When you're pregnant, it's easy to look forward to office visits where you'll talk about how far along you are, how the baby is growing and probably even get to listen to his or her heartbeat. But office visits are just one piece of good prenatal care. Several routine blood tests can help ensure the health of mother and baby and allow health providers to advise mothers to take certain actions based on the results -- such as coming in for more testing or getting certain medical treatments to reduce the risk of any complications. It's important to be tested for sexually-transmitted infections and diseases early in your pregnancy so your health care provider can work with you to get the treatment you need.
It's best to get these tests even if you've been tested before, but you have the right to refuse any testing for any reason. Here are the three main diseases the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all pregnant women are tested for, regardless of symptoms or risk.
HIV and AIDS can pass from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or while breastfeeding. HIV-positive moms who aren't undergoing treatment during their pregnancies have a 25 percent chance of passing the virus to their babies, while that rate falls to only 2 percent if the mother accepts treatment and follows guidelines to avoid transmission during her pregnancy, birth and after she has her baby, explains AIDS.gov. Mothers who test positive for HIV should work out treatment plans with their doctors, which includes taking antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy. Mothers with HIV should deliver their babies by Cesarean section and should not breastfeed to reduce the risk of transmission.
Syphilis is a rare sexually-transmitted disease in the United States, but it's best to get tested because it can cause birth defects and increases the risk of stillbirth, but taking penicillin can help protect your unborn child. About 50 percent of untreated women who have syphilis pass the infection to their babies, while only 2 percent or less of treated mothers-to-be pass the infection, explains BabyCenter. If you have syphilis, your baby may also need antibiotics after birth.
Hepatitis B is an infection that can lead to severe, and potentially fatal, liver problems later in life. It doesn't usually cause pregnancy-related complications, but if you have hepatitis B, your baby will need vaccines and antibodies starting at birth. It's important to know if you have hepatitis B before you give birth because if your baby receives the shots he or she needs within 12 hours of birth, there is a 95 percent chance he or she will be protected against the infection, explains the Hepatitis B Foundation. If your baby does not receive these shots immediately after birth, there is a 90 percent chance he or she will be infected.
Talk to your health care provider about lab testing for other sexually-transmitted infections if you're having any concerning symptoms or if you haven't been tested before.