TORCH Test in Pregnancy – Why is it Needed?
Pregnancy is a time when you are vulnerable to pathogens due to poor immunity. While you can recover from most of these issues in a few weeks, the case is different for the foetus. This is because it has its own sets of challenges while dealing with an attack from a pathogen. As the foetus is still developing, it does not possess the same sophisticated bodily response system to fend off any attacks. To detect and treat infections, a TORCH test is conducted during pregnancy.
What is TORCH Test?
The TORCH blood test is a method employed to detect any congenital infections that may be present in the mother. These infections could be passed on to the foetus either during pregnancy or childbirth and can cause developmental issues such as epilepsy.TORCH infections are an umbrella term for various infections that can be passed from mother to child either during pregnancy or childbirth. The term TORCH is an acronym for infections which include:
- T- Toxoplasmosis
- O- Other diseases such as Epstein-bar virus, hepatitis, human parvovirus, mumps etc
- R- Rubella
- C- Cytomegalovirus
- H- Herpes Simplex
Diseases Detected by a TORCH Screen Test
Sometimes, a parasite called ‘Toxoplasma gondii’, which is present cat faecal matter and undercooked meat makes its way to the digestive tract. While a person infected with it may display no symptoms, it can cause miscarriage or brain impairment of the foetus.
Rubella is a viral infection that can cause rashes, fever or swollen lymph nodes in an individual. Women who carry the virus can transfer it to the foetus through their bloodstream. Some of the ways it can affect the foetus include delayed growth and heart defects.
A part of the herpes branch, this virus barely disturbs adults who may not even know that they have it. However, the virus can attack the developing foetus leading to brain impairment and epilepsy.
This type of virus causes visible sores in the mouth and genital areas and can be some inconvenience for adults. However, infants who are exposed to this virus can have significant damage done to their respiratory and nervous systems.
The other diseases include HIV, measles, chickenpox, syphilis and other contagious diseases that could be passed on from mother to child.
Risks Associated With TORCH Test During Pregnancy
One big drawback of the test is that it may take a few weeks for the antibodies to develop in the body making early detection difficult. This means that valuable time is lost during which time the foetus could be exposed to the infection. Apart from that, the test itself may cause some bruising in the area where the skin is penetrated. There is also a mild chance of infection at the puncture site.
Preparing for a TORCH Test Panel When Pregnant
Before going for the test, keep your doctor informed about any medication that you may be taking. Other than that, no specialized preparation is required for the test.
How is a TORCH Screening in Pregnancy Performed?
A few millilitres of blood is taken from your body for testing. This blood is taken from the finger or any other part of the body. A sterilized needle or cutting instrument (lancet) is used to puncture the skin to collect the blood. Once this is done, a treated bandage will be immediately applied to prevent any bleeding or infection.
What do the Test Results Mean?
For a TORCH test in pregnancy, symptoms such as pain during urination, rashes and fever are present for the person being tested. Mostly women from high-risk category groups are screened for this test.
The test is done by looking at a strip which can come back positive or negative. A negative reading means that there are no antibodies detected. This is good news and means that there is no infection. The TORCH test positive in pregnancy, on the other hand, is a little tricky as it must deal with two antibodies, namely IgM and IgG.
This antibody is the indication that an infection had taken place sometime in the past. To be on the safe side, a follow-up test will be conducted to see if the infection was recent. Avoid doctors that want to start a treatment plan for a positive IgG for toxoplasmosis as the body already contains the antibodies for a repeat infection. IgG is an indication of a past infection and no longer exists in the body.
This antibody indicates that the infection is either ongoing or was recent. However, it is not a sure shot assessment and further testing will be needed to verify the results.
- IgM and IgG:
This is a rare instance where the mother tests positive for both antibodies and can indicate that the mother has faced this infection sometime in the past.
A treatment plan will be initiated if there is an infection.
The TORCH Screen test looks for antibodies developed by the body in response to the infection. These help in minimising any damage to the foetus. As newer tests which are more specific and sensitive are being developed, the TORCH test is becoming less popular.