Medical procedures are aimed to improve the quality of life that the patient has. However, what may be beneficial to the mother may actually hurt her fetus. Certainly, expectant moms do not intend to endanger their babies, but a pregnant woman does not know, and may not understand how certain medical procedures could affect her pregnancy. Therefore, medical practitioners are obliged to inform their patients about the consequences of medical procedures on both the mother and her fetus. The mother should also know that there are several procedures still used to this day and have the potential to harm the fetus.
It's not a secret that many medical procedures can affect the fetus negatively, and pregnancy is already a very sensitive phase that is easily affected by the slightest variations. Sometimes some of the following procedures are necessary to save the life of the mother and the only thing that can be done to minimize the damage done to the fetus. In other instances, procedures can be postponed, and in those cases it should be done. The physiological conditions that are necessary for the survival and development of the fetus can be easily disrupted either directly or indirectly. The following are 14 procedures that should be postponed because of the potential harm that can befall the fetus.
14 Vitamin D Supplements
Excess intake of this vitamin or its precursors may cause premature bone formation, which is a very painful process to the fetus and very dangerous, too. In the second half of pregnancy, the mother is advised to take Vitamin D supplements because the fetus' ossification process starts during that time. In case of decreases in the levels of vitamin D in the blood stream, the mother will suffer from bone pain and bone deformities as the fetus leeches calcium and vitamin D from her.
Due to pregnancy hormones, the the amount of vitamin D in Mom-to-be will be prioritized for her growing baby. If the mother is on vitamin D supplements, naturally she is risking harm to her baby. It's instead preferred to obtain vitamin D from natural sources such as diet, so it is therefore advisable to limit the hours of exposure to the sun to avoid vitamin D production.
13 Aspirin Related Therapies
Any medical procedure that necessitates introduction of aspirin has a potential of hurting the fetus. This is due to the fact that the fetus requires a well balanced and consistent level in blood pressure. Any slight variation of this pressure, especially in the umbilical cord has a damaging potential. Increased vasodilation or solubility of the blood would allow more immune cells to enter the uterus, which in turn may kill or harm the fetus.
Besides, any decrease of the solubility of the blood would prevent the supplement of the fetus with the essential amount of nutrients and gas. It would facilitate the accumulation of nitrogenous wastes around the fetus that result from the cellular mitotic division and maturation. It should be noted that aspirin by itself does not cause harm to the fetus, but any drug has a potential of damaging the cells by its inactive components.
12 Invasive Uterus Exams
This is a medical procedure that is used to check the condition of the uterus. This procedure causes distress for the fetus and it can cause severe damage because the cells of the fetus are very vulnerable and lack a protective structure. Hysteroscopy is usually postponed in the early stages of pregnancy and until after the delivery. This is because even if it did not cause direct developmental damage to the fetus, any violation of the uterus can cause an abortion; the stimulation of the smooth muscles of the uterus or damage to the amniotic sac is detrimental to the fetus.
A hysteroscopy is done by inserting a thin, lighted tube and camera through the vagina. Although most of the microorganisms in the vagina are beneficial to the mother, they may not be for the fetus. A hysteroscopy may cause some of the microorganisms that are found in the genital tract to make their way into the uterus, thus causing infection to the fetus.
11 X-ray Exams
Radiation damages mostly the undifferentiated and premature cells, so it mainly targets the cells of the fetus. Therefore, pregnancy is stated as a contraindication for x-ray examination. In addition, the chemicals that are used in some x-ray examinations have a devastating effect on the cellular level of the fetus due to their chemical properties that caused it to be absorbed by the premature cells. When they are in the cells, they may alter the DNA and thus create mutations, which in this case is unfavorable and would terminate a pregnancy or cause severe birth defects if it occurs in the early stages.
X-ray radiation is usually replaced with other types that use a lower power of penetrating rays such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance therapy (MRT). Even though MRT is rarely used due to the physical pressure it applies, which is also a damaging factor to the fetus, in cases of necessity it is preferred over x-ray examination.
