The vast majority of pregnancies are carried out without difficulty. But contrary to popular belief, conceiving a child is not always a breeze. Because of all the internal changes that occur during pregnancy, several different medical issues might arise. The immune system will change to accommodate the growing baby, leaving a woman vulnerable to illnesses that may be short-lived or cause serious complications for the mother and the child. While some complications are related to pre-existing health conditions, others are unforeseen and unavoidable. Find out the potential pregnancy complications and the solutions to these challenges.
Around 8% of all pregnancies have complications that, if addressed, might harm the mother or the child.
Risk Factors of Pregnancy Complications.
Every pregnancy contains inherent complications. However, these can be minimized with proper prenatal care and support. Age and general health state might increase the likelihood of difficulties during pregnancy. Some of the others are also mentioned here,
Pregnancy-related medical complications are more common among women under the age of 20 than women of older age. It’s more common for a teen mother to deliver a premature baby, low birth weight and high blood pressure (BP). Pregnancy in an older woman is also associated with a higher risk of complications as the likelihood of becoming pregnant decreases with age. Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, dysfunctional labour, abruptio placentae, stillbirth, and placenta previa are all more common in women older than 35. These women also tend to have a higher prevalence of chronic conditions (e.g., chronic hypertension, diabetes). Genetic testing becomes more pressing with each passing year of a mother’s life due to the associated rise in fetal chromosomal disorders.
Please refer to our article here if you are interested in learning more about age and pregnancy.
The weight of the mother also plays a very important role in pregnancy. Pregnant women with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 19.8 kg/m2 are at risk of having infants with a low birth weight (2.5 kg). Maternal hypertension and diabetes, preterm birth, stillbirth, fetal macrosomia, congenital malformations, intrauterine growth restriction, preeclampsia, and the need for a caesarean section are all increased in pregnant women with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2 (overweight) or 30 kg/m2 (obese) before pregnancy.
Adjustments to one’s lifestyle during pregnancy can help lower the chances of developing gestational diabetes or preeclampsia in pregnant women who are overweight or obese.
3. Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Pregnant women with an STI have a high risk of passing the infection on to their children. Pregnancy-related complications are another serious risk associated with these infections. Untreated gonorrhoea, for instance, has been linked to increased rates of miscarriage, early delivery, and low birth weight.
4. Pre-existing Conditions.
When a mother is already dealing with a health issue, like diabetes or high blood pressure, she is at an increased risk for pregnancy complications. For instance:
- Diabetes: Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics are at risk of having a baby born with health issues. Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of birth abnormalities for the unborn child and can have negative effects on the health of the mother.
- Auto-immune Disease: Preterm birth and miscarriage are possible complications for women with autoimmune diseases. Some medications that treat autoimmune disorders may also harm a fetus if used during pregnancy.
- Thyroid Problems: Untreated hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can cause birth abnormalities and other complications, such as heart failure during pregnancy or inadequate fetal growth.
- Uterine Fibroids: Despite their prevalence, uterine fibroids may lead to unwanted outcomes, including miscarriage and early birth.
- PCOS: Miscarriage, premature delivery, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia are all more common in pregnant women with PCOS. The risk of miscarriage is increased thrice in PCOS women compared to those who do not have PCOS.
5. Prior Pregnancy Complications:
Pregnancy complications are more likely to occur again if the mother has previously experienced them. Previous cases of preterm birth, stillbirth, or occurrences of inherited or chromosomally inherited disorders are all examples.
Consult with your doctor if you identify with any of the characteristics above. Getting the necessary prenatal care and support will help you minimize any complications during your pregnancy.
Most Common Complications.
You should take precautions against the following, as they are among the most frequent pregnancy complications:
1. Ectopic Pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the baby develops outside of the uterus. This can occur 90% in the fallopian tubes or cervical canal, pelvis, and abdomen. Most ectopic pregnancies are caused by scar tissue in the fallopian tube resulting from infection or illness. Women who get a tubal ligation (contraceptive method) and don’t use additional birth control are 12.5% more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy.
Symptoms: Some of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, such as a missing menstrual period, painful breasts, or an upset stomach, can be similar to those of a regular pregnancy. Additional symptoms include unusual vaginal bleeding, pain and cramps in the abdomen, back or pelvis. Signs typically show signs of trouble between the fourth and twelfth weeks of pregnancy. But a fallopian tube can rupture as pregnancy advances. Internal bleeding can be severe if a blood vessel ruptures. Surgical intervention may be required immediately due to potentially life-threatening situations.
