Every woman who has ever been pregnant is aware of the litany of things that she has to remember to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Eat right. Make sure to eat veggies. And take vitamins too. Speaking of pills, ask the doctor before taking medicine. Yes, even herbals. Exercise every day. Don’t forget those kegels. The baby will come out easier that way. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Cut down on coffee. Skip the sugar and the cola. Get enough rest. It goes on and on.
For the most part, this is all good advice. After all, they all fall into the large category of things that mom has absolute control over during the pregnancy. Mom can simply follow standard medical advice to a T and her chances of having a perfectly safe, normal and healthy pregnancy and childbirth are pretty much up there.
Except, of course, that this isn’t always the case. There are, after all, quite a number of things that are out of mom’s control, all of which could affect the pregnancy. Because of this, it’s important to remember that not all pregnancy problems can be blamed on mom. Sometimes fate just decides to take a completely different course than planned.
Even though there is often very little mom can do to shield herself from these random occurrences, it’s still important to be aware of them. So, here, we give you fifteen things out of mom’s control that can steer the pregnancy into a road less traveled.
One of the first hurdles mom might encounter on her pregnancy journey is how to get pregnant in the first place! Infertility, or the inability to get pregnant even after trying for over a year, affects millions of couples across the globe. Some of the causes of infertility are actually preventable and can be addressed. For instance, things like quitting alcohol, cigarettes or drug use, losing weight and unloading stress can all improve some couples’ fertility. Alternatively, hormonal treatment or thyroid problems might not be lifestyle-related, but they can still be treated.
However, there are still an abundance of things that are not under the couple’s control. Pelvic problems or a natural uterine resistance to implantation, for instance, can make it difficult for a woman to get pregnant. Let’s not even get started on fertility problems in men. In some cases, a woman might have to accept that she will be unable to get pregnant. Of course, science does offer several alternatives!
We’re all pretty much born with the genes that we’ll carry our whole lives. The whole shebang with biology and reproduction dictates that these are the same genes that will be passed on to our offspring. Some of these genes, however, might not make it easy for the child to survive. Things like heart problems and neural tube defects, for instance, may be partially genetic. These could make the pregnancy extra complicated.
This begs the question: if mom and dad carry the genetic code, however, why do they often not have these problems? Well, genetics is a complicated thing. Some genes may be passed on, while others won’t. In yet other cases, two copies of the same gene are required for the abnormality to take place. Sometimes these genes require an environmental trigger to be activated. They are, for the most part, out of our control. However, genetic counselling may be able to help mom and dad get through the pregnancy.
Clean family history? No trace of unwanted genes? Great. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing wrong with the baby-to-be’s DNA. Sometimes genetic mutations will pop up. While they are, sometimes, caused by factors within control such as exposure to radiation or cigarette smoke, sometimes they just happen spontaneously. This has, after all, been one of the means by which life has evolved on earth over the millennia. In most cases, however, it’s problematic.
Additionally, the defect might not be in the DNA itself but in the division of the sex cells. Sometimes, the cells fail to divide normally, which can result in an extra copy of genes or even the absence of one. Either situation can result in a particularly risky pregnancy, which can either end in a miscarriage or a child with a genetic disorder. While there are measures that the parents can take to prevent this, a lot of it is simply out of the realm of human control.
12Babies, Babies, Babies
Mom can’t control whether or not she gets a multiple pregnancy. There are things that increase the chances of it, such as with assistive reproductive technology. Even then, however, there is no absolute guarantee that mom will carry more than one baby. Moms who don’t plan on having multiple pregnancies might also find themselves with a whole litter in their tummy.
The obvious effect of this is, of course, more babies for mom to carry around for 40 weeks. However, it’s also important to remember that multiple pregnancies tend to be riskier than single ones. Moms carrying more than one baby are at higher risk for miscarriage or premature labor. There is also a higher risk that the little ones will be born with a low birth weight. They may also develop certain conditions that occur only in multiple pregnancies such as twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome or vanishing twin syndrome.
