There's nothing that feels all that normal about pregnancy. Whether a woman's at the start of her pregnancy or nearing the end of those 9 months, it's pretty much guarenteed that she's had at least one of the complications on this list if not multiple! And if it's multiple or nearly all, I'm seriously wanting to send this person a basket of goodies right now because she is a trooper!
All of the complications you will read about today may freak you out and send you right into emergency mode, but they are actually all quite common, even if they don't feel like they should be normal happenings. One thing they don't tell you about pregnancy is how taxing it will be on your body as well as your mental state! Sure, they tell us all the gory details about birth, but that's really the least and the last of it, birth is the shortest amount of time in your pregnancy, what about those 9 months before?
Why don't they give us a heads up about that? huh? Well I'm here to let you in on 20 common complications that you should look out for during your entire pregnancy, you know, in case anyone failed to mention them in the prenatal class.
20 Losing The Pregnancy
From excitement to sorrow, miscarriage can be heartbreaking. You may feel as though there is something wrong with you or your body, but miscarriage is unfortunately common, some women may never have known they had one because it was early on, and others will have reached the "safe to tell people point" only to have their joyous news ripped away from them. Miscarriage is defined as the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks, but more than 80% of miscarriages happen before 12 weeks. The cause is believed to be chromosomal abnormalities in the fertilized egg and this is what keeps the embryo from developing. The first sign of a miscarriage is spotting or bleeding, so any sort of bleeding during pregnancy should urge a visit to your doctor.
19 An Ectopic Pregnancy
It will still show up as a positive when you take a pregnancy test, but an ectopic pregnancy won’t bring about a baby, in fact it can seriously harm you if it’s not caught early! An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an egg is fertilized, but rather than implanting in the uterus, it implants outside of the uterus, typically in the fallopian tube, which is why ectopic pregnancies are sometimes referred to as “tubal pregnancies” as well. Believe it or not, 1 in 50 pregnancies is ectopic! It’s important to find an ectopic pregnancy early because as you know, embryos grow, and this can rupture a fallopian tube and cause internal bleeding which could prove fatal. Unfortunately the fertilized egg can’t be transplanted into the uterus and the outcome is removal for the woman’s safety.
18 Getting Gestational Diabetes
Drinking that yucky, terribly sweet, drink at the doctor’s office is all a part of making sure you don't have this particular complication. Gestational Diabetes used to be quite rare, but in recent years, the number of cases has doubled. They wouldn’t make us do this “glucose screening” business between 24 and 28 weeks if it wasn’t commonly encountered, it’s also serious enough to check out! If you develop gestational diabetes, much monitoring will be needed, because it can have serious consequences for your baby. If it gets out of control it can lead to preterm labor, low blood sugar after birth and baby may have trouble breathing. As for mom, there’s a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on if you already suffered from gestational diabetes. A healthy weight and lifestyle is still the best way to prevent encountering this complication.
17 Dreaded Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a condition that affects many pregnant women and it’s a scary complication to have. Preeclampsia is not just about having high blood pressure, it’s also about having protein in your urine, or issues with your liver or kidney’s. You usually begin to see these complications after 20 weeks of pregnancy; the symptoms may even wait until closer to the due date to appear. It appears that the earlier you develop this condition, the more serious it becomes. Preeclampsia can be life threatening as it can affect many organs. Symptoms are swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, vision changes, soreness in upper abdomen, difficulty breathing, as well as nausea and vomiting. With proper care mom and baby should be fine, but if the symptoms become worse, mom may need to deliver earlier than anticipated.
16 Going Into Preterm Labor
We do all we can to keep our babies healthy and we desperately want them to stay in there until they are strong enough to join the outside world, but sometimes baby has their own plans. Preterm labor is terrifying on so many levels; first, we're not mentally prepared enough just yet to give birth and second, we worry for our little one's development. We know the longer they stay put, they better their chances are of being happy, healthy babies. If you begin feeling something like contractions before your due date, you’ll want to pop by and see your doctor. If contractions become regular and cause you to dilate before you reach 37 weeks, this is considered preterm or premature labor. Premature covers any birth before 37 weeks, but as we all know the closer to that due date the safer.
15 Having Severe, Persistent Nausea
So you thought that nausea was just a fun pregnancy gift solely for you? Nope! Nausea is quite common, especially the severe kind that makes pregnancy absolutely miserable! Even Princess Kate was hospitalized and monitored for severe and persistent vomiting for several months! So you are definitely not alone, not even the royals can get away from hyperemesis gravidarum! This is definitely more extreme than plain “morning sickness.” Symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum are: nausea that won’t cease, vomiting daily, weight loss, reduced appetite, dehydration, feeling faint or even fainting. The best thing to do is stick to bland foods and fluids, and even some nausea medicine can be prescribed. But if this doesn’t help, hospitalization is next where fluids and nutrients will be given through IV drip. If one can’t eat, it can seriously affect mom and baby, so HG will mean constant monitoring.
