Having a baby is a miracle, but it's also very scary. It can be easy one day and physically demanding or even debilitating the next day. It's complicated, that is for certain — and it's becoming even more complicated all the time, physically, emotionally and medically.
Pregnancy complications can put a big damper on the experience of bringing a baby into the world. It means more doctor visits, more tests and procedures, sometimes even hospitalizations and dangerous interventions — and for moms, it means a lot more worry and fear. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dangerous conditions and complications that are on the rise these days, and that means that there are plenty of mothers going through things that they never expected.
Most women think that having a baby in 2018 means that they have all the benefits of medical breakthroughs. The good news is that those breakthroughs mean that a lot more women can have healthy babies, but it also means that more have to go through some scary times to get there. Some of the conditions that you would never expect are more common than ever.
Here are 15 pregnancy complications that are on the rise in 2018.
15 Being Too Heavy
Obesity is an epidemic in America. It was declared an epidemic more than a decade ago, as scientists found that more and more people were extremely overweight. Now about one in three adults in obese, and that includes a lot of pregnant women.
According to a study in Australia that came out earlier this year, the number of moms-to-be that qualify as overweight or obese has increased from 17.3 percent to 23.7 percent over the past 20 years. Extra weight can cause complications for the mom as well as the baby. it has been linked to gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, large babies, risk of C-section and a lot more, and it can even decrease the ability of a woman to get pregnant. Experts are calling for obesity prevention programs to target women before they get pregnant because once it happens, there are likely to be some complications.
14 Gestational Diabetes
We've already talked about the rise in obesity among pregnant women, and with that has come a rise in a lot of the more common pregnancy complications — although obesity isn't always the only cause. In recent years, the rate of gestational diabetes has gone up to about 6 to 8 percent of moms-to-be. That's double what it was in the past, and new guidelines could make the rate increase even more, as there are new recommendations for the cutoff point for the diagnosis.
According to FitPregnancy, gestational diabetes can cause some really serious pregnancy complications such as big babies, delivery issues, and even stillbirth. Being overweight gives a mom an increased possibility of having gestational diabetes, but there are many moms who are exceptionally fit but who still have the condition, which impacts the processing of the glucose in the woman's bloodstream and can pass to the baby through the placenta. Doctors aren't sure about all of the pieces of the increased risk, but losing weight before getting pregnant could help.
One of the scariest dangers of late pregnancy is preeclampsia. For some people, it comes on slowly, but for others it can be quick and scary. Their blood pressure will sky rocket; they will retain a lot of water and feel pretty miserable pretty fast. As bad as they feel o the outside, women suffering from preeclampsia have it even rougher on the inside, where their kidneys, liver and brain could be impacted. And the baby is also in danger and could have to be delivered immediately to save both of them.
The worst part is that preeclampsia is on the rise in the past several years. It increased by one-third in the 2000s and hasn't shown much signs of slowing. And unfortunately, just about any woman could suffer from the condition, although women who have issues such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes are most at risk.
12 A New Kind Of Puffing Problem
While doctors are still concerned about a woman who smokes cigarettes while pregnant — it can be detrimental to her health and the development of the baby — the number of women who partake these days is down dramatically. Unfortunately, there is a new kind of smoking problem that could lead to complications these days. According to a report released late last year, the number of women who smoke marijuana while pregnant has climbed to 7.1 percent. It's as high as 22 percent for pregnant teens, at least in California, where the study was conducted. But there are more and more states legalizing pot these days, so many women think it is safe.
Marijuana can help with anxiety and nausea, but that doesn't mean that women should smoke it while battling morning sickness. The CDC says that THC could pass along to the baby, and it could cause low birth weight and developmental problems. It's a complication that could be avoided if women stop toking while pregnant.
11 Geriatric Moms
There are a lot of factors that can go into whether a pregnancy has complications, and a lot of them involve the mom. It's not just about her health before she gets pregnant; it can also be about other factors in her life, such as her age. There is a big difference between a teen mom and a mom in her 20s — and things are even more pronounced once she's passed the age of 35. After that, doctors call it a "geriatric pregnancy," which makes a woman feel like she is 70 and decrepit. Her body might just feel that way, unfortunately.