Not all pregnant women experience mood changes. A lot of them, however, do. It can be tough to deal with because emotions are often unreasonable. This is something that can result in plenty of guilt and confusion, both for mom and the people around her. These mood swings are often brought about by the hormones flooding mom’s system during pregnancy. The levels of hormones like progesterone and estrogen are at the highest they will ever be during pregnancy. So if mom experiences the blues during the average menstrual cycle, she can expect her mood to change drastically when she’s pregnant.
Mom can, of course, opt to take measures such as yoga and therapy to help her manage her emotions. However, it’s also important to acknowledge that these mood swings are real. Often, acceptance (rather than blindly trying to deny the existence of negativity) can be the first step for mom to deal with her emotions with a level head.
A study in Northern Europe found one odd pregnancy correlation. It turns out that moms who are shorter tend to have shorter pregnancies and were, in general, at higher risk for preterm birth. It’s no surprise, then, that in the same study, shorter women were also at higher risk of giving birth to babies with low birth weight.
Some scientists think that this is because shorter women tend to have shorter torsos. Therefore, childbirth gets triggered earlier for them than with women with longer torsos. This is for the same reason why women who carry twins give birth early: there simply isn’t enough room for the little ones to grow any more. The only way for the baby to grow larger is for him to get out. Don’t worry, though: this isn’t all set in stone. After all, plenty of short women have completely normal childbirths. It’s just that more of them give birth earlier than average.
Miscarriages happen. These can be particularly tragic for moms who have long wanted a baby. After all, they have already experienced the joy of expectation only to have it snatched from them in a split second. While a good number of these unfortunate miscarriages are preventable and, therefore, well within mom’s control, some simply occur without any known cause.
As such, it’s important for mom not to beat herself up over it. After all, it is easy for us as a society to blame the woman for anything wrong that happens with her pregnancy. We should be aware that a lot of the time, things like this are luck of the draw. If, however, a woman experiences repeated miscarriages, the gynecologist can often narrow down the possibilities, getting her closer to a definitive diagnosis. Over time, this may allow her to finally receive the treatment that can help her carry a pregnancy to term.
8Scars In The Womb
When different people get injured, sometimes their bodies react in drastically different ways. In some, healing can be seamless. That is, it can barely leave a mark in the body. Yet others might experience tiny, silvery scars as a memento, but nothing more. A handful might develop nasty keloid scars, even with just a minor injury. While this may be obvious with the skin that’s on the outside, few of us know that scarring may also occur on the inside. When scars develop inside the uterus, they can be a problem. After all, they can make it difficult for an embryo to latch onto the uterine lining and, even if it does, it might impair the development of the placenta.
Uterine scars often occur in women who have had C-sections or miscarriages. However, they may also develop in those who have had infections such as endometritis or chlamydia. Often, these scars are visible in pelvic scans.
7Fluid In The Ovaries
We still aren’t quite sure what causes polycystic ovary syndrome. In any case, it usually presents with fluid-filled cysts in the ovaries as well as an elevated level of male sex hormones in the blood. It is important to note that the ovarian cysts themselves aren’t the direct cause of the pregnancy difficulties, although they are among the most apparent of symptoms. Women with this condition usually have difficulty getting pregnant, as they may ovulate rarely, if at all. They may also have an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes, thyroid conditions and miscarriage.
PCOS is believed to be an inherited condition; women who have a family history of it are most at risk of being diagnosed with it at some point in their lives. They may be able to improve fertility and other symptoms through certain medications, weight loss and exercise, although this is not always guaranteed to work.
The umbilical cord is among the most essential parts of the pregnancy. It’s the little one’s connection to mom’s own bloodstream via the placenta, providing her with both food and oxygen. It is often, however, a much-overlooked part of the pregnancy. After all, it’s not the exciting part of the average ultrasound. The baby is!
However, this obscure little part can have a huge impact on the pregnancy. An umbilical cord with abnormal blood vessels, for instance, may affect how the baby receives oxygen and nutrients. This, in turn, can stunt the baby’s growth and increase the likelihood of a miscarriage. A baby who has a short umbilical cord is also at higher risk of pulling at it when moving, causing it to snap off during pregnancy or childbirth. With overly long cords, however, the little one might get entangled in it. These, however, are difficult to diagnose with standard imaging tests and can only be observed definitively after birth.
