For a baby to get started, so much has to go exactly right that it’s a wonder the world’s population is growing like it is. For starters, a released egg has to meet a sperm at just the perfect moment, the embryo must then implant before cells can begin developing. With so many intricately moving parts, just one teeny blip can devastate the entire process - or at the very least throw it off a bit.
Many expectant mothers will ultimately sail through their pregnancy while others will be plagued by one affliction after another. And when it comes to complications, disorders and other pregnancy issues, they can span the entire gamut ranging from minor to major and everything in between.
While some afflictions are commonplace and nothing more than a nuisance to an expectant mother, others lean toward the more serious which is why awareness is important. In some instances, if left undiagnosed or untreated, certain pregnancy afflictions can lead to potentially serious complications for both mother and baby.
In any case, it’s best for a mom-to-be to prepare by educating herself on the possible mishaps she may experience over the next nine months. Knowing the symptoms to look for, talking to medical professionals when necessary and attending all of her checkups are key to staying healthy and protecting her unborn baby.
Continue reading to learn more about 16 of the worst pregnancy afflictions.
16 Preterm Labor
A normal, full-term pregnancy generally lasts 40 weeks. Preterm labor occurs when contractions begin to dilate the cervix before the 37th week of pregnancy. This may result in a baby being born prematurely and at higher risk of developing health issues in both the short and long term.
Symptoms of preterm labor can vacillate between subtle and obvious which is why it never hurts to be aware of what they are. They include:
- Frequent contractions (a sensation of tightening within the abdomen)
- Feeling pressure within the pelvis or lower abdomen
- Mild cramping
- Spotting or bleeding
- Watery discharge (possibly indicating water breaking)
- Changes in vaginal discharge
Due to possible health concerns for the unborn baby, it is always best to play it safe. Expectant mothers may even just have an instinctual feeling that something is off. Whatever the case, it's recommended she head to her healthcare provider for a checkup as soon as possible.
15 Placenta Previa
In a typical run-of-the-mill pregnancy, the placenta resides at the top of the uterus in order to supply nutrients to the baby via the umbilical cord. However, in approximately one out of 200 deliveries, placenta previa will be detected which can sometimes make things a tad more complicated.
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta lies unusually low, next to or covering the cervical opening. It can be partial previa which means the placenta is only covering a portion of the cervix or it may be complete or total previa in which case the placenta covers the cervix completely.
If placenta previa is diagnosed early within the pregnancy, it can be monitored and may not be deemed a serious concern. However, if discovered later on, this can sometimes result in complications that may require an early delivery or even undergoing a C-section.
If an early or mid-pregnancy ultrasound detects placenta previa - don’t panic. It is still possible that as the uterus expands and the placenta grows, it will end up further from the cervix as nature intends.
For women prone to migraines, pregnancy is sometimes a miracle cure for these horrendous headaches. However, for some unlucky few, pregnancy actually exacerbates the situation and migraines may worsen.
More than simply a headache, migraines can also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting as well as ocular issues such as flashing lights or tunnel vision. Treatment varies from individual to individual but some popular home remedies include: exercise, yoga (or other relaxation techniques), taking a nap, having a cold shower or applying heat or cold to the eyes or neck.
Migraines can be dangerous during pregnancy if they end up being a symptom of something more serious. A woman should seek medical attention if a migraine lasts more than a few hours, frequently recurs, or is accompanied by blurred vision and/or fever. That said, it’s probably for the best if an expectant mother mentions any sort of headache or migraine she may have experienced when undergoing a routine pregnancy checkup.
13 Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when a woman’s body is unable to produce the necessary insulin required for a growing baby. As a result, blood sugar levels will rise and require monitoring as well as management.
Between three and 20 % of expectant mothers will develop gestational diabetes which is why healthcare professionals typically screen for it within the first 28 weeks of pregnancy. The good news is that if gestational diabetes is diagnosed, it is easily managed through diet and exercise (and sometimes insulin injections) and most likely blood sugar levels will return to normal following childbirth.
However, if left undiagnosed or untreated, a baby can sometimes end up weighing more than the usual seven to nine pounds resulting in a difficult delivery. Gestational diabetes in a pregnant woman can also lead to an increased risk for her baby being overweight and developing type two diabetes in the future.
More than half of all moms-to-be will fall victim to the uncomfortable and disgusting yet relatively harmless affliction known as hemorrhoids. Sometimes referred to as piles, these varicose veins within the rectum are caused for a number of reasons including: increased pressure from a growing uterus, extra blood flow to the pelvic area, constipation as well as pushing during labor.
Prevention is key when it comes to dealing with these little buggers. An expectant mother should do what she can such as:
- Continuing with her exercise regime for as long as possible to keep blood circulating.
- Enjoying warm baths.
- Sleeping on her side to avoid pressure on the affected area.
- Keeping regular and not straining during bowel movements.
