Unless you have been living under a rock, you should know by now that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is pregnant. If you are too, congratulations! Pregnancy, whether it is your first or third, can be an emotional rollercoaster. There is so much information available from a myriad of sources that it can be overwhelming knowing what advice to follow and what is just an old wives tale. All you want is to feel well and have a healthy baby.
Luckily, we had the chance to speak with Dr Preethi Daniel, Clinical Director at the walk-in GP clinic, London Doctors Clinic, to give you the full lowdown on what you as well as Meghan can expect throughout your pregnancy.
Antenatal care in the UK is one of the best in the world. You may have already discovered that you will be having a lot of tests during your pregnancy including blood tests and ultrasound scans.
The tests are done to make your pregnancy safer and to ensure your baby is healthy. They are not compulsory but it is recommended to get them done to ensure the best possible outcome during the antenatal period. Your midwife will usually organise the standard tests and all you have to do is to turn up for these at the correct time frame.
In the first trimester, blood tests are done to determine if you have any of the following infections: HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B. The tests in the early phase of pregnancy are done to protect your health through early treatment and also reduce any risk of passing on infections to your baby.
You will also be offered a test to determine your blood group. This is not only useful to know in case of an emergency where you might need blood but also to check your rhesus status. Mothers who are rhesus negative can make antibodies against their babies’ blood. This causes anaemia and jaundice in the baby. Usually injections are given to rhesus negative pregnant women to prevent rhesus disease.
A further blood test will determine you red blood count to make sure you are not anaemic. This makes you tired and less able to cope with blood loss during birth so it is important to know this early on so we can supplement you with iron as needed.
Sometime before the 14 week mark, you will also have a sample taken to get a combined risk for carrying a baby with Down’s syndrome.
The blood test result is usually analysed in conjunction with scan images of the baby’s neck fold thickness to give you a fairly accurate risk.
During the second trimester, usually the baby is growing without much testing except an ultrasound scan which checks for anatomical anomalies and you can also find out the sex of the baby should you wish.
If you have a rash or fever or non-specific symptoms however, it is worth speaking to your GP. Certain infections can be passed on to your unborn baby and this can potentially be dangerous. Infections such as toxoplasmosis (from contact with cat poo) or listeriosis (from soft cheeses) are not routinely tested for but can be done on request if you are worried. Some Private GPs can send you a self-sampling kit for simple tests like these. It involves a finger prick test where you take a tiny amount of blood and send it back via post to the lab. The results can be sent to you via email in due course by our GPs. Unfortunately, right now there are no home blood testing kits where you can find out the sex of the baby.
During the third trimester, you will be checked for anaemia once again. If you are obese, of a certain ethnic group, have had big babies or diabetes in a previous pregnancy, you are higher risk of developing gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy). This can cause you to have bigger babies who have problems regulating their sugar level when they are born. The test for this is called glucose tolerance test where a blood test is taken before and after drinking a sugary drink. This is usually done at around 28 weeks.
Provided all these blood tests are satisfactory, the pregnancy will progress well and cause you little to no anxiety and the outcome should be a very happy one.