How hard is it to get pregnant? Or so I thought when my husband and I first started trying. Other couples we knew were pushing out babies like they were a dispenser machine. Surely, we were next in line? When two years passed, and no baby appeared, we started getting concerned. We made a quick trip to the gynaecologist, followed by a battery of tests which revealed I had polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS). There were other issues as well, like a low haemoglobin count and vitamin D deficiency. Now that we knew what the problems were, we could start working on the solutions. I focused on improving my health. I even tried homoeopathy. Soon enough, we were blessed with a baby to call our own.
Medical science has come a long way. A few and painless tests can reveal a wealth of information. Your overall health, your fertility and your genetic history can all play a part in your future pregnancy, which is why it’s a good idea to visit a gynaecologist before you get pregnant. Tests can reveal deficiencies, underlying anomalies, or genetic conditions. It’s a precautionary measure that helps you weed out any potential complications that can arise in the future. Your baby’s development in utero is closely linked to your health. Best to not leave anything to chance. So before you take a pregnancy test, take the following medical exams.
Tests to do before getting pregnant
Have you been trying for a baby for a while? Or, you’ve just decided to start a family? Either way, meet with your doctor first. There are regular, and some not so standard tests that can give you a clearer picture of your reproductive health along with genetic conditions that can affect pregnancy.
During a pre-pregnancy check-up, your doctor will ask you about:
- Your previous medical records and current medication being taken
- Family medical history
- Frequency of intercourse
- Your weight count and lifestyle choices
- Details about your menstrual cycle (irregularities, if any)
- Method of birth control
Your doctor may ask you and/or your partner to test for certain reproductive/health/genetic conditions that may affect your pregnancy.
I. Blood-screening tests:
These are standard routine tests to determine your overall health and how it can impact your baby or your chances of getting pregnant:
A test for complete blood count will determine the levels of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. A low count can mean anaemia.
Before you get pregnant, make sure you are vaccinated against Rubella. There are chances of many birth defects when the mother is infected with the virus.
Your baby will depend on your reserves of Vitamin D during her time in the womb. A deficiency can impact her development.
Low thyroid levels can affect your chances of getting pregnant.
If you haven’t had chickenpox before, your doctor may suggest a varicella vaccine. This is because contracting the disease during pregnancy can cause a lot of complications.
If you’re infected with this common parasite, you could pass the infection on to your baby. This can cause complications at birth and even later on.
Even if you know you are safe from STDs, it is better to rule out any infectious diseases, especially those that are asymptomatic like Syphilis.
II. Ultrasound sonography:
Sonography takes a closer look at your reproductive organs to see if any surface abnormalities can affect pregnancy and childbirth. A doctor will want to ‘peek under the hood’ before you conceive to check if you have:
Polycystic ovaries affect one in five women in India and can cause infertility along with complications during pregnancy. If diagnosed, it can be managed with lifestyle changes.
These are benign tumours that grow inside your uterus. They can cause infertility or pregnancy complications.
III. Genetic issues:
Your doctor will need to know if there are any of the following conditions in your or your partner’s family history as they can affect your unborn child. Some parents can unknowingly be carriers and pass hereditary abnormalities to their babies that can affect their health and well-being. Early detection can help control the ailments with proper treatment. Hence, doctors usually recommend doing specific tests to rule out at least such life-impacting genetic conditions in the offspring.
This is a genetic blood condition where your haemoglobin levels are deficient. Doctors can diagnose thalassemia through a blood test. If a single parent is a carrier, the child is not at risk. If both parents are carriers, then the child is almost certain to develop this condition. In some extreme cases, the patient may require a blood transfusion throughout the patient’s life.
A blood test can detect if you or your partner have this hereditary condition in which the red blood cells are sickle-shaped, instead of round. Both parents must have this disease for it to pass on to the child, but one parent could also be a carrier. Sickle cell disease can cause miscarriages, low birth weight and premature births.
If you’re diagnosed with this genetic blood deficiency, you can take the necessary precautions during pregnancy, like for instance, a diet high in iron and folic acid.
IV. Severe viral/bacterial infections:
During your routine check-up, your gynaecologist will also recommend testing for the following infections:
1. Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV
This is a routine test most doctors recommend as they can cause problems during pregnancy. Generally, most people who have these ailments may not feel ‘sick’ so they can be unaware.
All three infections can pass on to the unborn child.
- In the case of hepatitis B, a vaccine is given as soon as the child is born. It offers close to 90 per cent protection from the disease.
- If hepatitis C is passed on to the newborn, the disease could go away by the time the child is two years. If it doesn’t, the condition is chronic, and the doctor will recommend medication and lifestyle changes.
- For babies born with HIV, antiretroviral therapy is given within hours of birth which is very effective in managing the disease.
To detect urinary tract infection (UTI). The presence of a UTI can affect your fertility. This infection won’t directly cause a miscarriage but can lead to complications that trigger it.
Carrying a baby for nine months is one of the most challenging tasks your body will ever do. Pregnancy affects your organs, nutrient levels, stamina and overall health. A pre-pregnancy check-up ensures your body is in optimal condition before conceiving.
It will also shine a light on any underlying fertility-related issues. So call your doctor and get yourself checked out before you begin the incredible journey of pregnancy.