The fact is, pregnancy is very hard on the human body. All sorts of complications arise when a woman starts growing another life inside her with your her own body, and people have been struggling with fixing these complications for centuries. The maternal death rate was high from these complications.
In the 19th century, the rate of maternal mortality was 500 to 1000 for every 100,000 births. So was infant mortality, and only about half of all infants made it to the age of 5.
We have had some success with many of these complications. According to Our World In Data, the maternal mortality rate has dropped to 1% of that rate in developed countries.
Granted, dealing with these complications does not make for a romantic pregnancy. Insulin pumps and amniocentesis are not the fun parts of this experience. Definitely, it isn’t natural. In fact, the solution is sometimes a cesarean and a long stay in the NICU. However, if the result of doing these things is a healthy, happy baby and a healthy, happy you, it’s worth the work. And, fortunately, the solution to a complication is sometimes not very complicated at all. The following pregnancy difficulties now have solutions.
15 Never-Ending Nausea
The most famous sign of pregnancy is throwing up. Many women don’t throw up, though, and no one should be throwing up so much that they lose weight, feel faint and become dehydrated. When a pregnant woman cannot keep down much of anything, this is, according to NIH, called hyperemesis gravidarum. Sometimes this persistent nausea goes away after the 20th week, but it sometimes can last the whole pregnancy.
Famously, there was a medication that cured this nausea, but it had a pretty drastic downside: it stunted the limb development of the babies.
Today, if you suffer from nausea so persistent and severe that it causes jaundice, headaches, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate, you might have to be hospitalized and given fluid intravenously. The doctor might also prescribe antihistamines, antireflux medications, and metoclopramide, according to americanpregnancy.org.
14 Full To Bursting
Many pregnant women feel bloated, and there are times when this bloating is from way too much amniotic fluid gathering in your womb. According to Healthline.com, your amniotic fluid pockets should be measuring at 8 cm. If you measure more than this (and the signs will be that you will gain way too much weight very fast) than you have polyhydramnios. It’s a condition that affects about 1% of pregnancies and is sometimes caused by birth defects or gestational diabetes. Other times, there is no cause. Mild cases don’t require much beyond monitoring. But there will be a lot of monitoring. With this condition, you have an increased risk of bleeding complications, breech birth and uterine cord slipping out before the baby. Consequently, the best solution may be an early induced labor to make sure the birth avoids those complications.
13 Too Little Amniotic Fluid
A lot of the roundness that a pregnant woman develops is from amniotic fluid. Or it, at least, it is supposed to be. Sometimes, if the fetus doesn’t develop a kidney, you have certain medical conditions or your womb has sprung a leak, you may have too little amniotic fluid.
This condition is technically called oligohydramnios, and it can be very dangerous for the baby.
According to babycenter.com, the first sign is that you are not putting on enough weight. The doctor will perform an ultrasound and measure how much amniotic fluid you have. If you are low on the fluid, your pregnancy gets intense: you will be asked to drink a lot of fluids and do a lot of tests to monitor the baby’s development. There will be fetal kick counts, Doppler studies, and nonstress tests. If it looks like the infant is not thriving in the womb, the medical practitioner may induce labor. During labor, they might pipe warm saline water into you to keep the umbilical cord from getting crushed.
12 The Pregnancy Sugar
Diabetes is one of those creeping horrors that prove how mean Mother Nature can be when she feels the urge. Untreated, it can eat you and the baby from the inside out, and appearing just when you are pregnant is a particularly nasty trick. Fortunately, diabetes has been put on a leash since we discovered how to create insulin. According to diabetes.org, if you develop gestational diabetes, your doctor will probably prescribe special meal plans and scheduled exercise. You will possibly have to test your blood glucose daily and get on insulin, too. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you keep your blood sugar level below 95 mg/dl before a meal, so that is something to keep in mind if you have to monitor your glucose levels.
The good news with gestational diabetes is that it goes away once you give birth. And if you follow your doctor’s treatment plan, your pregnancy and baby will be a-ok.
11 Iron-Deficiency Anemia
A pregnant woman is producing blood for two, and the increased iron needs can leave women who are already struggling to meet their nutritional needs deficient. It can cause pre-term labor and low birth weight in infants.
According to the National Institute for Health, the symptoms are shortness of breath, chest pain, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, feeling faint, and becoming pale.