For the most part, hemorrhoids will disappear after giving birth. But even if not, they shouldn’t cause much concern as they are highly treatable. An affected new mom-to-be shouldn’t hesitate to discuss possible remedies with her healthcare provider.
From the outside looking in, pregnancy is often thought to be a time of unbridled joy and happiness but as many in the know realize - this isn’t always the case. In fact it is normal for expectant parents to be plagued by some feelings of stress and anxiety. And for a soon-to-be mother, this coupled with an onslaught of hormones can easily tip the scales toward feelings of depression and hopelessness.
According to the the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, between 14 and 23% of women will endure some level of depression during pregnancy. Unfortunately, it can be a tricky diagnosis to make due to a woman’s fluctuating hormone levels yet if properly diagnosed, depression in pregnancy is often easily treated and managed.
It’s important to be aware of symptoms and to seek help if necessary. Signs include:
- persistent and overwhelming sadness
- difficulty in focussing and concentrating
- change in sleep habits
- no interest in usually enjoyable activities
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or anxiety
- thoughts of hopelessness, death and suicide.
10 Rh Negative Disease
Rh factor refers to a protein found within red blood cells. Most people are Rh positive and a blood test conducted early on during pregnancy will confirm this. However, if it turns out an expectant mother is Rh negative, there is a likelihood that her blood is incompatible with that of her unborn baby (which is most likely Rh positive - unless the father is also Rh negative).
This potential Rh incompatibility isn’t typically an issue within a first pregnancy, however it is possible that a woman’s immune system will create antibodies against her baby’s Rh positive blood which can attack the blood of any future Rh positive children she may carry. In effect, a mom-to-be’s antibodies will attack her unborn baby’s blood as if it was an invading substance. As a result, her baby may suffer jaundice, brain damage and in some extreme cases, even death.
Fortunately, all it takes to fix this situation is a quick injection which will prevent an expectant mother’s blood from creating the antibodies.
9 Blood Pressure Highs and Lows
It is normal for a pregnant woman to experience blood pressure fluctuations. After all, an expectant mother’s body is creating more blood than usual in order to support her little peanut. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it is important for blood pressure to remain within a healthy range throughout pregnancy.
During regular pregnancy check-ups, monitoring and recording blood pressure info is often the first thing a healthcare provider will do. That is because blood pressure levels are indicative of how the pregnancy is progressing.
Typically, blood pressure lowers during the first and second trimesters due to the hormone progesterone which relaxes blood vessel walls. However, once reaching the 24th week, levels usually rise since there is now two-and-a-half more pints of blood pumping through a pregnant woman’s body.
Extremely high blood pressure levels can pinpoint specific risks such as: placental abruption (where the placenta separates from the uterine wall), preeclampsia and premature delivery. On the other hand, low blood pressure can result in dizziness and weakness while also signifying that the fetus is receiving a limited amount of oxygen.
8 Extreme Morning Sickness
Often an unpleasant side effect, nausea and mild vomiting are unfortunately considered status quo for most healthy pregnancies. Morning sickness (a misleading term considering it can occur at any time throughout the day or night!) typically begins around the sixth week of pregnancy and tends to wrap up by week 16.
However, when pregnant women experience nausea and/or vomiting so severe that it results in weight loss or dehydration, they are having trouble keeping anything down and/or are vomiting several times per day - this is called hyperemesis gravidarum or extreme morning sickness. When this happens, it tends to begin earlier within the pregnancy and last longer as well. That said, it usually fades by the half-way mark although there have been instances where it continues throughout the entire 40 weeks.
The causes for morning sickness are up for debate although it is sometimes considered to be hereditary. Also, if an expectant mother suffered from it during her first pregnancy, then most likely it will recur in any subsequent ones as well.
7 Placental Abruption
Placental abruption occurs when the placenta partially or completely separates from the uterus before a baby is born. This serious condition can result in severe bleeding, oxygen and nutrient deprivation for baby and/or fetal growth problems. It can also lead to premature delivery and in some extreme cases may be fatal to an unborn baby.
Occurring in approximately one out of 250 pregnancies, placental abruption typically happens during the third trimester but can crop up at any point after the 20 week mark. Symptoms of placental abruption include: vaginal bleeding, tenderness in the uterus, back pain, cramps, less fetal movement and premature labor.
If an expectant mother suffers a placental abruption, her healthcare provider may decide to deliver the baby immediately - especially if close to her due date anyway. However, depending on the situation’s severity, a woman may be allowed to labor normally or steps may be taken to delay the baby’s birth for as long as possible.
The marked increase in hormones during pregnancy is the main reason an expectant mother may find herself on the receiving end of a vaginal infection (also known as vaginitis). The extra hormones can easily throw the delicate balance of vaginal bacteria off kilter - and thus an infection is born.