Treatment: Since an ectopic pregnancy can never be transferred to the uterus, it must be surgically removed. Treating an ectopic pregnancy with either medication (with methotrexate) or surgery is possible. There must be a period of observation following each course of treatment lasting several weeks.
One is more likely to experience another ectopic pregnancy after one. The recurrence rate is 10%. In future pregnancies, watch for indicators of ectopic pregnancy until your ob-gyn certifies the pregnancy is growing normally.
When a woman is pregnant, her body naturally produces more blood, almost 2-3 litres extra. The condition is known as anaemia when there are not enough red blood cells. This can disrupt the normal functioning of nerve and muscle cells. Lacking healthy red blood cells or haemoglobin means the blood can’t transport oxygen effectively throughout the body. Various types of anaemia can occur during pregnancy. The root of each subtype is unique.
- Pregnancy-Related Anemia: The volume of blood rises during pregnancy. Therefore, more iron and vitamins are required to produce red blood cells. As long as the red blood cell count doesn’t drop too low, it’s not deemed abnormal.
- Iron Deficiency Anemia: The baby utilizes the mother’s red blood cells during pregnancy, especially in the latter 3 months. The RBCs stored inside the mother’s bone marrow can be used, but if she’s short of the reserves, this can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, the most common type of anaemia in women.
- Vitamin B-12 Anemia: This type of anaemia is caused by low levels of vitamin B-12 in the blood. Women who do not consume any animal products (vegans) are more prone to suffer from vitamin B-12 insufficiency.
- Folate Deficiency: When combined with iron, the B vitamin folate (folic acid) promotes healthy cell division. During pregnancy, women require supplemental folate. However, occasionally their nutrition is insufficient to provide it, and the body cannot produce enough regular red blood cells to carry oxygen to all bodily tissues leading to folate deficiency anaemia. Folic acid decreases the risk of brain and spinal cord birth defects when taken before conception and early in pregnancy.
Symptoms: Feeling fatigued, having difficulty breathing, Pale skin, lips, nails, palms, or eyelids, gasping, rapid heartbeat, focusing difficulty or passing out are all possible symptoms of anaemia. Regular blood tests are the usual method of detection.
Treatment: Anemia has several causes, so your doctor must address the underlying issue. It will be necessary to consider age, health, and specific symptoms while formulating a treatment plan. It also depends on how serious the problem is. Anaemia during pregnancy may necessitate additional supplementation with iron and/or folic acid in addition to your usual prenatal vitamin. Iron- and folic acid-rich meals may also be recommended by the doctor. Some medications, however, need to be taken multiple times a day. It has been found that taking iron with orange juice improves the body’s ability to absorb minerals.
3. Gestational diabetes.
Glucose is a vital energy source created by the body following the breakdown of carbohydrates. Once glucose enters the circulation, the regulatory hormone Insulin generated by the pancreas facilitates its absorption by cells. Diabetes is a disease that inhibits the body from metabolizing sugar. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a pregnancy-related form of diabetes. It occurs due to hormonal changes during pregnancy; the body cannot make or utilize insulin correctly. Gestational diabetes affects between 6 and 9 % of pregnant women. The prevalence of diabetes in pregnant women has grown in recent years.
Symptoms: Visible symptoms or indicators of gestational diabetes are nonexistent. Doctors often start screening for it between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy but may start sooner in high-risk women.
One of the major risks of gestational diabetes is that your baby may develop significantly bigger than usual, about 15-45%, a condition known as macrosomia. During birth, a baby’s shoulders may become trapped. If the doctor believes that the baby is too large for a safe vaginal birth, he or she will propose a caesarean section.
Treatment: It is usually treatable and manageable throughout pregnancy. Both mother and child are at risk for harm if gestational diabetes is not addressed. Treatment includes changes to one’s diet and eating habits. Depending on the severity of the illness, extra insulin may be required by certain women. This treatment is continued until delivery, after which the condition resolves.
Preeclampsia is characterized by extremely high blood pressure. High blood pressure arises when arteries carrying blood from the heart to the organs and placenta constrict. It has been linked to adverse effects on organs like the kidneys, liver, and brain. It can cause major complications for you or your baby if it goes untreated.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that generally affects women after the 20th week of pregnancy. The specific explanation of this complication has yet to be determined. However, it is related to the abnormal development of a certain portion of the placenta. About 1% of all pregnancies in the United States are complicated by preeclampsia. Mild pre-eclampsia affects 1 in 10 pregnancies, and severe pre-eclampsia affects 1 in 100.