I know, I know, you are already feeling like you can never keep up with the nutritional demands of the baby, and most prenatal vitamins have iron in them. ACOG recommends 27 milligrams of iron daily for pregnant women, but some women need more than that. Your doctor can screen you for iron-deficiency anemia and check for causes of the deficiency. You will probably wind up with more iron pills.
10 Problems For The Baby's Blood
Blood typing is a bit more complicated than some folks let on. There is the Rh factor, which is a protein that stays on the surface of red blood cells, for one thing. Most people have it and are called Rh-positive. Some don’t though and are fittingly called Rh-negative. If the mother is Rh-negative and the baby inherited the Rh protein from his dad, the mom can become, in a sense, allergic to her baby’s blood under certain circumstances. It even has a whole entry at AmericanPregnancy.org, where they explain that this can cause the woman’s immune system to treat the infant like a foreign body and send antibodies through the placenta to tear the fetus’s red blood cells apart. You can imagine the damage that does.
Because of this, you will have your blood tested early in your pregnancy. If you are Rh-negative, and you have the risk factors that could lead to this condition, the doctor will likely prescribe RhIg to prevent sensitization. If the infant is being attacked by the antibodies already, the baby will get a blood transfusion to replace the blood.
9 Blood Pressure Problems
Pregnancy can wreck your blood pressure. It can make it spike, and the high blood pressure can cause seizures, dizziness, nausea, and blood in the urine. In times past, women who showed up with these symptoms had little chance of making it. During the 1980s, they were told to lay off the salt, but, according to WebMD, the treatment has changed. Doctors recommend bed rest, and if it gets worse, they can prescribe blood pressure medication as well as magnesium sulfate to control seizures.
If you are very far along and your blood pressure stays high, your doctor may induce labor or perform a C-section.
This treatment was a long time coming. Pre-eclampsia was first described by Hippocrates in 400 AD. The only remedies suggested were leeches and wacky diets, and, no, they didn’t work. In the 1800s, doctors were still inducing vomiting and bleeding in victims. Magnesium sulfate injections were proved to be the better solution in the 1990s.
8 Stinky Down There
Some bacteria are perfectly harmless until they reach a dangerous level. Certain bacteria are normal to have in your nether regions, but a lot of women have one or another of the bacteria growing wild. It’s the most common cause of infection for that body part for women between the ages of 15 and 44. The symptoms of the condition, according to the CDC, are a gray or white discharge from the nether regions, pain or itching in the area, burning during urination, and itching around the outside of the V. It will also stink of fish down there. If you are pregnant and you don’t get it treated, it could cause preterm birth and low birth weight. Fortunately, it’s an easy condition to treat with the antibiotics Metronidazole and Clindamycin. Take the full course of antibiotics and you're good to go.
7 Another Bacteria To Keep Away From The Baby
No one likes to think that they are carrying something that can hurt their baby. Unfortunately, gonorrhea is another of those diseases that you can carry without knowing it that can lead to your infant getting infected at birth and getting very sick. It used to lead to blindness. These days, if you are treated early with antibiotics and the infant gets the medicated eye drops that most states mandate, it won’t be a big deal. According to the CDC, the symptoms to look out for are burning when you urinate and increased discharge down there. I would add bleeding between periods, but if you are pregnant and bleeding, it goes without saying that something has gone wrong.
Unfortunately, a lot of times the disease doesn’t make itself known at all or the symptoms are mistaken for another type of infection.
It’s not a particularly noticeable disease. This is why infants should get those medicated eye drops when they are born, regardless of whether the mom thinks she has the disease or not.
6 Out Of The Oven Too Soon
Before the 1900s, if an infant was born less than 34 weeks into the pregnancy, it basically was the end of the infant. If people couldn’t keep the baby warm and developing for a couple of months, he would simply fade away, with the lungs, digestive tract, and possibly skin undeveloped. Then Dr. Martin Couney developed baby incubators and went on a whirlwind tour of county fairs and exhibitions, exhibiting real-live prematurely born infants incubating away in little see-through boxes where they were kept warm and safe. Nurses attended these babies between showings, and Couney invited parents and survivors of his process to give testimonials to the public about how healthy the kids are now.
These days, according to WebMD, there are multiple types of incubators for preemies in different stages of development.
If your infant is born prematurely, they will be put in a wing devoted to incubating babies with the care providers trained in tending to them. These days, infants born at 23 weeks have a 50/50 chance of surviving to go home, and older preemies are practically guaranteed to make it.
