As we all know that tuberculosis is a serious infection which can be life-threatening if not taken care of in time. It is the second largest killer after HIV/AIDS worldwide according to WHO. Pregnancy at the same time is a stage in a woman's life during which she is under a lot of physical and psychological stress. Due to a number of reasons, their immunity goes down during pregnancy and they are prone to have tuberculosis, more so in our country where this infection is very common.
Symptoms which may be suggestive of tuberculosis:
• A cough which persists for more than a two weeks
• Persistent fever (which increases in the evening)
• Heavy sweating at night
• Loss of appetite
• Unexplained weight loss/failure to gain expected weight during pregnancy
• General and unusual sense of tiredness and feeling unwell
• Coughing up blood
• Persistent swellings in the neck glands (or sometimes other glands)
How might TB affect the mother and her baby?
Concerns for the Mother:
TB can be cured with certain medicines, most of which can be given safely even during pregnancy. The standard treatment has to continue for six months. It is very important to complete the whole course to cure the TB. If the mother does not complete the course of treatment, TB may return in a form that is resistant to the usual drugs and is much harder to treat (called as drug-resistant tuberculosis). They may pass this on to their family and friends, including their newborn baby. Concerns for the Baby:
If the diagnosis is made early, the outcome for the baby is good. If the diagnosis and treatment are delayed it can increase the risk of early labour and have an underdeveloped baby. The risk of the baby getting tuberculosis from the mother while in the womb is very small. A mother with untreated TB of the lungs (pulmonary TB) can infect their newborn baby. Therefore, it is very important that the mother is treated early with suitable medicines.
How to proceed with evaluation?
Mothers who experience any of the problems mentioned above should immediately contact any doctor or visit nearest government hospital and should get a sputum test (test of the phlegm) and a Chest X-Ray. The risk to the baby because of the X-Ray radiation is too small as compared to the risk of tuberculosis going unnoticed. Also, in case of pregnancy chest, X-Ray can be done with a pelvic shield which protects the baby from the harmful radiations.