Pregnancy-related health problems

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Pregnancy-related health problems


Pregnancy is the period during which women carry fetus (unborn baby) inside her womb or uterus. Pregnancy usually lasts for around 40 weeks or little bit over 9 months, as measured from last time the woman had her monthly period until the birth of the baby. Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters, which are briefly explained here

First Trimester

It begins from 1st week of pregnancy till 12th week.

Initial development of baby starts during the first few weeks. It includes, events of conception (a process in which sperm enters the egg and fertilize it to form zygote) and later setting the zygote in the womb. The zygote contains a cluster of cells that makes the fetus (unborn baby) and placenta. Placenta is an organ that connects the unborn baby with the mother to ensure supply of oxygen and nutrients to the unborn baby.

Second Trimester

It begins in 13th week till 28th week of pregnancy. Various events occur in second trimester, which are as follows:

  • Sex of the baby is determined at 12 to 16 week, moreover bone, skin and muscle of baby are formed
  • Movement of baby is felt by mother usually around 20th week
  • Finger prints are formed and sleep pattern is established in the baby, around 24th week

Third Trimester

It begins from 29th week till 40th week of pregnancy. Following events occur during third trimester of pregnancy.

  • Baby can open and close eyes, bones are formed completely around 32nd week of pregnancy
  • Babies born before 37 weeks are preterm or early term babies and are at greater health risk including developmental delays and hearing and vision problems
  • Babies born after 39 or 40 weeks of pregnancy are full term and have better health outcomes as compared to preterm babies. Baby should be delivered after 39 weeks of pregnancy so that optimum time is provided for maturation of baby’s brain, lungs and liver
  • After 41 weeks of pregnancy, baby born is termed as late term
  • After 42 weeks of pregnancy, baby born is termed as post term

Common Problems during Pregnancy

There are various common complications experienced by some women during pregnancy, which may involve health of both, baby and mother. Prenatal care (regular check- ups) is very useful in minimizing the incidence of such common health problems during pregnancy. Following are some common health problems during pregnancy.

Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary from one woman to another. Following are some common signs of pregnancy
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Slight vaginal bleeding (different from menstrual bleeding)
  • Swollen or tender breast nipples
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent urination

Gestational Diabetes

It is the type of diabetes that may develop during pregnancy in women who didn’t have diabetes before pregnancy. After delivery of the baby, gestational diabetes usually goes away and blood glucose levels return to normal range.

The recommended range of blood glucose is less than 100 mg/dl (fasting) and less than 120 mg/dl (2 hours after meal).

In gestational diabetes, insulin is either not made due to hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy or it is not utilized normally. Therefore, glucose level increases in blood causing diabetes. This high blood glucose level can cause health problems affecting kidneys, vision or heart diseases.

Pregnant women should be screened for gestational diabetes during the first trimester to ensure appropriate treatment plan from the beginning. Women who have family history of diabetes or developed gestational diabetes in previous pregnancy are more carefully monitored throughout the whole pregnancy.

Uncontrolled high blood glucose level could lead to large baby size, premature delivery (preeclampsia) and increase risk of cesarean (surgery) delivery.

High blood pressure or hypertension

It occurs when arteries which carry blood from heart to organs of body are narrowed and thus pressure is increased in them. Sufficient quantity of blood may not reach the placenta during pregnancy if this condition develops. This reduced blood flow could lead to decrease in growth of baby, putting the mother at risk of premature delivery.

Women who have high blood pressure before pregnancy are required to monitor and control it during their pregnancy as well. High blood pressure that develops during pregnancy is termed as gestational hypertension and typically occurs during second or third trimester of pregnancy.  However, it gets back to normal after delivery of baby.

Preterm Labor

If labor begins before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is termed as preterm labor and infants born before 37 weeks of pregnancy are at increased risk of developing health problems because their organs are not fully matured.

Conditions like certain infections, short cervix or previous preterm birth are responsible for increasing the risk of preterm labor. Progesterone is a hormone that is produced by women normally during pregnancy. This hormone also prevents preterm birth so progesterone supplements could also be given to high risk women.

Preeclampsia (Premature delivery)

Premature delivery could occur because of a serious medical problem termed as preeclampsia.
Women who have the following conditions are at increased of premature delivery

  • Premature delivery in previous pregnancy
  • Existing medical condition like high blood glucose, high blood pressure or kidney disease
    First pregnancy
  • Pregnant women who are 35 years or older
  • Twin pregnancy
  • Obese women

Miscarriage

Pregnancy loss due to natural reasons before 20 weeks of pregnancy is termed as miscarriage. Signs of miscarriage include bleeding, vaginal spotting, tissue or fluid passage from vagina and cramping. Bleeding from vagina does not always mean that miscarriage has occurred or will occur. Therefore, woman who experiences these signs should see her health care provider immediately.

Pregnancy Loss

After 20 weeks of gestation, loss of pregnancy is termed as stillbirth. There are various health conditions that could lead to stillbirth; they include placental problems, chromosomal abnormalities, chronic health issues of a mother, poor fetal growth and infection.

Regular nausea and vomiting

Many pregnant women experience persistent vomiting and nausea, especially during the first trimester. Most women start to feel better after 20th week of pregnancy however, some continue with these symptoms until the third trimester. Those women with severe vomiting may sometime require infusion of fluids in hospital.

Iron deficiency anemia

Commonly pregnant women experience anemia due to lack of iron in their body. Pregnant women require increased quantity of iron because they are making more blood cells. In case of anemia, they feel tired, fainting, pale and shortness of breath. Doctors asked most pregnant women to take iron supplements during the pregnancy.

A pregnancy that may have life-threatening affects to mother or baby is known as high risk pregnancy.

Risk factors of high risk pregnancy includes

  • Carrying more than one fetus
  • Extremes of maternal age (too young or old)
  • Overweight
  • Existing health conditions (high blood glucose, high blood pressure, HIV positive)

Women who are dealing with high risk pregnancy should regularly see their specialist doctor to ensure safety of their own health and baby’ health are protected. 

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