There are more and more women who are becoming first time moms when they are older. Some women struggle to conceive when they are younger, and some decide to concentrate on their career before starting a family. People are marrying later in life as well, so that is probably a factor too. But the truth is older moms face a lot more complications than younger ones. Their babies are more likely to have genetic conditions or birth disorders, and they have a higher risk for things like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and early birth. It's not easy being an older mom, but more and more women are doing it these days.
10 Lovingly Transmitted Infections
Sex is what got a woman pregnant, yet all too often, doctors don't talk to pregnant women enough about sexually transmitted infections and what they can do to the baby. According to a CDC report issued last year, the rate of STIs among pregnant women is up dramatically, so the need for testing and treatment is even more important.
The report says that congenital syphilis cases are up by 36 percent, alone. That disease can be dormant in a woman, so she may not even know that she has it until she gives birth to a baby and the infection is passed on to the baby. Herpes can also be passed on to the baby during a flare up, and gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause miscarriage or stillbirth, according to Health24. Researchers say a lot of the cases of babies born with syphilis happen because women get the infection between an initial screening early in pregnancy and the birth, so it's definitely something that doctors need to talk about so the complications don't arise.
9 Mental Health Complications
When a woman who suffers from mental health issues gets pregnant, it can be a real debate as to whether she should continue her medication or stop it. The mom's mental health is a key priority, but the medication can have severe risks for the baby. In fact, it's a major complication that is on the rise in pregnancies these days. Women who were prescribed antidepressants have a doubled risk of having a baby with birth defects, according to a recent research study.
The biggest risk comes in the first trimester, when the baby's organs are developing. Very often, women who aren't planning to get pregnant won't know about the baby until a lot of the organs are already in the works. If the mom is taking her medication, she might have put the baby at risk without even knowing it. There is also an increased risk of autism, gestational hypertension and miscarriage. Many of those women stop their medications when they know about the risk, so doctors are working to inform them of the risks before they get pregnant.
8 C-Section Delivery
For a decade or so now, some people have been alarmed to see the rise in the number of C-section deliveries going on. They worry that doctors are pushing for births because of their concerns about liabilities, and they are too quick to move on to interventions at the first sign of distress. The concerns have caused a lot of women to opt for home births, and they have become a big argument in the mommy wars. But that hasn't reversed the trend. C-sections are still on the rise.
According to a story in The Guardian, people in Great Britain are now concerned about the swift rise in C-section rates. Doctors are trying to reduce the rate of C-sections for first child births, as they can set the stage for interventions needed in subsequent pregnancies. But with all of the other increases in complications often come with the possibility of a C-section delivery. It could mean that the numbers continue to go up despite the concerns.
7 Preterm Birth
A lot of the issues we've already talked about have one thing in common — they cause the need for the baby to be born earlier than expected to avoid any damage to the baby. And that might be one of the reasons that the number of women giving birth early is increasing over and over.
According to the March of Dimes, the preterm birth rate had been in a decline for more than decade, but the last two years, it has reversed the trend and started going up. The organization, which funds research and education to help preterm babies, gave the U.S. a "C" on its report card in November because of the terrible trend. About 380,000 babies are born preterm each year, but the 2015-2016 figure was up by about 8,000 births. Pretty soon it could hit 400,000 babies born early, many of whom will have their entire life impacted by their premature birth.
6 Ectopic Pregnancy
Some women never get to the nine-month mark in pregnancy, but unfortunately, in increasing numbers, all too many don't get to the two-month mark. That's because a very dangerous early pregnancy complication called ectopic pregnancy is on the rise. It's most noted in Nepal, where one hospital usually sees three patients a year, but they are now seeing 10 women a month with the condition.
