Untreated tuberculosis (TB) during pregnancy poses a significant threat to both mother and child. The aim of World Tuberculosis Day, which was observed recently, was to promote the prevention of infection, as well as the destigmatisation of treatment.
“A woman's health is more important than ever during pregnancy. By taking care of your own health, your baby is taken care of as well,” says Dr Howard Manyonga, the Head of The Birthing Team, an affordable maternity care programme available in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban.
More hazardous if left untreated
Midwives and doctors stress the importance of adhering to TB treatment during pregnancy because newborns can also contract TB from their infected mother’s placenta. Treatment options during pregnancy consist of several oral drugs as well as injectable agents, depending on the susceptibility of the bug. Women are also encouraged to take vitamins, including B6 supplements, to ensure that the foetus receives the necessary vitamins and to prevent drug-related side effects.
“Many consider the treatment of TB dangerous during pregnancy, but it is far more hazardous if left untreated,” says Manyonga. “It is important to be screened for TB as early in the pregnancy as possible. If TB is suspected, be completely transparent with your healthcare professional regarding your diagnosis.”
The total treatment time can take up to nine months and it is important to consult with medical professionals postpartum regarding the continuation of treatment, if necessary, and how it will affect nursing infants.
According to the Donald Gordon Medical Centre, South Africa has the fifth highest burden of TB in the world. South Africa has more than 880 new TB infections each day, with close on 1.5 million people dying from the disease every year.
The Birthing Team, supported by healthcare management company PPO Serve, provides affordable private maternity care to women who are uninsured. Their all-inclusive fee covers all necessary scans, tests, medication, services and assessments based on their patient’s first consultation at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Screening for TB will be done in this initial assessment. The programme’s focus on antenatal care and patient education ensures that the mother-to-be will be given the treatment best suited to the situation.
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