Prenatal Care and Antenatal Tests – What are they?

Prenatal care and antenatal tests are part of a care program for pregnant women. Usually most women initiate their parental care program before even falling pregnant or within the first trimester of their pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses and the symptoms of pregnancy become more obvious, it is done at certain intervals until the baby’s birth. It usually includes general health care, counselling and education concerning various phases of pregnancy, physical activities, nutrition, birthing process, and other issues relating to high-risk pregnancy complications or abnormalities. The tests conducted during this process are used to assess the health of the fetus, and are known as antenatal tests.

Investigations Conducted During First Antenatal Visit

There are some blood tests which are vital and are conducted during the first prenatal visit, and then at certain intervals throughout the remaining period of the pregnancy. Some of the common and vital tests included are:

Haemoglobin Estimation: A haemoglobin level of 11 to 13 grams is considered normal during pregnancy. Any value down 11 grams is believed to be anaemic.

 The test also analyses the mother’s platelets and WBCs (White Blood Cells). Elevated number of WBCs could be a sign of an infection.

Rhesus factor and antibodies: Rhesus compatibility of the child and the mother is important. If the mother turns out to be rhesus negative, doctors usually conduct several tests in order to check for antibodies and recommend necessary precautions to be taken.

Blood Grouping: The knowledge about mother’s blood group is crucial as irreconcilable mother and baby may bring about complications.
Rubella (German measles) and other viral illnesses/infections: Rubella can cause stillbirth, miscarriage, or preterm birth, as well as few other serious complications. The test, also known as Rubella Titer, is conducted to check whether the mother is immune to Rubella or not. Other viral tests include Herpes Simplex, Toxoplasmosis and Cytomegalovirus.

Hepatitis: This test is done to check for Hepatitis antigens.

HIV: Tests for HIV virus is equally important and is done with the mother’s consent.

Why Is It Important?

Prenatal care and antenatal tests consists of much more than just observing the mother’s weight and diet. During pregnancy, the monitoring of the baby’s health is equally important as monitoring the mother’s health. Various maternal issues such as high blood pressure, insufficient weight gain, and diabetes (may develop as a result of pregnancy, if it was not present before), if gone untreated, may cause complications to fetus. Some of the methodologies that doctors employ in order to monitor the baby’s well-being may include, listening of fetal heartbeat, keeping an eye on the positioning and size of the uterus and fetus, as well as conducting numerous tests to check for any abnormalities. If detected early, many conditions can be easily treated in-utero (before the child’s birth). Some of the conditions that can be detected during antenatal tests include Down’s syndrome, Edwards’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, Spina bifida, Anencephaly, Cleft lip and Palate. In other cases, an early detection can allow doctors to prepare proper medical facilities at the time of child’s birth.

Conclusion

As outlined in above discussion, prenatal care and antenatal tests are extremely vital for monitoring of the mother’s health as well as the baby’s health. An early detection of several conditions can avert serious complications later on.