 3-D provides only height, width, and depth, 4-D includes a real-time movement of the child.
The imaging technique is generally safe for mother and child. However, for an accurate interpretation, it is best to have a highly skilled medical personnel carry out the procedure.
- Urine tests
Your urine is collected and analyzed for conditions that hurt your baby. Your nurse or doctor is supposed to explain what the test entails and why you are undergoing it. Nevertheless, the tests are called pregnancy urinalysis and urine culture. Meanwhile, the likely conditions they are investigating are gestational diabetes, UTI, or preeclampsia.
Gestational diabetes is elevated blood sugar seen in pregnant women. Excessive protein in the urine may indicate a UTI or preeclampsia. A urine culture test will further prove the presence of a microorganism, while a blood pressure check will confirm preeclampsia.
These conditions, if detected, are managed and observed to prevent fatal complications.
Pregnancy checkups are revealing and life-saving. Women who were unaware of their borderline diabetes status before pregnancy can manage it effectively after the baby is delivered.
- Blood tests
A host of conditions can be gotten from blood samples. Some of them relating to pregnancy are Full Blood Count (FBC), blood group and rhesus factor, infectious diseases and STIs, chromosomal conditions.
Your blood group had to be checked early on in the pregnancy journey. This comes in handy in the event of an emergency blood transfusion for you or the baby.
The Rhesus test shows if you are positive or negative. It could be problematic if yours is incompatible with your baby\'s, but its effects can be controlled with injections.
HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis should also be screened for in pregnant women. If the results come out positive, syphilis can be treated fully. The babies of hepatitis B-positive mothers are immediately immunized at birth to prevent chronic liver disease in the future. As for HIV, drugs are available to prevent transmission from mother to child.
Chromosomal screening provides information about the gene makeup of the baby. It reveals the presence of Down\'s syndrome.
There is no specific preparation or precaution to take when going for a blood test. All you have to do is ensure that a skilled phlebotomist is in charge of collecting your sample.
- Blood pressure monitoring
You should monitor your blood pressure carefully. It is not unusual for pregnant women to develop high BP all of a sudden. Hypertension has terrible complications, especially in pregnant women.
As soon as you notice the numbers are 140/90 or greater, alert your healthcare provider. Do not panic; it is a good thing you caught it early. Drugs can help keep the pressure in check.
If you have pre-existing hypertension, it is advisable to consult your doctor to prescribe safer medications for you and the baby. This means that you have to be watchful of your blood pressure. If possible, you should buy a personal digital sphygmomanometer to check your vitals regularly.
- BMI Measurement
BMI stands for Body Mass Index. It is a measure of body fat, as it indicates if a person is underweight, of healthy weight, or overweight. Women gain some weight during pregnancy due to fat accumulation and the growing foetus.
However, when this weight gain exceeds the healthy range, it becomes a problem. Obesity in pregnancy poses several threats to the mother and baby including gestational diabetes, eclampsia, high birth weight and even miscarriage.
At your antenatal clinic, it is very important to check your weight and height which are the parameters used to determine one\'s BMI.
Prenatal tests are very time-sensitive. There are some of them that should be carried out in the first, second, or third trimester. And there are some that should be done as soon as the pregnancy is detected
The implication of taking a test later than the stipulated time is that the test may not catch an infectious illness in the mother or a potentially fatal condition in the child. Then when it is eventually detected, the damage has been done and nothing can be done to reverse it.
There is a tendency to forget these important periodic health checkups due to work-life and other responsibilities. If you might forget, you should sign up for antenatal sessions and set reminders to notify you.
Prenatal care and its related test should never be neglected. Try to ensure you observe them periodically as recommended by your midwife and according to best practices.