If you are currently expecting or have ever received prenatal care, you likely know the perceived hassle of giving a urine sample at the beginning of every visit, having your blood drawn multiple times throughout your pregnancy, or kicking off your last trimester by chugging that super sweet orange beverage.
But all of those screenings exist for a reason. It can be easy to mistake symptoms of serious pregnancy issues with normal pregnancy ailments (think nausea and fatigue). Screenings help your provider detect some of the “unexpecteds” when you’re expecting.
Here are three common prenatal issues and the screenings for them. The next time you’re at a prenatal appointment and sliding your arm into a blood pressure cuff, you’ll know why it is so important.
What is it?
- A condition characterized by low red blood cell count or decreased hemoglobin levels preventing the body from delivering proper amounts of oxygen to organs and tissues. There are over 400 types of anemia, but the most common in pregnancy are iron-deficiency anemia and folate-deficiency anemia.
- Approximately 15-25% of pregnant women will develop iron-deficiency anemia.
Signs & Symptoms
- Feeling tired or weak
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrating
- Complete Blood Count: A blood sample will be taken and hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cell counts will be evaluated during your first trimester and at 28 weeks.
Treatment: Daily iron supplement
Risks: Untreated or severe anemia can increase the risk for low birth weight and premature birth.
- Good nutrition: Eat foods that are high in iron like dark-green leafy vegetables, red meat, eggs, and peanuts.
What is it?
- Gestational hypertension, also known as pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), is blood pressure above 140/90 that develops after week 20 in pregnancy.
- Approximately 6-8% of pregnant women will develop gestational hypertension.
Signs & Symptoms
- High blood pressure
- Edema (swelling)
- Visual changes such as blurred or double vision
- Nausea, vomiting
- Presence of protein in the urine
- Blood pressure reading and urine sample at every prenatal appointment
- Increased prenatal checkups
- Good Nutrition: less salt, more protein, and drink at least eight glasses of water per day
- Medication may be prescribed
- High blood pressure can impede blood flow to organs, preventing them from properly functioning. Gestational hypertension can lead to preeclampsia and eclampsia, which can result in serious, life-threatening complications for both mom and baby.
- Reduce salt in meals and make healthy nutrition choices.
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water a day.
- Get enough rest.
- Exercise regularly.
- Elevate your feet several times throughout the day.
What is it?
- A temporary form of diabetes that prohibits a pregnant woman from producing adequate amounts of insulin to regulate sugar levels.
- Approximately 2-5% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes.
Signs & Symptoms:
- Unusual thirst
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Glucose Tolerance Test: You will consume a sweet drink and have your blood drawn one hour later to see if your body is producing enough insulin to properly process sugar. If your results come back abnormal, you will be asked to return for a three-hour glucose tolerance test. This test is taken between 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Close monitoring of mother and baby
- Self-monitoring of blood glucose levels
- Insulin therapy, if necessary
- Diet and exercise management
Risks: If gestational diabetes is not treated, it can increase risk for large birth weight, premature delivery, and cesarean delivery.
- Good Nutrition: Choose foods that are high in fiber and low in fat and calories. Watch your portion sizes and strive to consume a variety of foods.
- Exercise: Aim for 30 minutes of daily activity before and during pregnancy.
For a happy birth day, you want a provider you can trust to keep you and your baby in the best health. Click here to learn more or find an OB/GYN.