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Supporting you through pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood
Health during pregnancy
routine blood tests
When you go for your first hospital visit, usually about 12 weeks, a sample of your blood is taken. This sample can be used for the following tests which are extremely important both for you and your baby. The tests are confidential and only health care workers involved closely in your care will be informed of the results.
Full Blood Count
A general test to check for anaemia or any other blood disorders.
Blood Group
This will let your doctors know what your blood group is, this is especially important if your baby's blood group is different to yours.
Rubella
This will check the level of your immunity to rubella (German Measles), which is a virus that is spread by coughing and sneezing, but can also be passed from a mother to her unborn baby. Although Rubella is a mild illness in adults it is tested for in pregnancy because if an unborn baby contracts rubella, particularly in the first three months, it can be seriously harmful.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
To check if you are infected with HIV. This is the virus that can cause AIDS, it damages your immune system and makes it difficult for your body to fight off infection. HIV is passed on in three main ways; through penetrative sex (without protection), sharing injecting equipment and from mother to baby. This is tested for because the infection in babies is often more severe than in adults and there are now various treatments that can reduce the risk of the baby becoming infected from one in six to one in a hundred.
Hepatitis B
This test will check your blood for the Hepatitis B virus, which infects the liver and can cause serious liver disease. It is passed on in three main ways; through penetrative sex (without protection), sharing injecting equipment and from mother to baby. Most adults who contract the virus recover completely but a minority are unable to clear the virus and are at serious risk from liver disease. Many babies' who get hep B from their mothers are unable to clear the virus and are at serious risk of liver disease as they get older. However if you test positive your baby will be given a full course of immunisation from birth and in nearly every case this will protect your baby from infection.
Syphilis
Checks if you have ever been infected with syphilis which is an infection that can be carried for many years without causing any signs of illness, though if left untreated it can seriously damage your health. It is passed on through unprotected sex and from mother to baby and can have serious effects on your baby including miscarriage and still birth if not treated during pregnancy. If you test positive the infection can be treated effectively with antibiotics, this treatment will not harm the baby but the baby will need to be tested after birth to confirm that the treatment was successful.
more serious conditions
There are a number of conditions that can cause potentially serious problems. In this section I outline the most common ones, although remember that even these ones are rare. It is important during your pregnancy to keep all of your antenatal appointments so that anything can be picked up on quickly and early and if you ever feel like something is just not right do not wait for symptoms to develop go and see your doctor straight away, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Pre-eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia (also known as Toxaemia or Pregnancy Induced Hypertension, PIH) is not fully understood, but basically it is when the mother's body becomes increasingly unable to cope with the pregnancy. It usually develops after 20 weeks and may be sudden or slow-onset. Symptoms include a rise in blood pressure, protein in the urine; and oedema, which causes swelling in the ankles, feet and hands. There are other possible reasons for having protein in the urine or swollen ankles, but if two or more of the above occur together your doctor will take them seriously and you will most likely be sent to hospital where you will be monitored closely. If the doctors find that you are suffering from pre-eclampsia and the situation seems to worsen, your baby may have to be delivered. This is done to prevent pre-eclampsia from developing into eclampsia, in which the mother has seizures. Once pre-eclampsia becomes severe the pregnancy cannot be continued, as it will put both mother and baby at risk. If however you have slow-onset or mild pre-eclamsia this may be managed for up to several weeks.
Symptoms include a rise in blood pressure,
protein in the urine; and oedema, which causes
swelling in the ankles, feet and hands
Placenta Praevia
This is when the placenta is attached to the lower uterine wall and partially or completely covering the cervix. If you were to go into labour, the placenta would be expelled first, before the baby, endangering his life. If you have placenta praevia, you will need to have a Caesarean section. This condition is usually picked up during routine ultrasound scans, but bleeding during pregnancy may indicate it. Remember to always have any bleeding during pregnancy checked out even although it may not be anything to worry about.
Diabetes
If you have Diabetes then your body isn't producing enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use sugar, the body's main source of fuel. Women who have diabetes have too much sugar in their blood.
If you have pre-existing diabetes then you will have been considered "high risk" since the start of your pregnancy; however some women develop "gestational diabetes" during pregnancy, which usually goes away after delivery. Symptoms may include feeling thirsty and weak, although diabetes can occur without symptoms. Your midwife will check your blood sugar level or check a urine sample for glucose, which can indicate diabetes. If you do develop gestational diabetes, your pregnancy will be closely monitored and you'll have to follow a special diet or take insulin.
Pain Relief During Pregnancy
Routine blood tests
Full Blood Count
Blood Group
Rubella
HIV
Hepatitis B
Syphilis
More serious conditions
Pre-eclampsia
Placenta Praevia
Diabetes
Easing your symptoms
Heartburn
Haemorrhoids
Backache
Constipation
Anaemia
Vaginal Infections
Varicose Veins
Morning Sickness
Screening tests
Spina Bifida
Down's Syndrome
When to call the doctor
If you have bleeding that is bright red and/or profuse.
Severe abdominal pain.
A sudden drop in the number of times you notice your baby move over a period of a few hours.
Nausea or vomiting combined with blurred vision and headaches.
Pain below the ribs, especially at night.
If you think that your bag of waters may have ruptured or is leaking.
Keep all of your
antenatal appointments
so that anything can be
picked up on quickly
and early
If you have placenta
praevia, you will
need to have a
Caesarean section
Symptoms may include
feeling thirsty and weak
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