This May Sting: Shots, Tests, and Screenings During Pregnancy
It's true what they say about modesty during pregnancy — it flies right out the window from the get-go. Tests, shots, and constantly dropping your pants in a sterile office are all hallmarks of the typical American pregnancy.
Today we're talking about some of the pregnancy realities that get a bad rap, from forcing pregnant women to fast to infection screenings that verge on TMI territory. Learn what you can expect, what these things all mean, and how they feel.
Glucose Tolerance Test
This one is the most dreaded of the pregnancy screenings for a variety of reasons. You have to fast for several hours, drink a sugary-sweet concoction delivered in fake-fruit flavors, and –if you fail– it means you likely will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which means changes to your diet for the rest of your pregnancy.
Glucose screening takes place between 24 and 28 weeks or pregnancy. Between two and five percent of pregnant moms develop gestational diabetes, making it one of the most common conditions during pregnancy.
This lab test checks how your body breaks down sugar. Your practitioner will ask you to eat normally for the days preceding the test, and you'll have to fast after midnight the night before your test. The nurse who scheduled mine warned me to stay away from complex carbs and sugary sweets the night before just to be safe. The morning of the test, a lab tech will take a sample of blood, then you will drink a liquid that contains glucose – usually 75 grams. Your blood will be taken at 30 to 60 minute intervals for three hours after you drink the mixture.
The test itself won't diagnose gestational diabetes, but scoring at specific levels will lead to a much longer and more definitive test that can confirm the diagnosis.
Not every pregnant mama will have to get this one, but I did because I have an Rh-negative blood type. I had never heard of rhogam, and because of my stellar county education, didn't really know why I would need it. I mean, I didn't even really know what Rh was! For other moms in the same position, here's the scoop in simple terms (you know, ones that non-medical people can understand).
Rh is the protein that sits on the surface of your blood cells. About 85 percent of the population has Rh-positive blood, which means they have the protein. The rest of us don't, and that can possibly cause problems during pregnancy. The Rh-negative immune system checks for foreign protein (especially Rh-positive cells), and can attack and try to destroy it – even if it's your baby's DNA. Yeeks.
During your first pregnancy, this won't be as dire as during subsequent pregnancies. Your blood and your baby's blood don't mix while she's baking, but during delivery, drops of her blood can get into yours and ramp up your immune system. This means during your next pregnancy, your blood cells are more likely to cause trouble to your fetus.
Enter Rhogam, a vaccine-like product that can stop your immune system in its tracks. If the doctor finds an Rh incompatibility, they will give you the Rhogam shot – a quick prick in your upper thigh given at 28 weeks of pregnancy. This will ensure your next pregnancy is safe.
Group B Strep Screening
The Group B strep test is another screening that threw me for a loop. My reaction? “You want to do what to where to test for what? Gross …” Here's why: Group B strep is bacteria that many people have in their intestines, but it can also “colonize” your vagina and be passed on to your baby during birth.
Wondering how you get it in the first place? “How does that happen?” I asked my ARNP during the first pregnancy. “When ladies wipe back to front, usually,” she responded. Ahem.
GBS is found in 10 to 30 percent of pregnant women, and can cause stillbirth and infections in babies. Screening is a simple swab to your vagina and rectum, usually during your 36 week appointment. If you're found to be positive for the bacteria, you will receive IV antibiotics during labor. Usually your practitioner will give you the results at your next appointment, but if not, be sure to ask – during labor, your physician might not be on hand, and you'll need to make sure the staff knows you're GBS positive during your labor.
Did you have any of these screenings during your pregnancy?Read More