Is it safe to get tested for tuberculosis if you are only two weeks pregnant?
The tuberculin skin test is considered safe during pregnancy. It’s done routinely without any serious side effects. The skin test involves injecting a constituent of the tuberculosis, or TB, bacteria into the skin, sort of like certain allergy tests.
The reaction, if any, is a localized one and doesn’t pose any significant health threats. But untreated, TB can be very dangerous in a pregnant woman, who can pass the infection to the fetus. The baby then stands a good chance of developing active tuberculosis at a very young and vulnerable age.
Tuberculosis typically starts in the lungs, but the disease can infect many organs. The consequences of the disease may include lung, kidney and brain damage, and many more. Treatment for active TB is usually a cocktail of at least two antibiotics. The medications must be taken for months to ensure that all the bacteria are wiped out. Otherwise, the bacteria may come back and become resistant to antibiotic therapy.
The TB skin test is not a simple matter of positive or negative. A positive test doesn’t necessarily indicate active tuberculosis. Many healthy people who are exposed to TB have a protective reaction that keeps them from getting the disease. But the bacteria remain dormant in their system and may become activated if something happens to compromise the immune system. To get a clearer diagnosis, a chest X-ray and possibly a sputum analysis usually follow a positive test.
It’s a good idea for pregnant women to have the TB test if they have had prolonged exposure to someone with tuberculosis or have lived in a country where TB is widespread. Positive results may be handled in differently, depending on the individual’s circumstances. Most doctors will try to avoid giving chest X-rays to a pregnant woman.
A pregnant woman who is diagnosed with active TB will be treated with antibiotics. If she’s diagnosed with a dormant TB infection, she’ll probably be given a single antibiotic, preferably in the last trimester or maybe even after birth. A dormant infection is easier to kill than an active one, although the antibiotic still must be taken for an extended period.