Deviations in the development of the child in the intrauterine period earlier could be detected only after the appearance of the baby. Later, there was an ultrasound, which gave enough information about the gross anomalies of fetal development, starting from 10-14 weeks of pregnancy. A laboratory analysis for alpha-fetoprotein became a worthy tool for the instrumental method of studying future mothers. ACE during pregnancy is considered a fairly popular procedure, which already at the very beginning of a nine-month path reveals and, if possible, prevents the consequences that are dangerous for the child and his mother.
What does the analysis of ACE in pregnancy mean?
In medicine, it is customary to use abbreviations to denote many complex words and concepts. Usually these are the first letters of different components of a certain concept. For example, the lettering of ACE is used to designate a specific protein found in the blood of any pregnant woman. It is called alpha-fetoprotein.
It must be said that alpha-fetoprotein is not a foreign substance for humans, it is produced in the digestive system (mainly in the liver) of men and women. True, its production is minimal and in a healthy person does not exceed 10 IU per ml of blood.
The AFP content in the limit of 0.5-10 IU / ml is considered the norm for non-pregnant. At its core glycoprotein AFP is an antitumor component and in the presence of an active proliferative process in the liver or urogenital system, characteristic of cancerous tumors, the body in return includes a kind of self-defense, starting to produce a greater amount of antitumor protein. It is this moment that interests oncologists, because it allows to identify tumor processes in the liver, genital organs, mammary glands.
Increased concentrations of ACE can cause any serious liver disease, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis, which are inherently inflammatory and necrotic in the tissues of the body. In these cases, the analysis reveals the content of ACE in the blood in the range of 15-18 IU per ml. Further increase in the level of specific protein indicates the development of cancer.
But this concerns only not pregnant women. In future mothers, a stable consistent increase in ACE is considered normal and in most cases indicates that the child is developing.
But how is the development of the child and the increase in the level of AFP? The female organism is arranged in an unusual way. It provides everything for the continuation of the family, so that a woman can bear and reproduce her small copy. After the rupture of the follicle and the release of the egg in the woman's body, a temporary endocrine gland is formed - the yellow body, whose task is the production of hormones that preserve and support pregnancy.
If conception does not occur, the yellow body dies because it is not necessary. With the pregnancy, a temporary gland producing estrogen and progesterone exists until the full maturation of the child's place occurs. It is in the yellow body that AFP synthesis occurs before it begins to be produced in the embryo's body. Not surprisingly, even in non-pregnant women, the level of alpha-fetoprotein is higher than in healthy men.
While there is a yellow body, the concentration of ACE in the body of a pregnant woman and a non-pregnant woman is approximately the same. But approximately from the 5th week of pregnancy, when the fetus forms the liver and the rudiments of the digestive organs appear, the level of AFP begins to grow steadily, because the production of alpha-fetoprotein occurs mainly in the liver and intestine of the human embryo.
At the beginning of the 2nd trimester of pregnancy, when the formation of the digestive system of the baby is completed, and the products of its vital activity start to actively enter the amniotic fluid, including the AFP protein, the analysis of the woman's blood also changes, through which unwanted substances are withdrawn from the woman's body and amniotic fluid.
As the baby develops, the content of AFP in the mother's blood increases. Starting from the 33nd week of pregnancy, the formation of the organs and systems of the child is replaced by a period of growth, and the level of ACE to the most genera in the norm remains stable.
But what role does the alpha-fetoprotein protein play in the development of the baby, it's not for nothing that it is so actively developed in the child's body in the period of intrauterine development? Let's consider a number of its basic functions:
- AFP is a kind of transport proteins, due to which the proteins and polyunsaturated fatty acids, necessary for building the cell membranes and tissues of the baby, from the mother's blood enter the blood of the fetus. This is necessary for normal growth and development of the embryo, especially in the first two semesters of pregnancy.
- Transportation of important unsaturated fats is important in the last month of pregnancy, because fats are involved in the formation of a surfactant alveolar complex - a compound that allows the child to breathe after birth.
- AFP protects the body of the child from the negative effects of the female hormone estrogen, exceeding its level can cause unpleasant long-term consequences in the form of tumor processes in the reproductive system of the child.
- Helps maintain a stable blood pressure in the fetal circulatory system.
- AFP is a kind of protection of the child from the aggressive impact of the mother's immune system, which can perceive the embryo as an alien body. Protein reduces the synthesis of antibodies in the body of a woman, which promotes pregnancy and reduces the risk of spontaneous miscarriage.
As you can see, protein alpha-fetoprotein is an important indicator of the development and health of the child, as well as evidence of how the pregnancy is taking place. At the same time, the alarming factor is both an increase in the level of AFP in relation to normal indicators, and too low indicators. In the first case, we can talk about health problems for both the mother and the child, and in the second there is a big risk of a serious delay in fetal development and early termination of pregnancy.
Abbreviation AFP doctors often call not only the protein itself, but also the laboratory analysis assigned during pregnancy. About the features of its conduct and the results of the study, we'll talk further.