5The Hip Factor
In Shakira’s own words, your hips don’t lie. And the truth is that there’s often little a woman can do about her hips because they’re pretty much born with them. Women with certain hip types may have a more difficult time with childbirth, thus having an increased need for intervention or a C-section. So does this mean that it is true that women with wider hips will have an easier labor? Well, not quite.
See, the size of a woman’s hips may matter less than the size of the pelvic inlet. That is, the hole in the pelvis that serves as the passageway from the womb, out into the world. A smaller inlet may mean a more difficult pregnancy. However, many women with small inlets are still able to give birth vaginally with no problems. This is because the left and right pelvic bones loosen up and separate slightly during childbirth. So while the hips do play a role in pregnancy, it’s not always easy to tell which one will cause problems.
4Measurement Of The Cervix
Speaking of random invisible factors that can affect the pregnancy, the length of a woman’s cervix is probably one of the last things she might expect to affect her pregnancy. Now, the cervix is the narrow neck that forms the bottom part of the uterus, opening into the vagina. Women who have an unusually short cervix have an increased risk of having a miscarriage or a preterm birth. In fact, a short cervix is associated with a 50 percent chance of labor before 37 weeks of gestation.
There’s not much that mom herself can do to lengthen her cervix. However, there are a variety of treatments that may help her hold the baby in long enough for a safe pregnancy and childbirth. This includes cerclage, a stitch around the protruding flaps of the cervix, which prevents it from opening up too early. Treatment with progesterone has also been shown to improve pregnancy outcomes significantly.
Once the egg has been fertilized, it will travel down the fallopian tubes and into the uterus. From there, it will attach onto the uterine lining. The placenta will develop on the place where it “lands” on the uterus. It turns out, however, that this random occurrence can have a great impact upon the outcome of the pregnancy. In some cases, for instance, the placenta attaches way too low in the uterus. The little one might grow fairly normally when this happens, but this can pose problems during childbirth.
After all, when the baby has to get out, there is a possibility that the placenta will at least partially block her path. This is a conundrum, considering that too much pressure on the placenta can starve the little one of oxygen and nutrients. Some moms may be able to give birth vaginally, as long as they receive close monitoring. Yet others will need to go through a C-section to ensure the baby’s survival.
In the womb, the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid. This liquid helps cushion the baby from sudden movement and impact, as well as helps her float around and not compress the umbilical cord. It has also been found to play a vital role in the development of the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. Generally, it’s a pretty important part of the pregnancy, even if it doesn’t take center stage.
Too little or too much amniotic fluid can indicate problems with the pregnancy. They can, for instance, signal kidney problems or other birth defects. However, they can also contribute to pregnancy problems themselves. Lack of amniotic fluid can keep the little one from maturing properly and puts her at risk for cord compression. Too much amniotic fluid, on the other hand, increases the risk for premature contractions. While there are some things that mom can do to help regulate amniotic fluid, it is for the most part out of her control.
1Size Does Matter
Scarring isn’t the only thing about the uterus can affect the pregnancy. It turns out that women don’t always have the standard womb shape of anatomy textbooks. Roughly about 7 percent of women are estimated to have uterine malformations. This can range from a uterus that is completely absent (also known as Müllerian agenesis) to a banana-shaped one to one that has two horns. Some women even have two uteruses and a double vagina!
If the uterus is present and functional, however, chances are that the woman can still carry a child. However, the pregnancy might be affected by the womb’s shape. In some cases, the womb may be too small at one portion, making mom prone to miscarriage or premature labor. In yet others, the embryo might have trouble attaching in the first place. Sometimes the malformation can be detectable through an ultrasound or an MRI. In some cases, a minor operation involving the insertion of a camera into the body might be necessary for a definitive diagnosis.
Sources: WomensHealth.gov, WebMD.com, BabyCenter.co.uk, MarchOfDimes.org, AmericanPregnant.org
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