Normal and High-risk pregnancies
Pregnancy is an exciting time for any women, but complications may develop sometimes even in healthy women. Most pregnancy complications can easily be detected and prevented during regular prenatal visits. The two most common complications that arise during pregnancy are high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.
Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), also called preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that usually starts after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is one of the main causes of concern in pregnant women as severe form of hypertension may induce labour very early. Pregnancy induced hypertension might present as high blood pressure alone or accompanied with other conditions such as protein in the urine, swelling and convulsions. The condition can be detected during antenatal visits and should be treated appropriately. If left untreated, this condition can cause serious problems for both the mother and the baby. In mother PIH can cause placental abruption (premature detachment of the placenta from the uterus) and seizures. Pregnancy induced hypertension causes less blood flow to the placenta. Complications in the baby include premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth, or growth restriction. You should watch for signs such as rapid weight gain of 4-5 lbs in a week, severe headache, blurred vision, severe pain in the stomach under the ribs and consult your doctor immediately. During a routine check-up your doctor will check your blood pressure, urine levels, and may order blood tests which may show if you have preeclampsia. There are treatment options which include medications, dietary modifications, mild exercise and activity along with sufficient rest. In severe cases, your doctor may want your baby to be delivered. It is important to remember that hypertension during pregnancy is a serious condition and should be taken care of in order to prevent further complications.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which the level of sugar in your blood to become higher than normal. This condition usually develops in the second trimester and most often returns to normal soon after delivery. High blood sugar levels can affect both the mother and development and growth of the baby. Normally there will not be any symptom except for extreme thirst, hunger or tiredness that may be felt sometimes. The screening test for diabetes is done in the 28th week of pregnancy. Your doctor may check your blood glucose level using a test called a fasting blood glucose test. Other test such as screening glucose challenge test and oral glucose tolerance test may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Pregnancy induced diabetes can usually be controlled by certain dietary changes, regular exercise, and frequent blood tests as suggested by your doctor. Some cases might also require use of insulin to maintain the blood sugar levels under control. Poorly controlled or uncontrolled gestational diabetes increases the risk of preeclampsia, preterm delivery, large-sized baby, caesarean section, newborn with low blood sugar, breathing difficulties and jaundice. Even if the gestational diabetes goes away after your baby is born, it increases your risk for diabetes later in your life. Therefore it is important to exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight after pregnancy.
Anaemia, characterized by low oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, can occur during pregnancy. During pregnancy the blood production in the body increases in order to support your baby’s growth, but sometimes, insufficient iron or other nutrient intake hampers the body’s ability to produce sufficient red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues. The three major types of anaemia that develops during pregnancy are iron-deficiency anaemia (most common), vitamin B12 deficiency and folate deficiency anaemia. In its early stages, anaemia may not show any symptoms or the symptoms may be common to those experienced during pregnancy without anaemia.
Anaemia during pregnancy can make you feel tired and weak, dizzy and make cause shortness of breath, increased heartbeat, problems in concentration, and paleness of the lips, skin and nails. If left untreated, it may increase the risk of preterm (premature) delivery.
Routine blood tests are important to detect anaemia at its early stages. Your doctor will suggest a blood test during the first prenatal appointment. Lower levels of haemoglobin and red blood cells in the haematocrit test may indicate anaemia. The tests are repeated during the second or third trimester.
Anaemia during pregnancy can be treated with iron and folic acid supplements. Your doctor will advise you to include foods rich in iron and folic acid in your diet. You can prevent anaemia by including eggs, poultry, fish, lean red meat, dark green and leafy vegetables, iron-rich cereals, and nuts in your diet. You can also include high vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers and strawberries, so that more iron can be absorbed in your body. Vegetarians and vegans should consult their doctor regarding taking vitamin B12 supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding.