When women think of pregnancy, they often imagine a bit of morning sickness, a swollen belly, and a beautiful baby who arrives at the end. However, the World Health Organization predicted at least 300,000 women worldwide would pass each year during pregnancy or labor around the world for reasons such as disease and infection.
Pregnancy is much safer than it used to be, and testing and screenings help doctors recognize any potential problems so they can be dealt with early. However, there are risks to pregnant women, and it's wise to know going in what threats may wait while we're expecting.
Good prenatal care is essential for each woman and baby, and lack of prenatal care has been associated with problems for both. Some conditions that prove fatal during pregnancy are preexisting and simply become worse during pregnancy. Others are related to pregnancy or labor, and good care may be the difference in whether or not a woman lives.
While moms shouldn't spend their pregnancies panicking about what can go wrong, it is a good idea to know the symptoms of problems that can prove fatal if not treated. Because medical care has come such a long way, treatment for problems is often available, but receiving a proper diagnosis in a timely manner can make all the difference. Knowing what symptoms to look out for and what might put mom at higher risk of certain conditions is important.
Read this list and absorb the knowledge to be more aware of possible risks during pregnancy.
12 Ectopic Pregnancy
The only upside to fatal pregnancy complications, if there is one, is that they are extremely rare. That’s true in the case of an ectopic pregnancy, one that is defined as a fertilized egg implanting outside of the uterus.
An ectopic pregnancy is implanted in the wrong place, so the fertilized egg can't survive. However, it can still grow enough to cause a rupture in mom's reproductive sytem. Since ectopic pregnancies usually take place in the fallopian tubes, the tube can burst as the embryo grows, and this can mean bleeding and infection for mom.
If a woman starts experiencing shoulder pain, excessive bleeding, horrible cramping, or dizziness, she needs to see a doctor. Mom may already know she is pregnant, so these symptoms will raise red flags. It's possible to deal with an ectopic pregnancy before it causes harm, but if not treated, the condition can be fatal.
11 Amniotic Fluid Embolism
This is another very rare condition that can occur while mom is pregnant, while she is in labor, or right after the baby arrives. An amniotic fluid embolism occurs when the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby or fetal cells somehow make their way into mom's bloodstream.
Diagnosing this condition is not easy, but symptoms may include low blood pressure, fetal distress, chills, and bleeding from the uterus. No one is 100 percent sure why these types of embolisms occur, but they can be life-threatening. Moms who suffer from preeclampsia, too much amniotic fluid, or are induced seem to have a higher risk of this complication.
Though these types of embolisms are rare, their potential to be fatal is high. It's estimated that 20 percent of women who develop an amniotic fluid embolism will perish because of it. This condition can also be fatal for the baby.
10 Hemorrhaging And Excessive Bleeding
Hemorrhages occur when mom bleeds uncontrollably, and this usually happens during labor or right after birth. While hemorrhages that are treated promptly are manageable, those that are not can threaten the life of the mother.
Hemorrhages occur for a variety of reasons. A woman suffering with placenta problems, such as placenta previa or placenta accreta, stands a chance of hemorhage, as does a woman who doesn't deliver the placenta after birth. A ruptured uterus is a common cause of hemorhage, as is a uterus that doesn't contract properly after the baby is born. Without contractions, the bleeding in the uterus caused by the detachment of the placenta won't stop.
Luckily, mom is usually already in the hospital when a hemorrhage occurs, meaning doctors have eyes on her and can hopefully diagnose and treat the condition promptly. However, postpartum hemorrhages can take place weeks after mom leaves the hospital. That's why it's important to call the doctor if mom doesn't feel right or if bleeding doesn't let up.
9 Placenta Issues
Any problem with the placenta is a problem for mom and baby. The placenta offers nutrients to the baby throughout pregnancy, and if it isn't positioned properly carrying out its function, a plethora of things can go wrong.
Placenta previa, placenta accreta, and placenta percreta can appear in mild or severe cases, but they all stand the potential to cause drama. With placenta previa, a baby may not be able to get out because the placenta blocks off the exit. This can lead to bleeding that can cause a hemorrhage. Placenta accreta means the placenta burrowed too deep into the wall of the uterus, and that can make postpartum bleeding excessive, a real threat to a new mom.
Placenta percreta occurs when the placenta goes through the uterine wall and attaches to the bladder. Again, excessive bleeding often results from this. Since women already lose considerable blood during birth, placenta problems can cause the blood loss to be too much for mom's body to bear.
8 HELLP Syndrome
The name of this condition can be misleading since it does nothing to help mom or baby when it strikes. HELLP is a double whammy disease that is both a blood clotting disorder and liver condition. Mom's red blood cells break down, enzyme levels become elevated, and her blood platelet levels go low, meaning her blood can't properly clot. The combination of all of these problems can be catastrophic, and to treat HELLP, mom has to deliver her baby.
Unfortunately, if HELLP isn't caught in time it can still prove fatal. Plus, if a baby has to be delivered early because mom develops this condition, then the infant can be at risk.
Again, this condition is rare, and it is usually diagnosed in women who have preeclampsia. Symptoms include fatigue, pain in the abdomen, and headaches, but diagnosis can be tricky. If a woman is already struggling with preeclampsia, her doctor may have a hard time realizing she has HELLP syndrome until too late.
