Pregnancy is fragile. It is literally life growing inside of life. From a single fertilized egg to a baby ready to be born, so many things could go wrong in the forty weeks that could mean problems in the pregnancy. In fact, a large percentage of pregnancies do end up in miscarriage, only most of them happen so early in the pregnancy that the woman barely notices that they were pregnant to begin with!
As such, the mom-to-be must avoid certain foods or activities during pregnancy. Smoking is definitely out. Alcohol and caffeine must be cut down. And, as most moms will know, there are certain conditions that can affect the pregnancy as well. After all, the goings-on of the mom’s body can certainly affect that of the little one.
Aside from that, it may be too easy to grab a pill when not feeling well. During pregnancy, however, this may not be the case. In fact, pregnant women are advised to tell their doctors that they are pregnant as some medications used to treat common conditions can put the little one at risk for miscarriage or birth defects. These defects can range from those that are less serious and reparable, such as a cleft lip, or can even be serious, such as a heart defect.
So if the mom-to-be has any of the fifteen conditions listed below, it’s probably best to ensure that she gets adequate, pregnancy-safe treatment that ensures that she and the baby will stay free from harm.
15 Sugar Coma
The first condition to watch out for is diabetes which, as many are familiar with, means abnormally high sugar levels in the blood. This includes mothers who were diagnosed with diabetes prior to pregnancy, but also those who are diagnosed with gestational or pregnancy-induced diabetes. This condition can affect pregnancy firstly because thick, sugary blood can damage small blood vessels and can therefore affect the supply of blood to the uterus.
In addition, babies of diabetic mothers are prone to have macrosomia, a condition in which the body is larger than usual, which can possibly make childbirth more difficult. This is because the excess blood sugar encourages the buildup of body mass and fat tissue. After childbirth, these babies are also prone to developing abnormally low blood sugar levels. Fortunately, however, if diabetes can be managed through medication, there is a much lower risk of having any of these problems.
Hypertension during pregnancy, like diabetes, can mean hypertension diagnosed before the pregnancy as well as pregnancy-induced hypertension or preeclampsia. This is dangerous as hypertensive conditions may be a result of the constricting of blood vessels, which can severely limit the supply of blood to the growing fetus. As such, babies of moms with hypertension are prone to being too small for their gestational age. This may mean that their little bodies may not be mature enough to deal with the outside world upon birth.
In addition, one common class of medication used to treat hypertension is a category known as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or ACE Inhibitors for short. This includes captopril, ramipril and enalapril, all handy antihypertensive medications because of their relatively fast action on blood pressure. The use of ACE inhibitors during pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters, have been found to increase rates of congenital kidney defects in the baby.
13 Pitter Patter Heart
A pregnant woman with a heart problem may find the pregnancy particularly challenging. This is because, during pregnancy, there is a need for an increased volume of blood to supply both the mother and the growing baby. This increased volume means that there is all the more workload on the already fragile heart.
Of course, women with different heart problems of different degrees may have different mileages. It’s important to get an assessment from the physician as to the specific risks involved in the pregnancy. In fact, it’s best for women with heart conditions who want to get pregnant to tell their doctors in advance so that they can get treated as early as possible. In addition, the doctor will also want to make changes in the prescription. This is because medications to treat heart problems include the ACE inhibitors we’ve discussed before, but also other possibly harmful drugs such as certain diuretics and anti-arrhythmic drugs.
12 Sexually Transmitted Infections
Another thing that the mom-to-be will have to get tested for prior to childbirth are sexually transmitted infections. After all, some STIs are associated with increased rates of miscarriage and, sometimes, birth defects. In addition, there may be a high possibility that the infection will get transmitted to the baby during childbirth. This is especially for highly infectious conditions such as HIV and Hepatitis B. This is also why a mom-to-be must get treated for an STI as soon as possible, else a C-section may be the safest choice.
Another hazard when it comes to STIs is that tetracycline, a drug which is used to treat gonorrhea and chlamydia has been found to be associated with specific birth defects. In particular, it affects the bone development of growing fetuses, particularly targeting the bones’ growth plate. This can result in babies that have stunted growth and, often, tooth discoloration.
