Pregnancy is both an exciting and intimidating time for a woman. Not only is she preparing for the arrival of her little one, but her body is going through changes that may not ever have happened before. While everyone hopes for a healthy pregnancy, occasional health issues may occur. Here are five common complications, and ways you can help prevent them.
- Gestational Diabetes
- High Blood Pressure
- Preterm Labor
Gestational diabetes is named as such because it is a condition that develops during pregnancy and passes afterward. This, fortunately, means that it is only temporary. Hormonal alterations during pregnancy cause the body to either not produce enough insulin or prevent it from using produced insulin as it normally should. This is called insulin resistance. There are a few ways to keep gestational diabetes under control. One method is to practice yoga for pregnant women. Other types of scheduled physical activity are also helpful, as well as adopting a special meal plan under the guidance of your doctor, nurse educator, or another member of your healthcare team.
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure occurs when your arteries become tapered and make blood flow more difficult. This subsequently can inhibit the delivery of blood to the fetus. If high blood pressure continues after 20 weeks of pregnancy, conditions such as preeclampsia and HELLP (an acronym that stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count), a severe and life-threatening condition, can develop. Women who are overweight or obese, over 40 when becoming pregnant, smoke or drink alcohol, or are carrying multiples (among other factors) are at risk for high blood pressure, but the condition can be addressed with a healthier lifestyle, especially before the pregnancy, via a good diet and regular exercise. Medication may also be taken to treat hypertension.
Preeclampsia is a complication during pregnancy that is characterized by high blood pressure. There may also be signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy and can only be treated by the delivery of your baby. Left untreated, preeclampsia can have serious, and even fatal, complications for both you and your baby. Symptoms of preeclampsia may not always be noticeable, but can include high blood pressure (either developed slowly or onset suddenly), severe headaches, changes in vision, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath, among others. Certain factors increase your risk of developing preeclampsia, such as having chronic hypertension or being very young or over 40 when becoming pregnant, so it’s important to have regular check-ups with your doctor so that he or she can keep a close eye on your condition.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, preterm labor is defined as regular contractions that start before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies who are born too early may not be fully developed, leaving them susceptible to health disorders. Women who have had a previous preterm birth, a short cervix, a short interval between pregnancies, certain pregnancy complications, or other factors are at higher risk for preterm labor. It is important to start prenatal care early to prevent preterm birth.
A pregnancy that ends on its own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation, is termed a miscarriage. The causes are varied and often are not identified. There is generally a 15-20% chance for healthy women to have a miscarriage. Warning signs of a miscarriage include mild to severe back pain (often more painful than menstrual cramps), weight loss, white-pink mucus, brown or bright red bleeding with or without cramps, and true contractions. Prevention of a miscarriage includes regular exercise, healthy eating, managing stress, avoiding smoking, keeping weight within a healthy range, and taking folic acid daily.