Pregnancy

6 complications that can pop up in pregnancy and when to call your health care provider

***Midwife, Bel Moore, sheds light on the 6 complications that can pop up in pregnancy and when to call your health care provider*** 

Listening to your body, exercising and following a healthy eating diet plan are important factors to consider whether pregnant or not, but you should be aware of some other common complications that can occur during pregnancy.

elsie_preterm_baby
Source: Baby Elsie. Born 28 Weeks Premature. Supplied: Nicola Rigby.

Registered midwife and lactation consultant, Bel Moore, has pulled together some information about 6 different complications that can arise during pregnancy.

Hopefully you won’t suffer from any of these, but it’s always wise to be vigilant and keep an eye out for symptoms.

6 complications that can pop up in pregnancy

1. Iron-deficiency anemia

A condition where there are not enough red blood cells in the blood, which limits the amount of oxygen (oxygen attaches to the red blood cells to travel around) able to reach the brain, muscles and body.

Pregnant women are at an increased risk of developing anemia due to the extra 2-3 litres of blood in the body. Common symptoms include: 

  • Pale skin
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat.

Apart from making you feel terrible, severe or untreated iron-deficiency during pregnancy can increase your risk of going into preterm labour, having postnatal depression and your baby may be born with low iron levels too.

To avoid low iron levels: 

  • Start your pregnancy in good health – If you’re planning to fall pregnant, have your levels checked and work on increasing your iron levels if needed.  Your haemoglobin (Hb) levels will usually be checked via a blood test in early pregnancy as a baseline and then again at 26-28 weeks.
  • Eat well while pregnant – Iron is found in meats, iron fortified breads,  cereals, eggs, spinach and dried fruit.
  • Take supplements- If you are advised to take supplements, talk to your doctor about the best ways to take them and how to avoid any possible side effects like constipation.

Healthy Mummy Note: The Healthy Mummy’s Energy Boosting Super Greens can help increase your iron levels, load your body with Vitamin C and Vitamin B (not to mention, many other essential vitamins and minerals) and is a product which is SAFE to be consumed while pregnant. You can purchase our Super Greens on their own or as part of our Healthy Mummy Complete Pregnancy Pack.

low_iron_pregnancy
Source: Iron Deficiency Cause Server Bruising For Pregnant Brooke Jones. Supplied Brooke.

You can even read all about how an iron deficiency caused Brooke to develop nasty, dark bruises.

2. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

An infection of the urinary tract is when a bacteria (usually E coli- which lives in the bowel) travel up the urethra to the bladder and/or kidneys and multiplies quickly, causing an infection.

Due to women having a shorter urethra and it being situated quite close to the anus, they are more likely to experience UTI’s compared to men. The chance of developing a UTI is increased in pregnancy due to  changes in hormones and the urinary tract.

Common symptoms of a UTI include: 

  • Stinging or burning when passing urine
  • Only being able to pass small amounts of urine
  • Feeling the need to pass urine frequently
  • Smelly, cloudy, dark or bloody urine
  • Pain in the lower abdomen, back or sides
  • Nausea and fever

A urine sample will be used to confirm a UTI diagnosis and help the doctor determine which antibiotics are needed to fight the infection.

Urinary alkalinisers (such as Ural or cranberry juice) can help with the stinging or burning sensation. UTI’s should be treated promptly as it can cause pyelonephritis (infection of the kidneys) requiring hospitalisations and IV antibiotics and also cause premature labour and low birth weight in babies.

Ways to reduce the risk of developing a UTI:

  • Completely empty your bladder fully each time you urinate
  • Go to the toilet often
  • Wipe from front to back after going to the toilet
  • Drink plenty of fluids to flush the bladder and kidneys
  • Urinate after sex
  • Drink cranberry juice

3. Thrush 

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast-like fungus, Candida albicans, which is more common in pregnancy due to the changing levels of hormones. Symptoms include itchiness, burning, redness around the vagina, pain when urinating or having sex and a thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese.

To try prevent thrush: 

  • Wearing cotton underwear instead of synthetic ones and change daily
  • Avoid creating moist, warm environments as it encourages an overgrowth of bacteria/yeast (wet swimming costumes, sports clothes, tight jeans)
  • Change pads often
  • Avoid using soaps, bubble baths etc around the vaginal area as this can change the pH of the vagina allowing bacteria to grow

There’s no evidence that thrush will harm your unborn baby but it can be very uncomfortable if left untreated. See your doctor or head to the chemist to pick up a vaginal thrush cream or pessary.

4. Gestational Diabetes (GDM) 

GDM is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, caused by the hormones made by the placenta impairing the action of the mother’s insulin causing insulin resistance.

It usually occurs between the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy and goes away after the baby is born. It affects between 5-10% of Australian pregnant women and is diagnosed by the Oral Glucose tolerance test (OGTT), which is routinely offered between 24-28 weeks (or earlier if you’re at high risk).