Symptoms: Pain in the upper abdomen, sudden or rapid swelling of hands, face and feet, blurred vision, and a strong headache are all potential pre-eclampsia symptoms. Protein in the urine is a symptom of renal issues, which can occur in women with severe pre-eclampsia who also have high blood pressure. Many women, however, don’t have any symptoms at all.
Diagnosis is usually made during pregnancy checkups. During antenatal checkups, the blood pressure and urine are monitored for excessive blood pressure and protein.
Treatment: Often, it is suggested to deliver the baby early. The date of birth depends on the severity of pre-eclampsia and the number of weeks of pregnancy, but it can also put the baby to other health-related complications that must be discussed and addressed by a doctor. Before birth, preeclampsia is treated with close monitoring, drugs to reduce blood pressure, and management of complications and hospitalization might become necessary. High blood pressure might last 3 months after birth.
5. Recurrent Infections.
Every part of the body will change throughout pregnancy. Hormonal and immune system fluctuations increase susceptibility to infection and other health problems. Several infections might affect pregnant women causing complications, such as
- Bacterial vaginosis results from a lack of beneficial bacteria and an abundance of harmful ones changing the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina. In most cases, an infection is brought on by increased anaerobic bacteria. Between 10 and 30 % of pregnant women get bacterial vaginosis.
- Hepatitis (A, B, C). The mother and unborn child are in danger from the hepatitis viruses (A, B, and C), which cause damage to the liver. Consuming tainted food prepared or served by an infected individual is the primary route of transmission of the hepatitis A virus (HAV). Blood is a potential vector for the spread of the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Contagiousness is possible, especially if the mother contracts the illness in the later stages of pregnancy. 9 out of 10 pregnant women with acute hepatitis B transfer the virus to their babies. Hepatitis C (HCV) is transmitted by blood, typically through sharing needles with an infected person. Antiviral medication is suggested beginning in week 28 of pregnancy and continuing for 3 months afterwards.
- Toxoplasmosis is an easily preventable and treated disease. They seldom endanger both the mother and her unborn child. Eating contaminated food is the leading cause of toxoplasmosis. First-time parents still have a very small possibility of experiencing pregnancy complications, including birth abnormalities, miscarriage, or stillbirth.
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is an infection of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Urinary retention, temperature, nausea, vomiting, and back discomfort, lower back pain, and a foul odour or blood in the urine are all symptoms of this bacterial infection. 1 in 10 pregnant women develops a UTI without symptoms.
- Yeast infections are more frequent during pregnancy due to hormonal changes that might alter the vaginal pH balance. Mostly due to elevated estrogen levels. Yeast infection occurs during the first few weeks of pregnancy, usually in the second trimester, and is characterized by a foul odour, cottage cheese-like, thick, white discharge. Itching and burning feeling.
Unpasteurized foods and drinks and unclean utensils can cause infections. The best course of action is prevention. Most vaginal and urinary infections may be treated early with the correct treatment and follow-up care. Before conceiving, discuss any concerns to limit pregnancy and postpartum infection risk. Vaccines can be taken as a precaution.
6. Placenta Previa.
The placenta is responsible for supplying oxygen and nutrition to the baby during the pregnancy. In placenta previa, the placenta attaches below the cervix instead of at the top of the uterus, where it typically does (the opening between the uterus and vagina) and totally or partially blocks the uterine entrance and causes pregnancy complications. Placenta previa occurs in around 1 of every 200 pregnancies and is more prevalent among older and multiparous females.
Recent studies have identified several risk factors for placenta previa, including caesarean sections, smoking, abortions, assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and advanced maternal age.
Symptom: The most prominent symptom is painless, irregular vaginal bleeding, usually of bright red colour, usually after the 20th week of pregnancy. But some women report no symptoms at all. This excessive blood loss can also lead to anaemia, pale complexion, a quick and weak pulse, shortness of breath, or low blood pressure. An ultrasound or physical exam will help the doctor confirm the diagnosis.
In most cases, the placenta will correct itself on its own. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, only 10% of women who have a low-lying placenta at 20 weeks will still have one at their next ultrasound.