7 Suffering From Sepsis
Infections are more common during pregnancy because a woman's immune system is in an altered state in order to allow her baby to grow without being attacked. Sepsis occurs when the infection spreads into the blood stream, and it is life threatening.
While sepsis can occur due to almost any infection, it's more likely for women to have a problem with this condition after childbirth. If a woman develops an infection in her birth canal due to the strain of birth, her body may not be up to fully fighting it off yet. This used to be a leading cause of death in moms, but antibiotics can now knock infections out if they are caught in time.
That's the trick with sepsis, also called blood poisoning. Catching the infection in time is essential for treatment to be effective. That's why mom needs to be aware of how she is feeling during and after pregnancy and report to her doctor if there are any alarming symptoms.
6 Blood Clots
Blood clots can be a problem during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. Women who have to be on bed rest may develop them due to lack of movement, and the older a woman is when she has a baby the more likely she is to have a problem with blood clots.
They usually develop in the legs or pelvic area in the deep veins. Deep vein thrombosis(DVT) can lead to a pulmonary embolism when the DVT break off and make their way to the lungs.
Anticoagulants are given to treat blood clots, but not all are safe during pregnancy. Doctors will work with moms to find one that is. It's also important for women to know that their risk of blood clots doesn't disappear when the baby arrives. Blood clots can form after a child is born, so it's important for mom to talk to her doctor about ways to avoid this potentially fatal problem.
5 Preeclampsia And High Blood Pressure
Preeclampsia is a condition where mom's blood pressure increases to a level that can be dangerous for her and the baby. Doctors will check mom's blood pressure throughout her pregnancy, and they will also check her urine to see if there are high level of proteins. However, preeclampsia can be diagnosed based on blood pressure only.
Symptoms include headaches, nausea, confusion, and anxiety, and a prompt diagnosis can be the difference between a healthy delivery and a completely different outcome. That's one reason prenatal care is so important. Doctors can't manage conditions they don't know about.
Signs of preeclampsia can appear as early as the second trimester, but some don't come along until the third trimester. Seizures and damage to the liver and kidneys can occur with preeclampsia, and this can lead to death if the situation isn't discovered early enough.
4 Having Pneumonia
Mom really does not want to develop any sort of infection during pregnancy, but pneumonia is something to avoid at all costs if possible. Bacterial or viral pneumonia can settle in the lungs and make it difficult for mom to breathe. Because even healthy individuals who are not pregnant still die from this condition, mom will likely be hospitalized and pumped full of drugs to stop this disease in her body.
Moms who previously smoked or who have asthma may be at a higher risk of developing pneumonia, and just like any infection, early diagnosis is key. If mom develops a cough that lingers or becomes worse, she needs to see her doctor to make sure it's not turning into pneumonia.
Pneumonia may cause a baby to be born at a low birth weight or prematurely, and there is always the added risk to the baby if mom has to take a ton of medication while pregnant. While treating pneumonia is essential, not all drugs have been tested to know what the effects on a baby will be if mom ingests them.
For women who live in countries where HIV is a prevalent problem, there is a 25 percent chance of dying from it during pregnancy. That's because women who have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are almost ten times as likely to die due to pregnancy related issues, probably because of HIVs affect on the immune system.
Not much is understood about why HIV affects deaths during pregnancy, though many researchers speculate. What is known is that if a woman has HIV when pregnant, she needs to work with her doctor to receive treatment. Treatment can help her survive the pregnancy, and it may also decrease the risk of her passing the disease on to her child during birth.
Pregnant women are usually tested for HIV early in their pregnancy, but it's possible to take precautions to avoid this disease. Practice safe intimacy, don't use IV drugs, and make sure any blood offered during a blood transfusion has been tested for HIV.
2 Preexisting Depression And Antenatal Depression
It's rarely discussed, but researchers have found that suicide is a leading cause in maternal death. Though other issues, such as infection and blood loss, are talked about and treated, depression and suicide are real problems that pregnant women face.
Women who go into pregnancy with depression will likely not feel better once their pregnancy hormones take hold. Other women may have never had a problem but suddenly don't feel like themselves once pregnant. Even though doctors tend to focus on the physical over the mental, it's important for moms to demand mental health care while pregnant. It could save their lives and those of their children.
Though the CDC and WHO haven't caught up when it comes to listing mental health issues alongside physical ones as possible threats, a British study found that suicide ranked high as a cause of maternal death. That's reason for concern.
1 Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Morning sickness is to be expected when mom is pregnant. However, hyperemesis gravidarum is not the same thing. This violent, extreme sickness that afflicts some women during pregnancy can be life threatening and usually requires hospitalization.
Women with this rare condition often can't eat anything and have trouble even taking sips of fluids. One woman reports choking on her own spit and vomiting until her throat bled. Hyperemesis gravidarum was once the leading cause of death of mothers during the early months of pregnancy.
Without anti-nausea medicine and fluids that can be administered intravenously, women's bodies don't receive the nutrients they need to survive, let alone support a pregnancy.
One of the biggest problems now is that not all doctors take this condition seriously. They assume nausea during pregnancy is just run-of-the-mill morning sickness and ignore mom's pleas for help. Diagnosing mom too late or ignoring her symptoms can be fatal for her and her child.
Resources: TheGuardian.com, Who.int, Mayoclinic.org, Postpartumprogress.com