10 Acupuncture Therapies
This is not by itself a medical procedure, however it is still used in some countries as a method to relieve pain including pain of pregnancy. The basic method by which it relieves pain is that it prevents propagation of pain stimulus into the brain. Nevertheless, it does nothing to prevent the production of substance P, which is the main stimulator of pain.
Since acupuncture is applied to several major nerves at the same time, substance P may propagate to the fetus and stimulate its brain so it would feel pain. This is still a controversial topic among scientists due to uncertainty of whether the fetus can feel pain or not, but it is highly advised not to undergo acupuncture during pregnancy. In addition, if smooth muscle contraction is stimulated by this procedure, premature delivery or miscarriage may occur depending on the age of the fetus.
9 Surgery Of Any Kind
Any general surgery can damage the fetus due to several factors such as change in the physiological mediums in the postoperative stages, especially the first two stages. The other damaging factor is the general anesthesia that not only causes physical damage to the fetus but also mental ones. Opioids in general harm the fetus, even if they are given in medical doses, because they have direct effects on the central nervous system (CNS), which is still undeveloped in the fetus.
They act as blockers to the CNS in adults, but for a limited time only. In the fetus they act as antagonists to the CNS and alter its function. That is why pregnancy is usually a contraindication to any surgical procedure that is possible to be postponed. However, special surgical procedures can be used in order to minimize the damage to the fetus if the surgery is necessary. It should be mentioned that the opioids effect decreases as we move toward the delivery date.
8 Antibiotic Treatments
Any treatment of this kind almost insures harm to the fetus. The fetus in such cases is identified as an antigen or a foreign body, which should be attacked. But even if somehow the fetus is undamaged by the antibiotics themselves, the inflammatory reaction that they induce will inevitably cause harm to it. This is a very serious problem due to its complexity.
Basically, any presence of antibiotics would cause an inflammatory reaction that affects the fetus by increasing the overall body temperature (Calor) and by decreasing the functional ability of the maternal body (Dysfunction). Either of these is enough by itself to harm the fetus, so there is even greater harm when both occur. Calor would cause vasodilation, and it has an aspirin-like effect. Dysfunction prevents the supplement of the necessary nutrients and gases needed to the fetus to sustain the active state of mitosis and maturation of its cells, thus causing termination and killing it.
7 Hormonal Treatments
Pregnancy by itself is controlled by hormones. Introduction of one or several hormones may disturb pregnancy and lead to miscarriage. Theoretically, all hormonal dysregulations may harm the fetus and even kill it. The most harmful hormones that hurt the fetus are the steroid derived hormones. Pregnancy is sustained by the fine balance of all hormones, but mainly by the balance of progesterone and estrogen that have to remain at their peaks to preserve pregnancy. Even the slightest deviation may cause termination of pregnancy.
It should be noted that hormone treatment does not affect the fetus directly, but instead it harms it in different ways. The first way is initiation of the menstrual cycle thus killing the fetus in the process. The second way is by possible tampering of mom-t0-be's immune system. In case her immune system is suppressed, the fetus will be attacked by the microorganisms that are present naturally in the maternal system and are part of her natural bacteria; consequently, they may completely kill the fetus or cause irreversible damage. In case of a suppressed immune system, mom-to-be's system will identify the fetus as a foreign body and attack it, which would kill the fetus or cause malformations. This problem is very evident with artificial insemination.
6 Plasma Supplements Or Replacements
The main mechanism of damage to a fetus is the increase of blood pressure. The increase may lead to a rupture in the blood vessels, causing bleeding surrounding the fetus, or it may even prevent blood supply to the baby. The second way by which the fetus is harmed is through coagulation that disturbs the required oncotic blood pressure in the uterus.