5 Parasites And The Infections That Love Them
When you get pregnant, one of the first things you will hear is that you can’t change your cat’s litter box because you might pick up a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. The parasite in question, toxoplasmosis gondi, is incredibly common: a recent Sawbones podcast episode said that something like half of everyone are carriers. Most adults have, at most, mild flu-like symptoms if they develop the infection. However, a fetus exposed to the infection can be born blind, deaf, or developmentally delayed. Toxoplasmosis is treatable with good ol’ pyrimethamine, spiramycin or leucovorin. According to Medscape, a complete recovery for a pregnant woman is far more difficult than for someone who isn’t pregnant. So don’t just get someone else to clean the litter box, but cook your food thoroughly, and wash your hands and utensils completely.
4 Group-B Strep
Some complications of pregnancy are not hard on you. Group B Strep is a common bacterium that shows up in rectums and nether regions of about a quarter of all women. It doesn’t cause any symptoms in the woman and it doesn’t hurt them. However, it is deadly to the baby if it gets it during birth. If the infant contracts it, the baby can develop pneumonia and turn septic. According to the Women’s Health Group, it is a pretty simple fix.
There are antibiotics that will simply wipe it out.
You can get tested for it in the 35th to 37th week, which will involve a quick and painless swabbing. If you come up positive, you can tell the delivery staff that you’re a carrier. The antibiotics, generally penicillin, will be administered during labor through the vein.
3 Vasa Previa
Vasa may sound like a pretty name for a Russian girl, but vasa previa is an ugly condition. It is a rare condition where the umbilical cord doesn’t start off in the placenta and the vessels carrying cord blood are unprotected and sitting in front of the internal cervical. Babies who have this condition have a 50% chance of having these blood vessels tearing open and bleeding out. The first case of the condition was reported in 1881, but before the invention of the sonogram, there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. There was a warning sign, bleeding deep red blood, but it normally it took people by surprise.
Pregnancycorner.com reports that now the condition can be detected early with a transvaginal sonography. If your doctor thinks you have the risk factors for vasa previa, he or she can conduct this test and then the two of you will have to keep an eye on the pregnancy. A c-section may be scheduled for the 35th to 37th week of pregnancy, and everyone will be ready to give the baby an emergency blood transfusion in case of rupture. You might have to spend your 3rd trimester in the hospital and the infant might get steroids to develop the lungs. Following these procedures, you have a 97% chance of having a perfectly healthy infant.
2 Preterm Labor
Going into labor before the 37th week is bad news, as the baby is not thoroughly ‘cooked’ yet. Like a cake that is runny on the inside, things aren’t firmed up. According to WebMD, the signs to look for are cramps, changes in vaginal discharge, regular contractions, pressure on your pelvis or belly, and generally not feeling well. If you have these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor.
What your doctor will do about these symptoms will depend on whether your water has broken, how developed and healthy the baby is, how close you are to a NICU, and how healthy you are.
In certain circumstances, they might just run you to the delivery wing and rush the baby to the NICU unit. If your labor progresses and they want to buy some time, the doctor or midwife may give you tocolytic medicines to slow down the labor, steroids to help develop the baby’s lungs, and magnesium sulfate to reduce the risk of cerebral palsy.
1 Egg In The Wrong Place
Some pregnancies are not meant to be. These would be the ones where the fertilized eggs are not in their prescribed place, namely your uterus. Eggs that implant in your abdomen or fallopian tubes won’t survive, but they will try to take you out when they go. You can wind up with a fallopian tube rupture and generally in a world of hurt. According to WebMD, the symptoms will show up in the first couple of weeks of pregnancy, and the signs you should look out for are bleeding and pelvic pain. Other symptoms are nausea with pain, dizziness, and pain on one side of your body. You should especially call your doctor if you start bleeding so much you faint.
There are some simple fixes for ectopic pregnancies. Laparoscopic surgery to remove the doomed and trouble-making egg is a common solution. If you caught the pregnancy early and nothing else went wrong, the doctor will probably give you an injection of methotrexate, which will stop it in its tracks. You may need more surgery if your fallopian tubes were damaged, however.
References: ourworldindata.org, preeclampsia.org, webmd.com, cdc.gov, healthline.com, americanpregnancy.org, diabetes.org, womenshealth.gov, nichd.nih.gov, babycenter.com, cdc.gov, pregnancycorner.com