Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tests passed and failed

One of the less pleasant aspects of pregnancy is waiting for test results. The anxiety that you feel while you wait for the verdict from your pregnancy test is just the beginning.

Depending on your caregiver, your health and and your values you may have very few tests during your pregnancy, or you may be closely monitored. My midwife's philosophy seems to be to recommend tests when there are risk factors at play and to otherwise carry on with the assumption that the pregnancy is normal. Alex and I have been comfortable with this approach.

Two tests that she did recommend recently are an iron test and a glucose screening. My iron level was somewhat low in the first trimester, and apparently it's next to impossible for pregnant women to get enough iron through diet alone. The rationale behind the glucose screening--the first level of testing for gestational diabetes--was a little more complicated. At our last appointment the mid-wife told us that the baby was measuring a bit large for his gestational age. The measurement doesn't seem terribly scientific, she just uses a tape measure, but apparently your caregiver can tell whether you're carrying a small baby or a big baby. It appears that I have the latter.

The tests were not particularly note worthy. They test your iron with a simple blood test. The glucose screening requires you to drink a sugary orange drink, and then sit quietly for one hour before they draw some blood. The instructions I received were to drink the bottle within a set time period (I can't remember if it was a minute or two), and then don't walk, don't pee and don't sleep for an hour. How anyone could sleep after downing that much sugar is a mystery to me.

Within a couple of weeks, the midwife called to let me know that my glucose screening came back fine (yay!) so no indication that I have gestational diabetes and no need to proceed to do the more definitive glucose tolerance test. My iron, however, is low enough that she has recommended that I take an iron supplement. I've heard a lot of horror stories about the effects of iron supplements on your digestive system, so I'm not terribly enthused to be taking them. My midwife explained that if your iron stores are low before you give birth, the loss of blood you experience during childbirth could make you extremely tired in the first couple of weeks of the baby's life, so I'm determined to make peace with these new pills.

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