Every woman has a different idea as to how big she wants her family to be. Some women just don’t want to have kids all. Some are fine with just one that they can give all their attention to. Others might want two or three. And some women just want a huge family to fill their home with laughter.
Sometimes, however, the number of kids that a woman can have might be affected by chance. There are women, after all, who are hyper-fertile and find it ridiculously easy to get pregnant while others may have trouble conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy. Yet others may find a point, after a certain number of children, that their bodies just can’t do it anymore.
After all, pregnancy and childbirth can be hard on the body. In the span of nine months, the entire body changes. It stretches out to accommodate the little one in the tummy, crowding out the intestines and other vital organs. Blood vessels dilate and blood volume increases. Because of that, there is increased load on the liver and the kidneys. Studies even show that there may be temporary changes to the brain as well. Not to mention childbirth can be extremely difficult on the body. The body gets flooded with hormones, heart rate and blood pressure rise, and there’s always a risk of severe pain and perineal tears.
Women with preexisting health issues or a history of complicated pregnancies, in particular, may be hit hard by this process. And for some, the body just isn’t built for so many pregnancies.
Here are fifteen ways to tell that the body may just have had enough.
While many moms are now able to have vaginal deliveries after they’ve had a C-section, others just have tough luck. After all, certain conditions may make a vaginal delivery with a C-section scar difficult, even life-threatening. In this case, a mom may have to give birth to all her children by C-section. Unlike vaginal deliveries, however, there is a very low cap to the number of C-sections that a woman can have safely.
It’s difficult to determine how many is just right; each woman, as well as each C-section scar, is different. Most doctors will say that the safest bet is for each woman to have a maximum of three C-sections. After three C-sections, the risks with having another increases dramatically for most women. In addition, there is a risk with having a vaginal birth after three C-sections - it puts mom at high risk for problems such as uterine rupture and adhesions.
With each succeeding pregnancy, there is an increased risk for mom to developpe an atonic uterus: one that has lost the ability to contract. Think of the uterus like an elastic band that stretches out with each pregnancy. After a certain number of stretches, the band is likely to lose its elasticity. This is dangerous because uterine contractions are vital in facilitating the baby’s exit into the world. Contractions are also vital in ensuring that the body doesn’t lose too much blood, hence the reason for cramps during both periods and childbirth.
A lack of elasticity can result in a prolonged childbirth, or the need for intervention. The most telling sign of uterine atony, however, is hemorrhage. If the uterus doesn't have enough elasticity, the risk that mom will hemorrhage after childbirth is dangerously high. So if mom has had three or more children, and hemorrhaged with the last one, there is a high risk of hemorrhaging again during the next childbirth.
13Lacking Red Blood Cells
Anemia is caused by a deficiency in healthy red blood cells. These cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to different parts of the body, so they’re pretty important. During pregnancy, the body’s need for oxygen increases, and so the production of red blood cells also increases. If the body doesn’t get enough nutrients essential for producing red blood cells, such as iron and folate, mom might develop anemia.
In some cases, however, anemia occurs either because the body hasn’t recovered from the last pregnancy, or if it’s had too many successive pregnancies that it couldn’t handle the production load of red blood cells. So if mom develops symptoms such as paleness, dizziness, difficulty breathing and tongue swelling, the best thing to do is to see a doctor for a blood check, and to hold off another attempt to have a baby. Having another pregnancy will be too risky for both mom and the next baby at this point.
12Repeated Miscarriage Or Prematurity
If the last few pregnancies were fraught with miscarriages or premature birth, it’s best to see the obstetrician as soon as possible. After each pregnancy, scar tissue may develop in the uterus as it heals. In C-sections, this will likely be around the area where the uterus is cut. But it can also develop in other spots in the uterus and even after vaginal delivery. A few scars here and there won’t affect further pregnancies, although they might make it a bit difficult to conceive again.