Ectopic pregnancy can present like a normal pregnancy at first, with a woman feeling tired and a bit of morning sickness before she ends up in severe pain. That's because the fertilized egg attached somewhere outside the uterus, such as in the fallopian tube. Those regions don't expand and grow, so it isn't possible for a healthy pregnancy to continue. If an ectopic pregnancy isn't treated quickly, a woman could lose her fallopian tube or other organs could be damaged. It can also be fatal. Researchers are trying to figure out why the cases are on the rise, but the use of emergency contraceptives and pelvic inflammatory diseases are some of the leading causes for individuals.
5 Complications Of Multiples
The rise of fertility treatments has brought a lot of hope and blessings to families. But they are also responsible for more and more women going through pregnancy complications because they get pregnant with multiples. The rate of multiples was pretty consistent for a hundred years at about 2 percent of births, but since fertility treatments were conceived in the 1980s and 1990s, the numbers have nearly doubled.
With twins, triplets or even more babies on board, women are at a much higher risk for things like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, early labor and other issues. Many end up having to go on bed rest, and moms of multiples can expect to give birth a lot sooner than the due date. Many times, the babies end up going through complications as well. With multiple blessings come multiple complications, and there are more and more moms going through them each year.
4 Survivor Complications
As we just discussed, medical breakthroughs have caused a lot more little miracles to come into the world, and many times it has made women who never thought they could have children become moms. According to NBC News, the number of women who have complications going into pregnancy has increased dramatically, making their nine-month journey even more risky.
In the past, survivors who have gone through cancer treatments would not be able to bear healthy children, and organ transplant recipients were often too fragile to go through a pregnancy. But now, there are more and more who are becoming moms. That's also true for women with heart defects and those who have AIDS. These women are definitely survivors and have some incredible lessons to pass on to their children, but their pregnancy can be pretty complicated. Luckily, they already know how to surmount all odds.
3 Nutrients Out Of Place
The placenta may not seem like a big deal, but it's essential for passing along the right nutrients to the baby during pregnancy. What's more, if it isn't positioned in the way that it should be, the placenta can be the source of some very serious complications — and there is an increase in the number of women who actually have to worry about that these days.
Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta covers a portion of the cervix. Sometimes the condition corrects itself, but it could be very dangerous, leading to bleeding and other issues, and the baby would likely have to be delivered vaginally. According to CafeMom, the rate of placenta previa increased by 26 percent from 2001 to 2009, and placenta accreta, a different version that involves the placenta embedding itself really deeply into the uterine lining, had an even more dramatic increase throughout the 2000s. Both can be very dangerous and can lead to severe risks for the baby and the mom, and it's a shame that more women are having to deal with them these days.
2 Dangerous Labor Complications
We've discussed a lot of problems that can happen throughout the pregnancy, but there are even more complications that are in store for women once the labor and delivery begins. And unfortunately, the number of really dangerous labor complications has gone up tremendously in the past two decades.
According to statistics from the CDC quoted in NPR, women are incredibly more likely to have to have some major interventions during their delivery. The number of blood transfusions has multiplied by five between 1993 and 2014. The number of women who need breathing tubes increased by 75 percent, and the number who ended up with life-threatening sepsis was also up by 75 percent. Women who needed hysterectomies are also up by nearly 60 percent, and that can be devastating for women who hoped to have more children. It's a really scary proposition that these things are on the rise so dramatically.
1 Maternal Rates
The scariest part of all of these surging rates of pregnancy complications means that the end result is that more women are dying when they become moms. It doesn't seem possible since medical breakthroughs for the past 100 years have meant that childbirth isn't such a deadly proposition as it was for much of history. At the turn of the 20th century, it was all too common that women wouldn't make it to raise their little ones, but we all thought that would end in the 21st century. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
There are still places around the world without adequate health care, but in the U.S. the number of maternal deaths increased for 7.2 women per 100,000 births in 1987 to 17.8 per 100,000 births in 2009 and 2011. Many of these deaths could have been prevented, but even with all of the interventions possible, pregnancy and childbirth has inherent and possibly deadly risks. Unfortunately, it looks like that will always be true.
Sources: ABC, Health24, CNN, Science Daily, FitPregnancy, March of Dimes, Pew Research Center, Himalayan Times, NBC News, CafeMom, NPR