Having a baby is one of life’s greatest experiences, but complications can turn this dream into a nightmare. While many pregnancy complications can be prevented with good prenatal care, others can strike like lightning, causing mothers and babies to suffer and bringing frightening realities to families.
Preventable Childbirth Complications
The vast majority of childbirth complications are preventable if expectant mothers receive good prenatal care from the moment they suspect they are pregnant. Here are a few steps mothers can take to ensure a problem-free pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control:
- From the moment you suspect you may be pregnant or begin trying to conceive, avoid substances that can contribute to birth defects and pregnancy complications. These include alcohol, drugs, tobacco and even caffeine
- Be sure your diet is rich in a variety of foods that offer sound nutrition such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and healthy oils
- While exercise is recommended, strenuous activity should be avoided. Walking, swimming and yoga are all good activities in which to engage while you are pregnant and will help you keep excess weight off as well
- Be sure to see a doctor as soon as you suspect you are pregnant. Be honest with your doctor about any health issues you have had, especially STDs or other illnesses that could affect your baby’s health and your own
- Try to avoid contact with those who are suffering from contagious diseases. Because you should not take any medications, even over-the-counter preparations, while you are pregnant, a common cold can be difficult to treat. Furthermore, some diseases such as German measles can be transmitted to the baby through the mother and cause serious birth defects.
Non-Preventable Childbirth Complications
Some common complications have nothing to do with the mother’s activities or behavior during pregnancy. These complications are either congenital, meaning they are present from the moment of pregnancy or birth, or are acquired due to genetic tendencies or environmental factors.
- Ectopic Pregnancy – An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attempts to implant in a location other than the lining of the uterus. This can occur in women who have suffered from certain STDs or for no apparent reason at all. An ectopic pregnancy can endanger the life of the mother and will eventually cause loss of pregnancy. Pain, dizziness and bleeding should always be considered serious symptoms that should be examined by a doctor.
- Rh factor – Women have one of two blood types: Rh positive or Rh negative. This factor is present no matter what your Universal blood type: A, B, AB or O. Women who lack a certain protein in the blood are considered Rh negative. While this condition does not cause any symptoms for the mother, it can result in serious complications if the father of the baby is Rh positive and the baby is also Rh positive. A mother’s body will not recognize an Rh positive baby and may attempt to abort. Rh sensitivity can be treated with a simple injection, but it must be identified prior to birth to give mother and baby the best chance for survival.
- Gestational Diabetes – A certain percentage of women will develop a temporary diabetic condition during late-term pregnancy known as gestational diabetes. These women must manage their diabetes through diet and insulin supplements until the baby is born to avoid complications affecting both mother and child.
- Hypertension – High blood pressure is a relatively common pregnancy complication that can occur without warning, even in women who have never had hypertension. There are few symptoms, but mothers may find that they feel headachy or dizzy, or even have nosebleeds, with high blood pressure. The best way to monitor hypertension is to have a doctor check your blood pressure periodically. Expectant mothers with uncontrolled high blood pressure may be admitted to a hospital for bed rest to protect mother and baby.
Complications can also occur during birth. Breech birth, for example, occurs when a baby is not in a head-downward position at the time the mother goes into labor. Issues involving the placenta and umbilical cord are also possible. This is one reason why it is a good idea for a woman to be in a hospital as soon as she goes into labor.
While there are many possible complications of pregnancy, the good news is that most are treatable or preventable. The best thing expectant mothers can do to protect their own health and their baby’s health is to seek medical care immediately and remain under a doctor’s care throughout their pregnancy.