When the scar tissue builds up over several pregnancies, things may get more difficult. For one thing, too much scar tissue can block the transfer of nutrients and oxygen to the placenta; it may be a bit more difficult for the placenta to hold onto the womb. As such, pregnancies that develop despite the scar tissue are at higher risk of miscarriage or premature birth.
11Trouble Peeing Or Pooping
Mom will naturally have trouble with urination or bowel movements directly after the pregnancy. After all, the nether regions may stretch out and, in rare cases, even tear. For some moms, over the course of several pregnancies, the damage builds up and she’ll have trouble eliminating bodily waste. This trouble could manifest in the form of pain or difficulty holding it in. In any case, she had best get it checked before having another baby to ensure that another pregnancy won’t make things worse.
One possible cause of these problems are adhesions, bands of scar tissue that develop between organs in the abdomen. These adhesions cause the organs to “stick” together which can result in pain or obstruction. They can also cause difficulties for getting pregnant in the future. Unfortunately, adhesions are not visible through diagnostic imagery. The only way to diagnose them is through surgery. The good news is, though, that they can often be removed during the same diagnostic surgery.
For moms who develop a chronic illness or who have developed pregnancy conditions such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, the risks with each succeeding pregnancy increase. After mom develops such illnesses, it’s best to assess the risk of getting pregnant again and taking the necessary precautions. For instance, conditions that involve hypertension can not only decrease the flow of blood to the uterus, which can prevent the baby from gaining weight, but it also increases the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
Chronic illnesses can put a lot of physical and mental stress on mom, and compounded with the stresses of pregnancy, this can push things over the tipping point, making each pregnancy increasingly dangerous for mom and the baby. Of course, if mom really does want to have another baby, it may be possible so long as the disease is managed with treatment.
One study has shown that the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in the form of thicker and more calcified aortic walls, is increased in women who have given birth to four or more kids. This might be because of the inevitable stress that pregnancy places upon the heart and blood vessels. This stress, compounded with the increased flow of blood and the elevated energy requirement, may result in abnormal changes in the aorta. Over time, this can increase mom’s risk of developing heart problems - one factor that makes it difficult for her to get pregnant again.
The same study also shows that women who have not given birth at all are also at risk for the same problems. Of course, further research will be needed to verify these effects. In the meantime, however, this is just another reason for mom to carefully consider the size of her family.
8Too Much Weight Gain
It’s not a secret, nor is it shameful, that pregnancy causes women to put on weight. After all, there’s the additional weight of the baby and the placenta. Some weight will be added due to the extra blood volume to help nutrients and oxygen circulate. And, of course, there’s fat. The body increases fat stores during pregnancy for one important reason: the baby must always get enough nutrients. As such, the body is preparing for the worst-case scenario – what if there won’t be enough food in the future? It then stockpiles nutrients to ensure that the little one has a consistent source of building blocks to continue growing.
In addition, some of these fat stores are reserved for milk production later on. In most women, however, the weight just sticks after each pregnancy. This is fine in most cases, but once mom reaches the point where she’s close to obesity, it might be better to hold off having that next baby. After all, obesity makes for a high-risk pregnancy.
During each childbirth, the joints of the hip literally stretch out to accommodate the little one. This can result in some injury, depending on the size of the baby’s head relative to mom’s hip opening. Most of the time, the injury heals after a month or two, but sometimes the pubic symphysis will separate which is very dangerous and can take up to eight months to heal. Fortunately, the doctor can diagnose a separated pubic symphysis with a quick test.
If mom’s dietary intake of calcium is too low, the body will attempt to give the baby enough calcium by taking minerals from her bones. This can result in weak, brittle bones. In the worst of cases, mom might experience a hip fracture. While this can be treated with surgery and medication, it’s probably best not to have another child before full recovery. As mom gets older and repeated injuries are sustained with multiple childbirths, this problem can get much worse.
6Too Many, Too Close
Even for women who want a big family, spacing the children too close to each other isn’t a great idea. In particular, if two or more pregnancies are within eighteen months of each other, there is an increased risk of serious complications in the placenta with each subsequent pregnancy, as well as for giving birth to a baby who is premature or has a low birth weight.