Treatment: No treatment exists for placenta previa. And it requires pelvic rest. This involves avoiding sexual activity, minimizing treatments like obstetrical dilation checks, and reducing pelvic floor exercises. Medical therapy aims to reduce bleeding so that the mother can approach her due date as closely as possible. Women with placenta previa are normally scheduled for a caesarean section two to four weeks before their due date
Morning sickness (nausea) is a frequent pregnancy symptom. This problem is not harmful in the vast majority of cases, and almost 90% of women experience it. Even though morning sickness is uncomfortable, it usually disappears during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
A severe morning sickness known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is one of the least common pregnancy complications. In most cases, medical facilities are needed to treat it. It is estimated to be 1000 times more than usual morning sickness. However, the best news is only a small percentage of pregnancies (0.3% – 2.3%) are impacted by hyperemesis. It appears to be associated with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Early in pregnancy, your body quickly creates a high quantity of this hormone. Typically, these levels peak between 10- and 12 weeks during pregnancy and then fall. Some infants delivered to mothers with HG may have a low birth weight but not all.
Symptoms: They frequently manifest in the first part of pregnancy. Experiencing almost continual nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting regularly, dehydration, lightheadedness or dizziness, and weight loss of more than 5 per cent owing to nausea or vomiting. Extremely severe fatigue can persist for weeks or months following an episode of HG. It is conceivable for persons with HG to be unable to attend work or participate in other usual activities. By the 20th week of pregnancy, many women feel better, while others have difficulties.
To diagnose it, the physician will inquire about your medical history and symptoms. A normal physical examination is sufficient to diagnose most cases with a fast heart rate and a usual low BP.
Treatment: A woman with mild hyperemesis gravidarum can be managed via dietary modification, relaxation, and antacids. Having severe HG will often require hospitalization for treatment. The physician may suggest natural anti-nausea remedies, such as vitamin B6 or ginger. Water intake is suggested to avoid dehydration.
The following table can help one differentiate HG from usual morning sickness.
|Morning Sickness||Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)|
|May or may not lose weight.||Lose weight along with dehydration and loss of body fluids.|
|Able to drink or eat.||You can’t eat, drink, or keep food down.|
|After the first trimester, most women see a reduction in their symptoms (or between 12 – 16 weeks).||By 20 weeks, you may feel better, but there could be nausea and/or vomiting until late pregnancy or delivery.|
|Diet and lifestyle changes make one feel better.||Medications, medical assistance and hospitalization are usually required.|
|Can be yourself most of the time, despite occasional low spirits.||Emotionally drained, struggles with depression and feelings of unworthiness.|
|Take care of your loved ones and keep your job most of the time.||Depending on the condition, you may need help caring for yourself for weeks or months.|
8. Miscarriage & Still Birth.
A miscarriage is a pregnancy loss that occurs before 20weeks. Miscarriages occur in 10 to 15% of known pregnancies. This can occur even before a woman understands she is pregnant; they can’t be avoided. Diabetes, severe illness, serious injury, or a previous history of miscarriage are all potential causes. However, it might be difficult to pinpoint an exact reason for a miscarriage. Fertilized eggs with an abnormal number of chromosomes or uterine anomalies are two more contributing factors. The chance of miscarriage increases significantly when both the father and the mother are in their 40s, compared to when the woman or the father is over 35.
Symptoms: Because miscarriages can be life-threatening if left untreated, knowing the warning signs is important. They can occur between the 12th week of pregnancy and includes spotty or heavy menstrual bleeding, abdominal or lower back cramps, and exudation of vaginal fluid or tissue.
Treatment: Miscarriage treatments are distinct from abortion drugs and procedures. The options should always be conducted and discussed with the doctor. Whether it’s through a surgical treatment called a D&C or medication, a miscarriage can be induced or managed.
Stillbirth is the medical term for a pregnancy loss beyond the 20th week. It is a rare case and only seen in 1/160 pregnancies in the United States. The source of the problem is often unknown. Some causes of stillbirth are complications with the placenta, Infections, and chronic illness in the mother.
Hearing that doctors have diagnosed a complication might be frightening. Pregnancy complications are difficult for anybody involved and can have far-reaching psychological, emotional, and physical consequences. You may even stress the possibility that anything you did (or did not do) caused this to occur. These emotions are very natural. You may find it reassuring to know that you are not responsible for these issues. Moreover, these issues can be dealt with. The best thing you can do for yourself and your unborn child is to receive prenatal care from a trusted practitioner. With early identification and appropriate treatment, you improve your chances of keeping yourself and your child healthy.