Getting pregnant is an exhilarating, terrifying and life-changing experience. It is common knowledge that every pregnancy is different and the experience of growing a child varies greatly from one woman to another. In fact, many women who have more than one child report having vastly different pregnancy experiences from one baby to the next.
Some women feel better than ever when pregnant and glow with an effervescent joy that radiates to everyone around them. They eat heartily, sleep well and knit little blankets by firelight at night. These women are the exception and we've never met one of them. In fact, they are as illusive as unicorns.
Most women spend one part of their pregnancy or another in sweats with a messy bun and smudged mascara dreaming of the day their little one will be snuggled safely in their arms, and, more importantly, OUT! It isn't always easy to have a roommate, let alone one who sleeps right on top of your bladder, kicks you in the ribs and won't let you have wine or sushi.
Pregnancy is hard work for every woman, but sometimes the complications of growing a human go beyond leg cramps and heartburn. Read on to find out about 15 rare and dangerous pregnancy complications that make moms who experience them ever so thankful when their baby finally enters the world.
15 Amniotic Band Syndrome
Amniotic band syndrome is very rare, not genetic and if it happens in one pregnancy, there is no greater chance that it will happen again in a future pregnancy. There is also nothing specific that can be done or avoided prenatally that can prevent this from happening to the baby.
It happens when the inner membrane (amnion) ruptures. The fetus is then exposed to fibrous tissues floating in the uterus. These tissues can become wrapped around various limbs and body parts and cause a variety of different deformities.
Babies born with this condition are often already missing limbs or fingers. They are also at times born with necrotic tissue that must then be amputated. The latest treatment for this condition is in utero surgery where an attempt is made to free the baby from any restrictive fibrous tissue.
14 The Mask Of Pregnancy
Melasma, also known as choasma or "The Mask of Pregnancy", affects 50-75% of pregnant women. It appears as brown patches of skin on the forehead, cheeks and upper lip.
Melasma occurs when a rise in estrogen levels causes a higher than normal production of melanin. Along with discoloration on the face, women with melasma may also notice their moles and freckles darkening. It can also result in a dark line down the middle of a woman's stomach know as the linea negra.
The good news is that any discoloration usually goes away completely after delivery or when a woman finishes breastfeeding. There are a few things women can do to help minimize discoloration. Folate deficiency has shown to be a cause of hyperpigmentation, so eating plenty of folic can help. Foods like leafy green vegetables, organges, whole grain bread and prenatal vitamins are all great sources of folic acid. Sun exposure has also been proven to make melasma more pronounced, so using a high SPF and sporting big sunglasses and a floppy hat when in the sun can also diminish effects.
We've all heard of crazy pregnancy cravings that range from the proverbial ice cream and pickles to the more absurd like ribs and peanut butter or cereal soaked in orange juice. One of the lesser known cravings is actually a pregnancy complication known as pica that may affect up to 38% of pregnant women in one form or another
Pica is the Latin word for magpie. Magpies are a bird known to eat everything and anything without discretion. Women with pica have been reported to crave and eat many different non-food items including dirt, sponges, laundry detergent, balloons, chalk and toilet paper.
This condition often goes undiagnosed because women are ashamed and embarrassed to admit what they are eating. It is often only discovered after a woman is admitted for stomach troubles, malnutrition or poisoning. There is no known cause for pica and treatment involves working with a dietitian and psychologist to determine the best course of action for the woman affected. Strange cravings often disappear after pregnancy, but some women's cravings persist after giving birth.
12 Women With HG
Spending day in and day out hugging a toilet is not what most women expect when they dream about pregnancy. Morning sickness is a common pregnancy complication experienced to one degree or another by 70-80% of all pregnant women. Sickness during the first trimester is no walk in the park, but slight nausea and occasional vomiting is nothing compared the symptoms experienced by women suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum, also known as HG.
HG is reported to affect 1-2% of pregnant women. Symptoms of HG include food aversion, severe nausea and vomiting, weight loss, dehydration, headaches, fatigue and confusion. Women suffering from HG may also experience anxiety and/or depression. The cause of HG is unknown, but many health care professionals believe it is caused by a rise in hormone levels, specifically the hormone hcG, created by the placenta during pregnancy.
Treatments for this complication may include intravenous fluids (IV), anti-nausea medication, bed rest, acupressure and even hypnosis. HG usually resolves itself between 16 and 20 weeks, but some women experience it their entire pregnancy.
