Health problems during pregnancy: it's better to know

When you get pregnant, everything in your life just gets...more. More cake, more belly, more questions, more waiting... more more more. Fitting with the pattern, when you’re pregnant, there are way more possible health problems to look out for, including baby health, pregnancy-related mom health, and general health problems.

What are health problems in pregnancy?

Health problems in women during pregnancy can range from general problems like the common cold, pneumonia, or the flu, to pregnancy-specific issues like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.

Baby-specific issues can include chromosomal disorders, neural tube conditions, and excess or insufficient weight. However, because you and your baby are so closely connected during pregnancy, she may be affected as well by any health problems that you face, and vice versa.

How can general health problems affect your pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, your body has to turn your immune system down a few notches, so the the cells that defend your body from harm don’t identify your baby as an intruder and go after her.

Unfortunately, this increases the likelihood that you contract some sort of illness that can negatively affect both your health and your baby's. That’s why women are encouraged to stay away from certain foods that may contain harmful bacteria like salmonella and listeria, and avoid sick people.

Babies are more likely to run into complications when their moms are sick, so pregnant women should take great care to avoid sources of illness and stay healthy. Women who do run into general health problems during pregnancy should contact their healthcare provider as soon as they believe something may be amiss.

Pregnancy-specific mom problems

Besides general health problems, there are other, more pregnancy-specific conditions that could arise during pregnancy that affect both you and Baby. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Preeclampsia: Characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week, preeclampsia is a highly dangerous pregnancy condition that could cause lethal strokes and seizures if left unmonitored
  • Gestational diabetes: This condition is similar to non-pregnancy diabetes (Types I and II) in that it inhibits your cells’ ability to process sugar, and could be very dangerous for both you and your baby. Unlike regular diabetes, it usually fixes itself in the weeks or months after you give birth.
  • Intense pregnancy symptoms: Sometimes, your pregnancy symptoms can be so intense and aggravating that they end up as health problems themselves. Women with hyperemesis gravidarum will end up experiencing nausea and vomiting throughout their pregnancies, which can result in dehydration, and be dangerous for you both. Similarly, hypotension (low blood pressure) could put the two of you in the way of physical harm if it makes you feel too faint or dizzy. Migraines, severe abdominal discomfort, vaginal bleeding and anything else could also be problematic, or reflect an issue, if intense enough.

Fetal health problems

Babies will be affected by any health problems their moms encounter, but there are other pregnancy conditions that start on a baby's end, and can prove dangerous for both parties:

  • Chromosomal disorders: Human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes, of which half are donated by the egg, and half by the sperm. Sometimes though, an error is made, and a fertilized egg will wind up with an extra, or missing, chromosome in a certain location. Depending on the location of the extra or missing chromosome, babies will encounter developmental disorders. Many chromosomal disorders cannot result in viable babies, though others, like Trisomy-21, the most common chromosomal disorder (three copies of Chromosome 21, rather than two, also known as Down Syndrome) can yield super happy, but developmentally disabled babies. The First Trimester Combined Screen can identify signs of chromosomal disorders, but a more definitive, diagnostic test like a Chorionic Villus Sampling or Amniocentesis is needed to confirm a disorder.
  • Neural tube defects: Spina Bifida is the most common neural tube defect, and occurs when the neural tube (the part of the blastocyst that becomes baby’s brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system) does not properly close during development, and can result in stunted development.
  • High or low birth weight: Though it often has to do with a woman's behaviors, a baby that is too heavy or too light (usually born prematurely) is at an elevated risk of encountering a complication. Babies that are too big may force women into a C-section, as a vaginal delivery could be dangerous. Babies who are too light may need extra care in the hospital after delivery, as they often have difficulty regulating their body temperature, and breathing effectively.

It’s very important to stay attuned to your health during pregnancy to watch out for any red flags, as you don’t want to mess around with your health, and you especially don’t want to mess around with your baby's.

Read more
  • Gil Mor, Ingrid Cardenas. "The Immune System in Pregnancy: A Unique Complexity." Am J Reprod Immunol. 63(6): 425-433. Web. 6/10/2015.
  • P Kristiansson, JX Wang. "Reproductive hormones and blood pressure during pregnancy." Human Reproduction. Vol.16, No.1 oo. 13-17. Web. 2001.
  • "Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: FAQ034." ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/14/2015. Web.
  • "Gestational Diabetes: FAQ177." ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/13/2015. Web.
  • "Morning sickness." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 6/03/2016. Web.
  • "Genetic Disorders: FAQ094." ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 4/14/2015. Web.
  • "Spina bifida Prevention." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 6/03/2016. Web.
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