14 A Lack Of Iron
You will naturally already be pretty tired throughout pregnancy, and anemia during pregnancy certainly won’t help in the exhaustion department. It’s actually pretty common to have mild anemia during pregnancy. Anemia occurs when you produce less than the standard number of healthy red blood cells. This will cause you to feel tired and weak; you will look paler than usual, feel faint and even experience shortness of breath. During pregnancy your body should produce more blood to support baby’s growth, but if you’re lacking the nutrients your body won’t be able to do that. If your doctor notices your iron is low during pregnancy, they will prescribe taking iron pills along with folic acid supplements. Baby can zap the nutrients right out of you, and it’s important for your health as well as baby’s to stay topped up.
13 Getting High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when your blood pressure is higher than 140/99 mm Hg. If high blood pressure continues after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it can lead to other major complications such as preeclampsia. There are typically no symptoms associated with high blood pressure, unless it worsens or preeclampsia does develop, but in cases of high blood pressure, momma is closely monitored by her doctor to be sure it doesn’t become worse. There are multiple ways to help lower blood pressure through diet, you can avoid foods with a lot of salt, eat more whole grains and potassium rich foods and avoid caffeine. Exercise can also help lower blood pressure. High blood pressure should go away after giving birth, so that’s an added bonus besides having a new cute little baby to snuggle.
12 Dealing With The Rh Factor
If you are one of the lucky ones that have that Rh factor then you’re lucky enough to get some extra needles! Yay! I’m sure you can feel my sarcasm, mostly because I’m one of the lucky ones, and I’m not particularly fond of needles. Rhesus isoimmunization otherwise known as the Rh factor means the mother lacks a protein that surrounds red blood cells. If mom is Rh-negative and her baby is born Rh-positive, mom can start to build up antibodies against the next Rh positive baby. Mom is usually tested at the start of pregnancy to see if baby’s red blood cells have been affected by the antibodies mom develops. A RhoGAM shot is given around 28 weeks to prevent the buildup of these antibodies and another will be given at birth if the baby is Rh-positive.
11 Developing Placenta Previa
This is usually discovered during your mid-pregnancy ultrasound exam. Placenta Previa means that your placenta resides unusually low in your uterus. In this position the placenta will be extremely close to the cervix or may even be covering it. If the placenta is covering baby’s only escape, then you can safely assume that a c-section is in the cards. This condition isn’t really an issue in early pregnancy, but later on, as the placenta remains dangerously low and baby presses upon it, bleeding can occur and this can lead to other complications that may call for an early delivery. Many women with Placenta Previa at the start of their pregnancy find that the condition sorts itself out before delivery, but if it doesn’t, as mentioned above, a cesarean will be called for.
10 Prenatal Depression And Anxiety
With hormones, body changes, stress, life changes, worrying about baby and all that heavy stuff that comes with having a baby, is there any wonder why pregnant women often deal with depression? I think not! Depression is not solely a post-partum occurrence, it can also happen during pregnancy and it is important to know the signs. If you are feeling intense sadness, experiencing feelings of helplessness, if you are irritable, if your appetite has changed or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself, then it is time to seek out help. Although many women suffer from depression during and after pregnancy, many women often feel shame for having these feelings when pregnancy is supposed to bring joy and they have trouble approaching their doctor with these feelings. All feelings are valid and if you need help for depression your doctor is an endless resource for therapy, support groups and medicine.
9 Having Low Amniotic Fluid
Baby is supposed to be swimming around in a pool of protection, but what if the pool's levels weren’t where they are supposed to be? Although low levels of amniotic fluid is common, it is most common in the third trimester to encounter this complication. The amniotic sac is supposed to be well stocked with fluid to support the developing baby from any trauma. The medical term for having too little is called “oligohydramnios.” So if this fluid is so essential to baby, then why is it low? There are a number of hypotheses as to why the fluid runs low, but doctors commonly find that the membrane has ruptured, which means you’ll leak, sometimes this heals itself, other times it does not, and this poses a threat for infection for you and baby!
8 Getting Blood Clots
Blood clots are more likely to form during pregnancy as a way to safeguard against losing too much blood during labor, but sometimes it gets a little too ahead of itself. Blood clots in pregnant women can form in the deep veins of the legs or in the pelvic region, this is called DVT, deep vein thrombosis and this can lead to a bunch of serious concerns. Women are most likely to get blood clots in the first 3 months of their pregnancy or the first 6 weeks after delivering their baby. Risk of blood clot is higher if you smoke, are over 35, are overweight, expecting multiples, or moving too much or too little. If untreated, blood clots can lead to heart attack, pulmonary embolism, stroke or miscarriage. If you notice any swelling or pain in one leg or any veins that look larger than usual, seek out your doctor.