Kate Middleton has famously been forced to announce her pregnancy early twice due to being admitted to the hospital for HG. While HG usually does not put the baby in any danger, it's certainly a royal pain for the mom afflicted, princess or not.
11 Itchy And Scratchy
Obstetric cholestasis is a very rare disorder that occurs during the third trimester. A dysfunction of the liver, most likely caused by hormones, causes a build up of bile in a woman's blood and causes severe itching.
Most of the time this complication, although uncomfortable, is not dangerous for mom or baby. Physicians may recommend a weekly blood test until the baby is born. The rate of still-birth goes up slightly for women with obstetric cholestasis, so baby's heart rate may be monitored once or twice a week. Induction after 37 weeks is an option for women with severe cases.
Persistent itching, especially on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet is the main symptom of Obstretric Cholestasis. Creams, loose clothing and warm baths may soothe symptoms. The itching usually goes away after birth, but health care professionals suggest having a follow up appointment 6-8 weeks after delivery to ensure the problem has resolved itself. Between 45 and 90 out of 100 women who experience obstetric cholestasis with their first pregnancy will develop it again in subsequent pregnancies.
10 Placenta Previa
Placenta previa affects approximately 1 in 200 pregnant women. It occurs when the placenta is lower than normal in the uterus and is either partially or completely covering the cervix.
Most of the time, the placenta moves upwards as the pregnancy progresses and women are able to deliver as normal. Women who are found to have the condition are monitored to make sure the placenta is moving up and away from the cervix. If the placenta does not move, the patient affected will be put on pelvic rest until the baby is born and will need a C-section as the placenta is blocking the place where baby would normally come out.
If bleeding occurs before the fetus is full term, the patient is hospitalized and monitored to ensure mom and baby are both safe. Often emergency C-sections are needed. Women who experience placenta previa in pregnancy are more likely to have it with subsequent pregnancies.
Complications include breathing and other developmental problems for babies born early and a risk of heavy bleeding for the mother. Blood transfusions are sometimes needed after delivery. Many women with the condition go on to have perfectly healthy babies.
9 Placenta Accreta
Placenta accreta affects 1 in every 553 pregnant women and is on the rise. Experts believe this may have something to do in the rise in cesarian deliveries in recent years. Placenta accreta occurs when all or part of the placenta grows too deeply into the uterine wall. It is usually diagnosed through an ultrasound before delivery.
In a normal delivery, the placenta detaches and is delivered. In cases of placenta accreta, a part of or all of the placenta remains attached. This complication causes severe bleeding after delivery. Often, the placenta attaches to a previous C-section scar, so women who have had previous C-sections are at a higher risk of developing placenta accreta.
A woman diagnosed with placenta accreta usually need a Cesarian delivery and may need a hysterectomy after the baby is delivered. Awareness of this complication is inspiring research and innovation, helping more and more women to survive and thrive after having this traumatic condition.
8 Vasa Previa
Vasa previa is an extremely rare pregnancy complication that only occurs in approximately 1 out of every 2,500 pregnancies. Vasa previa occurs when fetal blood vessels from the umbilical cord or the placenta rest in front of the birth canal. It's believed that vasa previa happens when and if the nutrients at the bottom of the placenta are not as rich as the ones at the top of the placenta.
If diagnosed in time, vasa previa can be treated and both mother and baby have a great chance of survival. The mother is placed on bed rest and may be hospitalized at the beginning of the third trimester. The baby is be given steroids to aid in lung development. Optimal survival rate for babies has been found to be with delivery at 35 weeks.
If undiagnosed, the baby will be treated upon delivery with a blood transfusion and resuscitation if necessary.
7 Blood Clots
Blood clots are coagulated blood loose in the body and may lead to a variety of different complications if left untreated including stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). The risk of developing blood clots goes up slightly in pregnant women and usually occur in the legs or pelvic region.
Symptoms of a blood clot include swelling or pain in one leg or pain that gets worse when walking. If a blood clot is determined in a pregnant women, it will be monitored and anti-coagulation medicine will most likely be prescribed to thin the blood and get rid of the clot.
Blood clots are very rare in pregnancy and only occur on about 1 or 2 in every 1,000 pregnancies. There are things that women can do to reduce their risk of blood clot. Exercising and eating healthy, not being sedentary for long periods of time and refraining from smoking will all reduce blood clot risk.
