Pregnancy And Labor Complications Nobody Talks About

November 20, 2019  |  
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pregnancy complications list

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Not just when I was a child, but honestly through my late twenties, I believed that pregnancy was the most seamless thing in the world. When adults spoke to me about pregnancy, they talked about it as if you could get pregnant by simply looking at someone the wrong way. When I’d see pregnant women, they seemed so calm and happy. Now I’m realizing that my experience and view of pregnancy was curated and controlled.

Of course adults needed me to believe that becoming pregnant was extremely easy—they didn’t want me to have sex, or at least unprotected sex. And of course I only saw pregnant women when they were happy and healthy—that was the only time they wanted to be out in public. I knew nothing of the complications, the pain, the mood swings, and the morning sickness. If I saw a pregnant woman—like a friend of my mom’s or a teacher—it’s because she was feeling well enough to see people and go about her life that day. But it didn’t mean it was because she always felt that well. Maybe it’s also a societal device—hiding the true horrors that can come with pregnancy and childbirth.

If every woman really knew what could go wrong during pregnancy, we’d probably all stop having kids. Or at least many of us. And as it stands, we’re slowing down on reproduction quite a bit anyways. But it is so important that women do know about the risks that can come with pregnancy and childbirth—and even the months after childbirth. We have a right to know. The older I get and the more friends I have who have kids, the more I learn that pregnancy can be frightening and life-threatening sometimes. And on that note, while all women can be at risk, black women are two to six times more likely to die due to pregnancy-complications. It’s not all baby showers and storks. Let’s take a look.

pregnancy complications list

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Gestational diabetes

Even a woman who is not diabetic before pregnancy can become a diabetic during pregnancy. Though this typically resolves itself after labor, it can still be quite dangerous during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman’s body cannot produce the extra insulin needed to control blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

pregnancy complications list

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What can be done

Though gestational diabetes typically goes away after delivery, it must be managed during pregnancy. This management will usually include special meal plans to manage blood sugar, planned physical activities, regular blood glucose testing, and possibly insulin injections.

pregnancy complications list

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Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia, also called toxemia, is a type of blood poisoning caused by a bacterial infection. It can develop around the 20-week mark in pregnancy, may cause kidney damage, and can get worse throughout pregnancy. Some symptoms include protein in the urine, swelling in the hands and feet, and high blood pressure.

pregnancy complications list

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What can be done

In some cases, a doctor may induce early labor, since the most effective way to eliminate the issue is to end the pregnancy. However, sometimes, the issue has progressed far before it is safe for a woman to deliver. In that case, your doctor will monitor you and your baby closely, potentially prescribing medicine to bring down your blood pressure and/or to help mature the baby faster, to prepare him for early delivery.

pregnancy complications list

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Preterm labor

Should regular contractions force the cervix to open after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before 37 weeks (the typical safe time for delivery), a woman can go into preterm labor. Unfortunately, the earlier preterm labor is, the higher the risk for the baby, including fatality and defect risks.

pregnancy complications list

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What can be done

Some ways to limit one’s risk of preterm labor include getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy, as well as putting on the doctor-recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs during pregnancy, and staying on top of prenatal care visits with your doctor.

pregnancy complications list

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Anemia

Anemia is defined as having less than a normal count of red blood cells in your body. Low levels of anemia can be normal in pregnant women, since the iron levels are altered during this time. But severe anemia can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and increased risk of complications during delivery.

pregnancy complications list

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What can be done

Your doctor may recommend that you take an iron and/or folic acid supplement if you suffer from severe anemia during pregnancy. Your doctor may also require you to eat more foods high in anemia and iron, and closely monitor feelings of dizziness to prevent incidents of falling.

pregnancy complications list

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Failure to progress

Once a woman has gone into a labor, there is a healthy pace at which the baby should move down the birth canal. But in some women, this doesn’t occur. If labor is taking 20 hours or more for a first-time mother or 14-hours or more for a woman who has had children before, this is considered failure to progress or prolonged labor. This brings risks of fetal distress due to lack of oxygen, sepsis, hemorrhage, and long-term risks to the baby’s development.

pregnancy complications list

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What can be done

Your doctor may stop administering drugs during labor, as these can slow down contractions. She may recommend you relax, take a walk, and wait for the cervix to calm down. If more natural methods are not working, your doctor may call for a Cesarean section, which can come along with its own complications, including guilt.

pregnancy complications list

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Miscarriage

Miscarriages seem like this dark, secret topic, kept hidden in the corners of our society. Many women feel shame around suffering a miscarriage, and do not share with their friends and family if this occurs. But know that nearly 20 percent of pregnancies in otherwise healthy women end in a miscarriage, which can be emotionally devastating.

pregnancy complications list

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What you can do

Many of the same precautions to prevent preterm labor should be taken to minimize the chances of a miscarriage. Remaining at a healthy weight during pregnancy, eating a healthy diet, and staying away from alcohol and tobacco can all reduce the risk. Taking certain supplements, like folic acid, can also help minimize the risk of miscarriage. If a woman has suffered a miscarriage in the past and is pregnant again, she should speak to her doctor about how she specifically is at risk.

pregnancy complications list

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Low birth weight

If your baby is born at less than what is considered a healthy birth weight (typically between five pounds, eight ounces and eight pounds, 13 ounces, for babies born between the 37 and 40 week mark) she can be at risk for issues like heart infections, learning disabilities, respiratory infections, and blindness.

pregnancy complications list

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What can be done

If your baby is born with a low birth weight, she may need to remain in the hospital under professional supervision for days or weeks. Some things women can do in advance to help prevent this issue is monitoring and controlling pre-existing medical conditions, and staying away from alcohol and drugs.

pregnancy complications list

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Black women are at risk

Sadly, black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women. It has nothing to do with socioeconomic background or access to healthcare. Because black women are more prone to diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of having a child become more dangerous for this demographic and meeting with a doctor regularly throughout these changes is critical.

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