This is because, given how hard each pregnancy and childbirth is on the body, closely-spaced pregnancies don’t give mom the chance to recover from vaginal injuries, depleted blood and nutrients, and other problems.
This is why it’s so important for the couple to plan out how many children they want, as well as their ideal spacing in between. Safe and effective methods of birth control are also necessary. Not only is this easier on mom’s body, it also allows her to better plan financially for her kids.
Back pain can be expected during and after delivery. After all, we’ve all heard of back labor, that infamous type of labor pain that causes excruciating pain in the lower back. Back labor is often when the fetus is positioned in a way that the back of his/her head, one of the hardest parts of the body, is positioned against the spine. The resulting pressure causes pain each time a contraction pushes the baby downwards.
When back pain persists for more than a few months after the delivery, mom’s body may not be ready for another pregnancy. This could indicate more serious problems that could result in even more pain in the next pregnancy. Mom may have experienced a herniated disk, a painful condition that can be exacerbated by the weight of a new baby. If the pain is around the tailbone, she may have a coccyx fracture; while this is a treatable condition, it's slow to heal.
Exhaustion manifests in complex ways and has many causes. It could be physical exhaustion if mom is working way too hard, or it can be a nutritional deficiency where mom just isn’t getting enough nutrients to sustain an active life. It could also be a symptom of a serious mental condition such as depression. However, it's imortant to note that there are multiple other medical conditions that list exhaustion as a symptom. It’s best to consult a doctor to help determine the cause. In any case, we can safely say that it’s a inadvisable for mom to have another baby when she’s already feeling way too tired to get through the day.
It’s extremely important to treat the cause of exhaustion before attempting another pregnancy. After all, carrying a baby takes major physical and mental energy. Mom may not seem like she’s doing much, but growing a baby inside of her is full-time work.
If mom is typically in a negative mood, a new baby is not going to make her happier. While babies are literally little bundles of joy, it’s important to keep in mind that they shouldn’t be treated as a cure. If mom feels irritable, moody or miserable, there are probably a multitude of other factors causing this. Maybe she isn’t getting enough sleep or nutrition because she’s caring for the other kids. It can be detrimental to add another child to the mix if this is the case.
Mood swings can also be caused by hormonal imbalances or even more serious conditions such as depression and other mood disorders. Now, we’re not saying that moms who have these conditions shouldn't have any more babies. It’s merely wiser to seek out treatment for before having another baby. After all, a child is an added consideration that can contribute to existing emotional strain.
Uterine prolapse is a serious condition where the uterus descends into the birth canal. This normally doesn’t happen because the uterus is held up by muscles and ligaments. However, with repeated pregnancies, there’s a huge risk that these muscles and ligaments weaken, causing the uterus to sag. It may not be immediately apparent, but it can present as heaviness around the pelvic and vaginal area, bleeding, or pain during sex. In the worst case scenario, parts of the uterus will be visible through the vagina.
For less serious cases, rest, Kegel exercises and weight loss may help prevent any further prolapse. If this works to heal the uterus, mom might still be able to have more kids. However, if the uterus has descended too far, surgery may be needed to prevent hemorrhage. For women who experience severe uterine prolapse, another pregnancy may be dangerous - causing even more pressure to the pelvic muscles is hardly going to help.
Some of the riskiest complications during pregnancy include those that involve the placenta. Placenta previa, in particular, is when the placenta begins to separate from the uterus before the baby is delivered. This is risky as the placenta provides the baby with oxygen and nutrients. If this is cut off before baby takes his/her first breath, s/he just about gets strangled during childbirth.
The fear with placenta previa, and many other pregnancy conditions, is that mom's likelihood for risk increases depending on the number of pregnancies. Because of this, if mom wants to get pregnant again, she had best opt to have very close monitoring, as well as access to a surgical team during childbirth just in case a C-section is necessary.
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