6 Severe Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is defined as high blood pressure in a pregnant woman that does not normally have high blood pressure. It usually shows up on or after 37 weeks, but has been known to appear at as early as 20 weeks gestation. It can also manifest during or after delivery, and affects about 5% of pregnant women.
Other than high blood pressure, symptoms of preeclampsia are swelling of the hands and feet, protien in the mother's urine and headaches.
The treatment for preeclampsia differs from case to case. If the case is mild, the mother will be monitored closely to make sure symptoms don't worsen. If the case is more severe, the mother may be admitted to the hospital for the duration of her pregnancy for close monitoring. The baby is usually delivered at 34 weeks via C-section, or earlier if mom or baby appear to be in danger.
Most women see their blood pressure go down after delivery, but in some cases the condition worsens after the baby is born. For this reason, mothers with preeclampsia are monitored closely for a few days after giving birth and may be sent home with blood pressure medication.
5 Heart Disease or Heart Attack
Maternal heart disease occurs in at least 1% of pregnancies and is one of the main causes of death in pregnant mothers. Most women who die from maternal heart disease are patients with previously undiagnosed heart disease.
Risk factors for maternal heart disease or heart attack include obesity, mothers older than 30 and previous heart problems. The intensity of pregnancy often reveals heart problems that were present before conception, but undiagnosed. The heart pumps 50% more blood during pregnancy and is put under extra strain.
Heart disease is very common in women so it is important to get regular check ups to ensure that everything is working properly. However, the best way to prevent this complication is to eat healthily, exercise and get plenty of rest before and during pregnancy. It would be a good idea to continue these habits even after you give birth.
4 Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes affects approximately 9% of all pregnant women. It is defined as high blood glucose levels during pregnancy in a woman with no history of diabetes. Women who are already diabetic prior to getting pregnant or high risk of diabetes should be more cautious as the chances of gestational diabetes is higher.
All women undergo a blood glucose screening between 24 and 29 weeks of pregnancy to determine if they have GD. If diagnosed, women are asked to meet with a dietician to learn how to eat and exercise in a way that will keep their blood sugar levels stable. If blood sugar levels get too high, a woman runs the risk of her baby having high glucose levels as well and growing too big. This may result in a Cesarean section in order to get baby out safely and may also cause the baby to have dangerously low blood sugar following delivery.
This complication is highly treatable, often with diet and exercise alone. Sweet!
3 Back Pain
Pregnant women produce a hormone called relaxin that helps the muscles of the pelvis to relax and loosen in preparation for delivery. This same hormone is at times to blame for also loosening spinal muscles, which can cause discomfort.
Most women should expect to have some sort of slight back pain or discomfort during pregnancy. However, when back pain begins to interfere with sleep or daily activities, there are steps women can take to get relief. It's not new that back pain and pregnancy sometimes go hand in hand however there are ways to help yourself get comfortable.
Sleeping on one side with a pillow between the legs, using heating pads, avoiding high heeled shoes, wearing a support band and visiting a massage therapist or chiropractor are all steps women with debilitating back pain in pregnancy can take to find relief.
Edema is swelling of the feet and ankles and is most common during the third trimester. Swelling can be blamed on water retention and a change in the blood's chemistry during pregnancy. Some women will swell more than others and swelling is usually worse in the summer months or at the end of a long day.
There are many steps women can take to decrease swelling and find relief. Drinking plenty of water can actually help to reduce swelling. So can exercise, elevating feet when possible, and not sitting still for extended periods of time or spending too much time standing.
Swelling in one leg more than the other may be a sign of a blood clot, and excess swelling the face and eyes may be a sign of preeclampsia. Watch for these symptoms and contact a health care provider if they manifest themselves. Swelling usually begins to go away within 24 hours of delivery.
Anemia is a condition in which the body does not produce enough red blood cells, or the blood cells don't contain enough hemoglobin. The symptoms of anemia in pregnancy can include extreme exhaustion, weakness, headaches,rapid heart rate and irritability.
If untreated, anemia can lead to pre-term labor, low birth weight for baby and postpartum depression. Risk factors for anemia include back to back pregnancies close together, teen pregnancy, vomiting due to morning sickness or a diet lacking iron or other nutrients.
Anemia is usually a result of low iron, but could also mean a lack of vitamin B12 or folate. Eating lean red meats, green leafy vegetables, beans or seeds and nuts can help bring iron levels up and improve anemia symptoms. It's important to eat a diet high in iron while pregnant and to continue this diet after delivery to assist in recovery.