7 Having An Incompetent Cervix
An incompetent cervix is a weak cervix; this is usually the cause when a baby is lost in the second trimester. As baby grows during pregnancy, it gets heavier and presses on the cervix and this pressure can cause the cervix to open before baby is ready to be born. This undoubtedly leads to miscarriage or premature delivery. An opening in the cervix can be detected through a pelvic exam or ultrasound. Reasons why the cervix may be weak are previous surgeries, damage during a difficult birth, malformed or birth defect, or previous trauma to the cervix. As for treatment, the goal is to keep baby from being born too soon, and doctors will perform a procedure that sews the cervix closed; this is called a “cerclage” and is usually performed between weeks 14-16 of pregnancy.
6 Or An Inflamed Cervix
Inflammation of the cervix or cervicitis is usually caused by sexually transmitted infections or STI’s like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or genital herpes. If not treated it can lead to infertility, and if you conceive it can lead to miscarriage, premature delivery, or you may risk passing on the infections to your baby. If it is passed onto baby the infection could lead to pneumonia, a severe eye infection or even blindness. So there are many reasons to seek treatment quickly! The infection can move into the uterine lining and fallopian tubes, causing them to become inflamed and sore. Bleeding or spotting may even occur due to the inflammation, which would definitely cause concern. To treat the discomfort, antibiotics will be given to fight off the infection and should clear up with time.
5 A Blighted Ovum
A blighted ovum is a type of pregnancy loss which happens early on in pregnancy. A blighted ovum may also be called a silent or missed miscarriage. It’s not fully understood why a blighted ovum occurs, but it is essentially an egg that never develops. After conception the fertilized egg implants in the uterus, but for some odd reason the baby never develops. It’s just one of those things that have no rhyme or reason, although the egg is fertilized, the cells do not divide and grow, but what does happen is that the body still reacts to it as a pregnancy! All those pregnancy hormones keep the placenta and membranes developing inside the uterus because the body can’t recognize that there isn’t a baby developing inside the amniotic sac. This is also why you can’t miscarry; the pregnancy hormones are working to prevent it. This does not affect having pregnancies in the future, but it sure is an emotional rollercoaster.
4 Getting Bacterial Vaginosis
About 10-30% of women will experience BV or bacterial vaginosis during the length of their pregnancy, that’s 1 in 5 women! Bacterial vaginosis is caused by imbalances in the normal bacteria that exists inside a woman’s vagina. This is not related to sexually transmitted bacteria but it is still associated with engaging in intercourse. Truth is, no one knows why this imbalance occurs. If you develop BV during pregnancy it is said to increase the risk of preterm birth, it can cause baby to have a low birth weight, it can cause membranes to rupture prematurely and may cause a uterine infection after you deliver. The best way to deal with BV is to prevent it, doctors urge patients to practice safe-sex, quit smoking, refrain from douching or using scented soaps.
3 Passing On Group B Strep
10-35% of women will encounter GBS during their pregnancy. GBS or Group B streptococcus is a bacterial infection that can be found in the vagina or rectum of a pregnant woman. It is the leading cause of infections in newborns and can be fatal to baby if not treated. During pregnancy Group B strep can cause urinary tract infections, as well as infect the placenta, womb and even the amniotic fluid. Since the infection can be passed on to their babies during labor and delivery, antibiotics will be given though an IV during labor to prevent baby from catching it. Your OB will perform a swab test, probably your least favourite of all the tests you’ll go through during pregnancy, and this will determine if you have GBS or not.
2 An Infection Down There
Pee pee problems for days, or in this case, months! From the start of pregnancy to the end of pregnancy you'll be doing your pee pee dance, questioning if it's a to pee or not to pee moment and making sure there's always a potty nearby. It's unfortunate, but urinary tract infections can become more common during pregnancy. The symptoms are typically a burning sensation while urinating, frequent urination, pain in the pelvis, stomach or side, and a fever may also occur if the UTI becomes more severe. If the UTI goes untreated it can spread to your kidneys and this can result in preterm labor. If you get a UTI a course of antibiotics will be administered, but the best thing to do would be to prevent it! Drink plenty of water, pee when you gotta, and cranberry juice is your friend!
1 All Too Common Yeast Infections
A yeast infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of bacteria that is normally found in the vagina and this overgrowth comes with some pretty gnarly symptoms. Yeast infections can also become more common during pregnancy and can complicate things for momma’s comfort as well! Yeast infections are characterized by extreme itchiness around the vagina, burning sensations, redness and swelling of the vagina, pain when urinating or during intercourse, and a thick foul smelling discharge. Sounds like just about all you need on top of the trials and tribulations of pregnancy. Thankfully yeast infections do not threaten the health of your baby, but it can be really uncomfortable and challenging to treat. If you get a yeast infection during pregnancy you will be offered various creams and suppositories to treat it.
Sources: nichd.nih.gov, AmericanPregnancy.org, BabyCenter.com, WomensHealth.gov