11 The Worst Skin
Pregnant women can sometimes be prone to acne due to the hormonal changes in the body. The acne itself won’t cause any harm to the baby in most cases. After all, these tend to be limited to the skin and don’t spread as far as the womb. However, it’s best for mom to watch out for her usual acne meds as these can be problematic.
One common drug used to treat acne is isotretinoin, which increases the chances of miscarriage or birth defects. In particular, babies born to moms who have taken isotretinoin during pregnancy have been found to have a higher risk of developing hydrocephalus, blood vessel abnormalities and underdeveloped external ears. It is therefore best for moms with adult acne to check their usual meds or, failing that, ask their doctor or pharmacist if it contains isotretinoin or similar compounds. Additionally, tetracycline, the STI drug that we discussed earlier, is also a common medication for acne.
A woman who is prone to ulcers may experience exacerbation during pregnancy. This is because sometimes pregnancy can result in an increase of stress hormones, which can result in an increase in stomach acid. In addition, the stomach won’t have as big a capacity due to the pressure of the growing womb, which can make for a lot of acid in a very small place. All in all, this can make pregnancy rather uncomfortable.
In addition, one medication that is used to treat stomach ulcers, misoprostol, promotes uterine contractions. In fact, it is also used by doctors in the induction of labor. It is no surprise, then that it is a drug often used to initiate abortion. And when the mom-to-be wants to keep her baby, that’s not exactly the best thing. As well, it’s also associated with an increased risk for brain malformations, especially when taken during the first trimester. So if the mom-to-be suddenly feels those ulcers coming up, perhaps it’s best to check with the doctor to see if her usual prescription meds are safe!
Pain is a symptom, perhaps of a serious condition but sometimes of other minor things. Perhaps mom’s just feeling a lot of back pain due carrying around the heavy tummy, or maybe she’s having migraines. And while pain itself is not likely to affect the pregnancy on the short-term, it’s still best for the mom-to-be to watch out for the medicines that she takes to relieve it.
Aspirin, for instance, can interfere with the formation of the abdominal muscles. This can increase the risk for a condition known as gastroschisis, where the baby’s intestines stick out of a hole in the abdomen. But even drugs such as ibuprofen and celecoxib are also unsafe. These interfere with the closure of the ductus arteriosus, which can lead to problems in oxygenation. Another painkiller to watch out for during pregnancy is diclofenac, commonly prescribed in women with arthritis. This med is linked with the development of pulmonary hypertension in the baby.
Women who are obese, or have a body mass index of 30 and above are at increased risk for certain pregnancy problems. For instance, it increases the risk of developing pregnancy-induced diabetes or hypertension. Women who are obese also have higher rates of miscarriages or even post-term birth. It may therefore be wise for the mom-to-be to work with her doctor so that she can reduce these risks in a way that is healthy for the baby.
In addition, some obese women may have prescriptions for a medication called benzphetamine. This is a medication that has lesser regulation than its more dangerous relatives in the class of the stimulant amphetamines. Some doctors prescribe benzphetamine during weight loss programs to reduce appetite and boost metabolism. However, as most drugs in its family, it is dangerous to pregnancy. Since it affects the hormones that regulate brain function and can cross the placental barrier to boot, it can affect the little one’s brain development.
Having endometriosis can make it tougher to get pregnant. It’s not exactly clear why but studies have found time again that the worse the case of endometriosis, the lower the woman’s fertility. However, once the woman gets pregnant, there aren’t much additional risks to the baby except, perhaps, a slight increase of preterm birth.
What is most concerning, however, is that a drug commonly used to treat it can affect the pregnancy. This drug is nafarelin, which acts by controlling the hormones that regulate pregnancy and the menstrual cycle. This drug contributes in halting the growth of the uterine lining, which is basically a great way to treat endometriosis but not so great for the pregnancy. After all, the uterine lining is extremely important for the growing embryo as this is the source of all oxygen and nutrients. Taking this drug during pregnancy may, therefore, result in miscarriage or birth defects.
Due to screening tests during pregnancy, it is likely that a cancer that has been hiding in the woman’s body all along may be discovered. But then, a cancer diagnosis during pregnancy can pose a dilemma to the expecting mom. This is because some chemotherapeutic drugs target cells that divide fast. And while this includes cancer cells, it can also mean that the fast-growing cells of the embryo are at risk as well, especially during the first trimester.
