Having a baby is one of the happiest moments of a person’s life. The innate urge for the pregnancy to go smoothly and for birthing a healthy baby is a mother’s utmost priority. However, knowing your pregnancy is high risk can cause alarm, regardless of whether it’s your first child. This pregnancy entails higher than-normal health risks for the mother and baby. These risks may stem from existing health conditions of the mother or may develop during the pregnancy.
Such women require more vigilance and care than an average pregnant woman. Since each pregnancy is unique, certain hazards that apply to one pregnancy might not apply to another, but knowing them helps to navigate the journey much better. Here’s a list of some things to expect during a high-risk pregnancy.
1. Intrauterine Fetal Demise (IUFD)
When a fetus passes away in the womb after the 20th week of pregnancy, it is known as Intrauterine Fetal Demise or stillbirth. It is not the most common outcome of a high-risk pregnancy but one of the most devastating. Being aware of the causes, risk factors, and symptoms can aid in curtailing this risk. IUFD can occur due to three major factors:
- Placental risk factors include problems with the placenta, such as placenta abruption, placental insufficiency, or any umbilical cord complication.
- Fetal risk factors include genetic abnormalities and infections
- Maternal risk factors consider the mother’s age and health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, etc.
According to the CDC, intrauterine fetal demise affects about 1 in 175 births, and each year about 21,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. It might also be caused due to medical negligence, as the doctor might be at fault if they fail to diagnose such a complication. Review your IUFD case and seek legal action against the healthcare providers if you feel this way.
2. Pre-term labor and birth
It is known as pre-term birth when a woman delivers the baby after 20 weeks and before the 37-week mark. Such infants are known as premature babies or preemies. A pregnancy is termed high risk if the mother previously had a preterm birth or if her cervix has shortened early in the pregnancy. Frequent abdominal pains, mucus-like vaginal discharge, and rupturing of membranes (fluid starts to leak when membranes surrounding the baby break) are some of the symptoms of pre-term labor.
A child has a better chance of surviving and being in good health closer to the full term. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, one in ten babies was born early in 2021. Babies can face many health challenges immediately after birth, such as breathing problems, infections, and difficulty in maintaining temperature. They require special care in the NICU for a period determined by their health condition.
3. Excessive vaginal bleeding
Bleeding during pregnancy is divided into bleeding before 20 weeks and after 20 weeks. Bleeding heavily later on in the pregnancy is more dangerous and is caused by complications related to the placenta. Placental abruption occurs when the placenta separates from the uterus during pregnancy but before birth, so the area from which it starts to separate bleeds. Placenta previa is when the placenta attaches itself closer to the cervix, and the opening of the cervix causes bleeding.
Women must keep an eye on their vaginal discharge during a high-risk pregnancy. Be mindful of the color, duration, and frequency of the bleeding for your doctor to diagnose the reasons and implications. For example, bright red painless bleeding might indicate placental previa, whereas dark red clotted blood may indicate uterine rupture or placental abruption.
Miscarriage is an abrupt loss of the pregnancy before the 20th week. This word might imply that something went wrong with carrying the baby, but most miscarriages occur due to the subnormal development of the fetus.
Abdominal pain, weight loss, vaginal bleeding, or tissue resembling blood clots leaking from your vagina are some symptoms of a miscarriage. They are mostly linked with high-risk pregnancy factors such as advanced maternal age, health issues of the mother such as diabetes or thyroid, exposure to alcohol and drugs, etc. Sometimes a mother’s cervix weakens and cannot support the pregnancy, resulting in a miscarriage during the second trimester; this is called cervical insufficiency. Doctors most commonly use a circling stitch to treat it. However, cervical insufficiency may be detected even if you’ve never miscarried.
When a miscarriage is confirmed, various methods are available to end the pregnancy properly. The pregnancy tissues pass eventually in 1-2 weeks with the help of medicines, or surgery can be opted to remove all remaining tissue. Most people go on to have healthy and successful pregnancies in the future after having a miscarriage.
5. Preeclampsia and Eclampsia
Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure disorder developed during pregnancy. Blood vessels form early in the pregnancy to nourish the placenta to feed the fetus via the umbilical cord. However, they don’t form or function normally in preeclamptic women. The heart and other organs are stressed by preeclampsia, which can result in unfavorable consequences. Moreover, the protein levels in the urine rise to excessive levels, a sign of kidney dysfunction. The rate of preeclampsia in the US has increased by 25% in the last two decades.
Eclampsia is a dangerous side effect of preeclampsia, which involves far more than simply high blood pressure. Symptoms can include seizures with uncontrollable shaking, confusion, and sometimes fainting spells, headaches, blurred vision, or both. The rarity of eclampsia means that it occurs in less than 1% of women suffering from severe preeclampsia.
You may avoid developing eclampsia by receiving immediate medical attention for preeclampsia. In addition to regular prenatal checkups, blood and urine tests can identify the symptoms of eclampsia.
Learning that you are at a higher risk of pregnancy and birth complications might add to the stress of bringing a new life to the world. Being aware of the baby’s health and yourself helps in taking necessary precautions and easily transitioning from being pregnant to having a baby and then adjusting to life with them. Seeking expert medical care is one of the most significant elements of this journey. Remain vigilant, do not neglect even a minor discomfort during the pregnancy, and inform your ob-gyn as soon as possible because they have the best knowledge and capabilities to help you through any such difficulty.