Tuberculosis during pregnancy is harmful for both mother and her baby. Tuberculosis risk is higher in post-natal mothers.
Researchers at the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the University of East Anglia have reported that during the first six months after pregnancy, risk of tuberculosis is quite high. The rate of TB in post-natal women is 15.4 percent more than women who haven’t experienced pregnancy.
If a woman is suffering from TB while pregnant, it does not increases the severity of the disease. The action of tuberculosis infection in pregnant women is the same as in other women. In case of pregnant women, tuberculosis infection develops gradually. Some signs and symptoms of TB are not clearly observed during pregnancy, such as weight gain, but some women fail to gain weight if suffering from TB.
A woman undergoes a lot of physical changes during pregnancy. Her immune system weakens while she is pregnant and this affects her cardio-respiratory system. The respiratory airways receive high supply of blood during pregnancy. This leads to nasal obstruction, increased secretion of mucous and nose bleeding (epistaxis). These conditions favour the growth of TB bacteria. They provide an ideal environment for the TB bacteria to grow and multiply.
A pregnant woman has very high levels of progesterone. This increases the tidal volume (air that moves in and out during normal respiration), thereby resulting in chronic respiratory alkalosis (decrease of carbon-dioxide content in blood). This imbalance in pressure favours the growth of TB bacteria. A mild respiratory infection can result in tuberculosis due to abnormal rise in blood oxygen content during pregnancy.
Tuberculosis during pregnancy is very difficult to detect as a pregnant woman don’t like to undergo radiotherapy tests for TB detection as this can affect their baby. In addition, symptoms such as fatigue are normally ignored during pregnancy, resulting in late detection of the disease. If diagnosed at early stages, treatment is same as that of a woman not pregnant. If detected later on, it can cause stillbirth or abortion.
A pregnant woman should undergo regular screenings for TB. Skin tests are considered safe and effective for pregnant woman to diagnose TB. If she develops symptoms such as inability of healthy weight gain, illness, extreme tiredness, loss of appetite and continuous cough, consult a doctor immediately as these can be the signs of tuberculosis. An early diagnosis can prevent the fatal consequences of the disease.
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