Women at higher risk of developing GDM include: 

  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are from an Indigenous Australian or Torres Strait Islander, Vietnamese, Chinese, middle eastern, Polynesian or Melanesian background
  • Have had gestational diabetes during previous pregnancies
  • Have previously had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Have previously given birth to a large baby (>4kg)
  • Have a family history of gestational diabetes

GDM is usually able to be managed with healthy eating and regular activity. You will usually be asked to monitor your blood sugar levels (BSL’s) daily and may need a few extra ultrasounds (growth scans) to ensure baby’s health. Some women who’s BSL’s are unable to be kept in a normal range will need insulin injections throughout their pregnancy.

Complications of GDM include the baby having large birth weight (increased risk of birth trauma for both mother and baby) and hypoglycemia post birth (low blood sugars).  Both mother and baby are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Healthy Mummy Note: Our Healthy Mummy Complete Pregnancy Pack also includes a Pregnancy Eating & Exercise Book. This book provides an easy how-to guide for your healthiest pregnancy, with diet and exercise advice to help you your minimise your risk of developing such conditions as well as how to deal with some of the potential challenges of pregnancy.

5. Pre-eclampsia 

Pre-eclampsia is one of the more common complications of pregnancy (1 in 10) and involves developing persistent high blood pressure after 20 weeks gestation and even into the post birth period.

Pre-eclampsia can affect the blood supply to the placenta, limiting the baby’s supply of nutrients and oxygen and reducing its growth. If left untreated, pre eclampsia can develop in to two life threatening complications, HELLP syndrome or eclampsia (convulsions).

 Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in urine
  • Sudden excessive swelling of the face, hands and feet
  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Pain in the epigastic region ( upper middle abdomen)

But it is also possible to experience no symptoms at all.

Treatment of pre-eclampsia includes oral or IV medication to lower the blood pressure and risk of convulsions, but the only way to cure pre eclampsia is delivery of the baby and placenta.

6. Preterm labour 

Preterm labour is the onset of labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy and is characterised by regular and often painful uterine contractions, which may result in the cervix starting to open. Women at an increased risk of preterm labour include:

  • Smokers or those who use illicit drugs
  • Having a previous preterm birth
  • Pregnant with twins, triplets etc
  • Experiencing an infections e.g. urinary tract infection
  • Previous surgery on your cervix
  • Premature rupture of membranes ( waters)
  • Abnormalities of the uterus eg. fibroids
preterm
Source: Baby Elsie. Born 28 Weeks Premature. Supplied: Nicola Rigby.

Symptoms of preterm labour can include:

  • Losing your mucus plug ( show)
  • Your waters breaking (either a slow trickle or sudden gush)
  • Painful, regular contractions lasting more than 30 seconds ( different to Braxton hicks)

Management of threatened preterm labour will include monitoring of the baby and any contractions via a CTG machine and a speculum examination to see any changes in cervix and test for amniotic fluid.

Your care provider may also conduct a fetal fibronectin test to see how likely preterm birth may be.

Treatment of preterm labour may include steroid injections to improve the lung maturity of the baby to reduce breathing difficulties post birth and tablets that act on the smooth muscle of the uterus to try stop or slow labour.

When to call the midwife/doctor:

  • At any time you are worried about yourself or the baby. No point sitting at home being worried when the midwives can assess and reassure you.
  • Any bleeding or leaking of fluid from the vagina (bring your undies or pad with you to the hospital for the midwives to check).
  • Have contractions before 37 weeks.
  • Any pains that you are concerned about.
  • Have sudden or severe swelling in the face, hands, or fingers (swelling in the feet is pretty common in pregnancy, but if worried, mention it to the midwives).
  • Have a severe or long-lasting headache.
  • Have discomfort, pain, or cramping in the lower abdomen.
  • Have a fever or chills.
  • Are vomiting and not able to keep any fluids down or have persistent nausea where you are loosing weight/unable to eat.
  • Feel discomfort, pain, or burning with urination.
  • Have problems seeing or blurred vision.
  • Feel dizzy.
  • Suspect your baby is moving less than normal.
  • Have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

They won’t always ask/need you to come in to the hospital to be checked, but always call to talk about your concern or issue.

The above conditions are just come of complications that can occur during pregnancy. Always be sure to chat with your care provider if you are worried, concerned or struggling with an aliment while pregnant.

The Healthy Mummy Complete Pregnancy Pack

In order to help you have the healthiest possible pregnancy, we have created The Healthy Mummy Complete Pregnancy Pack.

This pack contains:

  • 1 x Healthy Mummy Pregnancy Smoothie Tub 
  • 1 x Healthy Pregnancy Eating & Exercise Plan Book
  • 1 x Healthy Mummy Super Greens
  • 1 x Healthy Mummy Scoop

To learn more about this pack (and the products included) click here.

Pregnancy-Pack

Disclaimer: Always speak to your doctor before changing your diet, taking any supplements or undertaking any exercise program in pregnancy. The information on this site is for reference only and is not medical advice and should not be treated as such, and is not intended in any way as a substitute for professional medical advice.

bel-moore
written by:

Bel Moore

Bel is a Midwife, Registered Nurse, Nurse Immuniser, Babywearing Consultant and is currently completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Child and Family Health at the University of Technology Sydney. She is passionate about antenatal education, breastfeeding support and keeping fit. Bel is a solo mummy to a beautiful two year old, Oliver.