Being pregnant, delivering a baby, and playing the role of a mother after that is no cakewalk. It is hard and involves blood, sweat, and tears literally. Besides the emotional whirlwind, added physical complications make it even more difficult. While most pregnancies now do not carry high risk and happen without any complications, some health issues may come along in your maternal journey that can be harmful to both mother and the child.
Many issues come with pregnancy –ranging from mild discomfort to serious health concerns and complications both for you and your baby.
Some common discomforts during pregnancy are:
- Acne: During the first term of pregnancy, some women may develop acne due to hormonal fluctuations that come with pregnancy.
- Stomach Issues: Flatulence, constipation, a pain in the lower region of the belly are some of the issues encountered due to hormonal changes and a growing uterus.
- Fatigue: A lot of energy is expended on the upkeep of accommodating a baby and this can take a toll on the energy levels.
- Body Aches: Pregnant women may experience different types of body aches, especially towards the tail-end of their pregnancy due to hormonal changes, and due to the weight of the growing fetus in the uterus, many women experience pain in their lower back and knees.
- Sleep Disturbances: Inability to sleep well may be due to a variety of reasons –from leg cramps, frequent urination or just getting accustomed to restricted movement when lying down.
- Sore Breasts: Most pregnant women may experience soreness, tenderness and, enlargement of breasts as their body prepares itself to produce milk for the baby.
- Morning Sickness: No, it’s not our usual Monday morning dread(although that adds to it too). It is nausea and vomiting that can be triggered by certain smells or food aversion towards spicy, hot, and salty foods seen during pregnancy. It is termed morning sickness but symptoms can be experienced any time of the day. This may begin during the first few weeks and last for the first trimester, but some individuals may experience morning sickness throughout pregnancy. In case symptoms are severe, a doctor’s consultation is necessary.
These discomforts are largely part of a healthy pregnancy, but if any of these symptoms persist and hinder your everyday life it is best to seek help from your physician.
Now that we know about the general and mild effects during pregnancy, let us discuss on the more serious concerns.
Some serious concerns that may occur during pregnancy are:
- High Blood Pressure: Some pregnant women may have blood pressure before pregnancy, while others may develop high blood pressure during pregnancy called gestational hypertension. Hypertension does not have to be dangerous during pregnancy though. But in some cases, hypertension can lead to issues such as early labor, preeclampsia, and increased blood flow to the placenta among other risks.
- Preeclampsia: high blood pressure and excess protein in the urine. This can lead to damage to the kidneys, and liver, and even have hazardous implications. A routine check-up with your doctor is usually when preeclampsia gets detected. Severe headaches, nausea, blurred or other vision changes, elevated liver enzymes, shortness of breath, sudden edema, or weight gain are some of the symptoms of Preeclampsia.
- Anemia: During pregnancy women’s body produces more blood to support the growing fetus during pregnancy, using up more vitamins, iron, and minerals. So mild anemia during pregnancy is highly likely.
There are three other types of anemia women can develop during pregnancy: iron deficiency anemia, folate deficiency, and vitamin b12 deficiency.
Iron deficiency anemia is caused because iron present in the mother’s body is sent to the baby for its growth and development. Having fewer iron reserves can cause iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy.
Folate is a type of B vitamin that aids with cell growth. A deficiency of this vitamin refers to folate deficiency anemia.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells and protein. It is mostly found in foods that come from animal sources such as milk, meat, eggs, and more. Particularly, Vegans (those who do not eat food from animal sources) might be at risk of vitamin b12 deficiency.
Some symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include rapid heartbeat, trouble focusing, fatigue, and dizziness.
Being anemic for very long during pregnancy can lead to complications such as preterm(early) labor, a baby born with anemia, brain development issues in the baby, postpartum depression, and blood transfusion due to excessive blood loss during pregnancy.
Checking with physicians and taking proper medication would be the best remedy for nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy.
- Gestational Diabetes: Diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy is called Gestational diabetes. Higher body weight before pregnancy, sedentary lifestyle, PCOS, being pre-diabetic, and hormonal changes during pregnancy that make it difficult to process sugars have been identified as the potential causes of gestational diabetes. Gestational Diabetes can put pregnant women at higher risk of having a C-section, and developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
It can also lead to preterm labor, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the baby, stillbirth, obesity, and diabetes in later life, higher birth weight in the newborn.
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): During pregnancy, the urine of pregnant women generally contains more sugar, hormones, and protein in it, which can make you more susceptible to infections. Urinary tract infection is an infection that can happen to any organs within the urinary tract, which includes: the kidneys, urethra, ureters, and bladder.
Burning sensation when you pee, a change in the color and odor of urine, lower belly cramps, and difficulty urinating are some symptoms of a UTI. A urine test is needed to detect a UTI followed by medications as prescribed by the doctor.
- Mental Illness: Pregnancy is a major life-changing event for every woman. Even if the mother is prepared or if it’s not their first time being pregnant, it definitely has a great effect on their mental health. Mood disorders during and after pregnancy are highly common. Changing body, stress, and hormonal fluctuations all add to symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Depression can make self-care very hard for pregnant people which is why it is important to normalize discussion around mental health issues during pregnancy and get the symptoms treated.
Some complications and concerns during labor include:
- Malposition: This refers to an abnormal position of the baby in the uterus during labor. The fetus may be lying upwards, sideways, or have a legs-first position. A manual changing of the baby’s position will be needed during the delivery. In certain cases, a cesarean delivery will be necessary.
- Prolonged Labor: This is when the labor is long despite contractions. Sometimes the cervix does not dilate or enlarge for the baby to pass through the canal. Labor of 20 hours or more is considered prolonged labor. Sometimes a walk, labor-inducing medication, or even a C-section may be needed in such cases.
- Placenta Previa: This occurs when the placenta, the organ that envelops and nourishes the fetus, covers the cervix. Bleeding during or after pregnancy without pain is one symptom of this complication. Preterm birth and severe bleeding are some complications associated with placenta previa. An emergency C-section may be needed in some cases.
- Postpartum Depression: Many women develop depression after pregnancy due to hormonal changes, chemical imbalances, and even changes in social circumstances. Symptoms can appear a few weeks or even a few months after childbirth. Seeking help for depression from a health care provider and from your immediate social circle is important for the mother and the baby’s wellbeing.
But it’s not all gloom and doom, you can always do things to ensure a happy and healthy pregnancy.
So now, let’s skip to the good part,
Here’s what you can do to have a healthy and safe pregnancy:
- Quit smoking and alcohol.
- Schedule regular check-ups with your healthcare provider.
- Eat healthy meals, with lots of leafy greens, calcium, and folate sources.
- Get your vitamins in check. Take supplements if needed.
- Stay active and engage in mild exercise regularly.
- Meditate and journal to alleviate stress and anxiety.
- Track your weight (25-35 pounds is the normal weight gain during pregnancy).
- Limit caffeine.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Wash your vegetables and fruits before consumption. Wash your hands, and avoid unpasteurized dairy products to limit exposure to infection-causing bacteria.
- Connect with loved ones or adopt self-care activities to take care of your mental health.
- Avoid sitting or standing too much.
- Indulge in your cravings every so often!
Adopting these lifestyle changes will help you not just during pregnancy, but long after that. If you are planning a baby or not planning one –these lifestyle changes can be followed through by all of us!
Remember even if you do have any of the health issues mentioned above, there is no need to panic. Most of these issues will not cause serious harm if you have regular visits with your doctor and treat them on time.
Having a healthy and happy future for your baby begins with you!