However, waiting for chemotherapy can also be dangerous. This is especially when the cancer is particularly malignant. In this case, waiting for more than a few months may mean that the cancer will metastasize or spread to different parts of the body. This is why when cancer is detected during the first trimester, sometimes the mom might have to make the tough decision to keep the pregnancy or to go through it and risk her life.
Hyperthyroidism is basically when the thyroid gland, an important part of the body that helps regulate metabolism, is overactive. This condition can exacerbate during pregnancy, since the metabolic requirement during this time naturally increases and can put an additional load on the thyroid gland. As such, women with hyperthyroidism are at increased risk of developing preeclampsia during pregnancy and are also prone to developing an aggravation called thyroid storm. Both these conditions are serious and must be treated as soon as possible.
In addition, it also increases the risk for miscarriage and birth defects. In addition, babies born to moms with hyperthyroidism may also be small for their gestational age or be born premature. Fortunately, however, research has found that women who receive timely and adequate treatment for hyperthyroidism during pregnancy will not have these risks. In fact, their risks are pretty much the same as mothers who are euthyroid, or those who have normal thyroid function.
Conversely, hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is not as active as it should be, which results in low metabolism. This is often the result of an autoimmune disorder which targets the thyroid gland. The very same antibodies that cause this disorder might also target the fetal thyroid gland, which can result in a baby who has hypothyroidism as well. In some cases, the baby will have cretinism, a condition in which physical growth is stunted much like in dwarfism. The difference, however, is that babies with cretinism are likely to have some sort of neurological deficit of some sort, whereas those who simply have dwarfism will likely be neurologically normal.
In addition, hypothyroidism can increase the mom-to-be’s risk for miscarriage, preterm birth and low birth weight. However, like hyperthyroidism, appropriate treatment of this condition during pregnancy can also help ensure that both the mom and the little one have low risks.
Epilepsy and other seizure disorders can also negatively affect pregnancy. This is because the bodily changes of pregnancy, including the increase of fluid volume in the body, will possibly increase the incidence of seizures during this time. In fact, as much as a third of affected mothers will have more seizures than usual during their pregnancy. It is therefore best for the mom-to-be to take precautions that lower her risk for seizures, and that people who are frequently with her are well-trained to ensure her safety during an episode.
What makes matters a bit more complicated is that certain drugs that are used to treat or prevent seizures are also associated with a greater risk for birth defects. Valproic acid, in particular, increases the baby’s risk of developing heart or brain problems. Fortunately, there are a number of alternative drugs that have been found to be associated with lower rates of birth defects, at least when compared to valproic acid.
Asthma during pregnancy can be problematic, but only if it is uncontrolled. This is because asthma attacks can impair the mom-to-be’s breathing. Because of this, overall oxygen levels in the body decrease, which also means that the little one growing in the womb will not be able to get adequate amounts of oxygen as well. Without adequate oxygenation, the baby may not be able to grow properly. This can result in a baby that is small for gestational age, a condition which is associated with many health problems. As well, moms with uncontrolled asthma also have higher rates of preeclampsia.
The best thing for pregnant women to do is, first of all, avoid asthma triggers such as dust and pollen. And while cigarette smoke is known to temporarily relieve asthma because of its dilatory effect on the lungs, it can make things worse on the long term. Finally, it’s best for the mom-to-be to always keep her medication on hand to ensure that any asthma attack doesn’t get so bad that it’s harmful to the baby.
Finally, a major condition that may affect pregnancy is depression. Because of the changing hormones in the body pregnant women are prone to having mood swings. This can make the depression, or even manic episodes, worse. Women with this condition are at increased risk for problems such as miscarriage and premature birth. This is especially if the mom feels so sad that she is unable to eat well or otherwise go on with normal activities of daily living. As well, women with depression may experience a further dip in mood after childbirth, when hormonal levels change drastically again. It is extremely important during this time for the mom-to-be to maintain good social support systems from trusted family and friends. It’s also a good idea to seek professional help.
Of course, there are certain antidepressants that are unsafe to take during pregnancy. After all, these drugs can affect the growing baby’s brain as well. Fortunately, however, a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibiors or SSRIs have been found to have lower risks for birth defects, at least compared to other antidepressants.