A few of the more common infections running rampant throughout pregnancy are:
- Bacterial Vaginosis - One out of five preggos will develop bacterial vaginosis and while it’s usually just a nuisance that often disappears on its own, it never hurts to get a medical opinion. In extreme cases it can sometimes lead to early labor.
- Yeast Infection - A yeast infection occurs when a natural fungus residing within the vagina becomes overgrown. Pregnant women are easily susceptible due to the higher than normal levels of estrogen and progesterone coursing through their veins. Fortunately, this icky problem is easily treated.
- Group B Strep - While many healthy women have Group B Strep bacteria within their system, some individuals are more prone to developing serious infections from it than others. There is no definitive answer as to why this is. Pregnant women are usually tested for Group B Strep and if positive, antibiotics will be administered during delivery to keep baby safe.
Oftentimes, it can be difficult to conceive a child if obesity is an issue. This is due to the havoc that extra weight can wreak on hormone levels. And once pregnant, obesity poses a whole new set of possible complications which is why it is for the best to be in a healthy weight range once becoming pregnant.
Women suffering from obesity run a higher risk of developing conditions like: gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or infections during pregnancy as well as suffering from miscarriage or labor complications. They are also more likely to undergo a C-section.
Obesity in an expectant mother can also lead to complications for her unborn baby. They are more likely to suffer from birth defects or be affected by childhood obesity themselves. Babies born to obese mothers are also more likely to develop a future chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition in pregnancy that is typically associated with high blood pressure. Usually beginning after the 20 week mark, even a slight spike in blood pressure that has always fallen within the normal range can be an indicator. This is why it is imperative that expectant mothers attend all their check-ups and ensure their blood pressure is carefully monitored on a regular basis.
If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to the dangerous and sometimes fatal condition known as eclampsia which is characterized by convulsions and usually followed by a coma. The only known cure is to deliver the baby which can prove to be problematic if the baby is considered premature.
As for the specific cause of preeclampsia, it remains a mystery although many experts believe it originates in the placenta and involves insufficient blood flow. Often considered genetic, preeclampsia’s risk factors include: women over age 40, who suffer from obesity and/or are carrying multiple babies. As well, the risk is highest during a woman’s first pregnancy (although this risk continues with each new pregnancy with a different partner).
Anemia occurs when an individual’s blood doesn’t contain enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to their tissues. If it happens during pregnancy, this may indicate the fetus is not receiving the healthy blood cells it requires to thrive. While most often anemia is caused by iron deficiency, it can also occur when a pregnant woman is lacking in other important nutrients.
An individual suffering from anemia may feel weak and tired. If left untreated, severe anemia can result in serious complications within a pregnancy including preterm delivery, postpartum depression, birth defects as well as developmental delays within the baby.
The risk of anemia increases if a woman is pregnant with multiples, has had two pregnancies close together, is experiencing severe morning sickness, isn’t following a healthy diet or was anemic before becoming pregnant.
Anemia is diagnosed through a routine blood test and is easily treated by diet adjustments as well as nutritional supplements that may be recommended by a healthcare provider.
2 Ectopic Pregnancy
In a normal pregnancy, egg meets sperm and the fertilized embryo moves into the uterus. It then attaches to the lining and continues its journey of growth and development for the next nine months. However, one out of 50 pregnancies is an ectopic or tubal pregnancy. When this occurs, the fertilized egg remains in the fallopian tube instead of travelling into the uterus.
In an ectopic pregnancy, symptoms typically appear extremely early (usually by the eight week mark at latest). As a result, many women are shocked to discover they are pregnant, let alone suffering from an ectopic one.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting along with pain
- Severe cramping
- Dizziness and even fainting
If a woman suspects she may have an ectopic pregnancy, it is imperative she seeks medical attention immediately. If caught early on, it is possible for medication to stop the pregnancy from progressing any further. Laparoscopic (or laser) surgery is also sometimes an option in order to remove the embryo and repair any damage. But in severe cases, surgery may be necessary and both the fallopian tube as well as ovary may need to be removed.
The term miscarriage is definitely an ominous word that no pregnant woman wants to hear during her pregnancy. Referring to a pregnancy that ends within the first 20 weeks of gestation, miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ten to 25% of all pregnancies will end in one.
Most miscarriages occur within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Some even occur so early within a woman’s cycle that she may not even realize she was pregnant let alone suffering a miscarriage! In most cases, 13 is the magic number and marks the week that many pregnant women breathe a sigh of relief and begin spreading the happy news.
Miscarriage can occur for a wide variety of reasons including: maternal issues such as hormonal imbalances, infections, health problems, age, lifestyle choices (such as smoking) or trauma. A chromosomal abnormality in the fetus can also trigger a miscarriage. Signs of a miscarriage in progress include: back pain, a pinkish vaginal discharge and/or bleeding, contractions and a sudden disappearance of pregnancy symptoms.