During Pregnancy, diseases or conditions could affect the pregnant person or her child. These conditions or diseases are referred to as pregnancy complications.
They can be physical or mental and can threaten the life of the pregnant person, their child or both.
Pregnancy complications can result from already existing health conditions before pregnancy or new ones occurring during pregnancy.
Common pregnancy complications
- Ectopic pregnancy: This is a condition whereby the fertilized egg lodges and plants itself outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes. Because the eggs cannot develop outside the Uterus, surgery will be required to remove the tissue, or medications as the case may be.
- Miscarriage: This is a situation whereby the pregnancy is lost in the first 20 weeks. 10% to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and about 80% of these miscarriages occur within the first trimester.
- Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG): This is serious persistent vomiting during pregnancy that can result in dehydration and drastic weight loss.
- Preeclampsia: This condition usually occurs during the second half of pregnancy or after delivery. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and accounts for about 10% of complications during pregnancy. However, the condition might go away after the baby is born.
- Gestational diabetes: During pregnancy, the hormones involved might make it difficult for metabolism to take place and keep the blood sugar level stable. This results in gestational diabetes. A condition where diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. This condition may also resolve once the baby is born.
- Preterm labour: Going into labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as preterm labour and this may lead to a baby being born with underdeveloped organs or at very low birth weight.
- Infections: Viral, bacterial and Sexually transmitted infections before or during pregnancy can lead to complications in pregnancy if left untreated. Most of these infections can be passed on to the fetus leading to more severe complications.
- Vaginal bleeding: Bleeding, whether heavy or in excess during pregnancy is not normal and calls for immediate care and attention from the pregnancy service provider.
- Placenta previa or placenta accreta: This is a complication or problem with the placenta which can affect pregnancy, labour and delivery.
- Low amniotic fluid: Low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios) implies that the fetus is not surrounded by enough amniotic fluid which is required for its age/stage. A similar condition is a case where there is too much amniotic fluid, although this is less common. This condition increases the risk of a baby being born preterm.
- Anxiety and depression: Extreme feelings of fear and worry can affect the development of the fetus and affect the health of the mother leading to complications.
- Anaemia: During pregnancy, more red blood cells are required to be able to transmit enough oxygen from the mother to the fetus. A shortage of this blood is referred to as anaemia. It comes with a feeling of weakness and tiredness and can be caused by iron deficiency. Supplements and food rich in iron can help prevent this condition.
On the occasion of any of these conditions listed above, do not hesitate to speak to your care provider. Also, honest and frequent conversations with your pregnancy care provider are highly recommended even in the absence of any of the enlisted conditions.
Who is at risk for pregnancy complications?
Women with an existing chronic medical condition before pregnancy are at higher risk of developing complications during pregnancy. Asides from that, anyone can also be at risk of a complicated pregnancy.
Risk factors that can cause pregnancy complications:
- Kidney problems.
- High blood pressure.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Most complications during pregnancy are completely out of control but some things can be done to lower the risks of them occurring and they include the following:
- Stay healthy before pregnancy.
- Always speak to your service provider if you notice any unusual symptoms.
- Live a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and adhere to every instruction given to you by your caregiver or doctor.
- Get plenty of rest during pregnancy.
- Take all prenatal vitamins and supplements given to you.
A key to avoiding pregnancy complications is regular prenatal care, not missing any of your appointments with the doctor and honest conversations during such meetings. This will help the caregivers monitor you, be able to detect any complications and administer prompt treatment where necessary.