However, if the plasma level decreases dramatically in the blood, it may even cause more damage to the fetus due to decreased solubility of gases and nutrients in the blood. This is a very real problem, and even if the amount of red blood cells is normal, if the plasma proteins decrease, then delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the fetus also decreases. In case of plasma replacement, donor antibodies may be transmitted, and they would attack the fetus or even worse, they may lead to shock.
5 Aqua Therapies
This form of nontraditional manipulation is mostly used as a complementary or alternative treatment. The problem with prolonged aqua therapy in pregnant women is the change of the external pressure on the fetus. On the other hand, if this procedure is done for an appropriate time it has benefits, and improves the overall condition of the mother and the fetus.
If it is prolonged, then the difference in pressure between when mom-to-be is in the water and when she is not, causes variations in the overall physiological processes in the fetus, which could be harmful. This is manifested on both levels, being cellular and physiological. On the cellular level, it affects the speed of the fetus' cell divisions and their density. The second stage is the difference in the physiological processes that may cause fetal toxicity because of the increase of nitrite levels when mom's physiological regulatory mechanism are disrupted.
4 Ice Packs On The Abdomen
This method is used in some medical procedures to decrease the temperature or decrease the dilation of blood vessels. It hurts the fetus and may cause miscarriage due to possible localalized hypothermia placed on the abdomen. It may also cause hyperthermia due to the reflex mechanism if it's placed on mom's head. The mechanism is due to stimulation of cold receptors that will order the body to produce more heat to compensate.
Since the amniotic temperature depends on the temperature of the mother, the temperature directly affects the fetus who still has no adaptive mechanism. Application of an ice pack in pregnancy should be done only if required, and only for a limited time to prevent any harm to the fetus. This not only applies to ice packs, but to all methods that may cause hypothermia, or potentially decrease the temperature of mom-to-be.
3 Hot Packs On The Abdomen
Sometimes, mom-to-be is advised to apply hot packs for certain conditions such as pain, or to help expand blood vessels (vasodilation) for circulation to help relieve bruises or other injuries. This superficial heat by itself has little to no effect on the fetus due to the protective layers surrounding it, yet the vasodilation by itself causes harm. As with the use of aspirin, vasodilation allows more immunoglobulins to pass through the uterine barrier and cause immune reactions in the fetus. Immunoglobulins consider the fetus as something foreign, so they attack the baby. This can lead to miscarriage, especially if it happens in the first half of the first trimester.
Additionally, if a hot pack is applied directly after fertilization, vasodilation may prevent the formation of blood vessels in the fetus, which would prevent the formation of the fetus altogether.
2 Endoscopic Exams
Also known as the endoscopic examination of the urinary tract, this is an invasive endoscopic procedure with the aim to examine the urinary tract. Although both the genital and urinary tracts in the female body are separated, they are correlated by nervous stimuli (both tracts share some nerves). So in case of pregnancy, such a procedure is not advisable.
In addition, moms-to-be have sensitive blood vessels surrounding the area due to the vascularization of the uterus. Thus, any manipulation may cause bleeding that will hurt the fetus. Another factor that plays a huge role is the chemical substances that are used in this examination. The chemicals used may cause allergic reactions to both the baby and mom, and they cause both direct and indirect harm. The direct harm is by the direct action the chemicals will cause, such as itching-like responses to the fetus, whereas the indirect type is caused by a hypersensitivity reaction.
1 Pelvic Exams
This is where the doctor examines the vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum, and the pelvis. This may cause massive nervous depolarization that in turn stimulates pain-like responses in the fetus. It should be mentioned that pregnancy is one of the major indications for this procedure. However, it has been proven that it causes harm to the fetus, especially in the second trimester.
This harm is not due to the invasiveness of the procedure, but is caused by the stimulation of the vaginal receptors, so if a local anesthetic is applied, it should prevent the fetus from being hurt. Unfortunately, this is not always true due to the mechanisms by which the anesthetic works. In other words, even if they are applied, the fetus may still be hurt, but there is no real damage or long term risk to the fetus. Therefore, mom-to-be is advised to have the procedure only when absolutely necessary.