Pregnancy often comes with unexpected side effects, from minor symptoms like nausea and nosebleeds to more severe complications that can jeopardize mother and baby’s health. Fortunately, serious complications are rare, but they do happen, so it’s not a bad idea to be ready.
While you can’t possibly prepare for every potential pregnancy complication, you can do a lot to make sure you and your baby stay healthy and safe:
- Taking good care of your health with diet and exercise
- Educating yourself about pregnancy complications so you can spot symptoms early
- Getting regular medical checkups and letting your doctor know about any unusual symptoms
- Encouraging those close to you to learn how to perform first aid and CPR on pregnant women, just in case
Some complications are unavoidable, of course, but staying healthy will go a long way towards avoiding preventable conditions.
Complications During Pregnancy
Most pregnancies are carried out fully without any serious complications. However, it’s good to be familiar with their symptoms, so you’ll know if something does crop up. Below, we’ve highlighted a few that don’t get enough attention so that you can be on the lookout.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is extreme nausea and vomiting during pregnancy – way more than typical morning sickness.
This condition makes it virtually impossible to keep food and fluids down, resulting in weight loss and dehydration. In extreme cases, the mother’s kidneys stop working as they should.
Both mother and baby are at risk if hyperemesis gravidarum is severe or uncontrolled and can lead to low birth weight and preterm birth.
Treatment usually includes anti-nausea measures and replenishing lost fluids through IV.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep vein thrombosis is a blood clot in a deep vein, usually in the thigh, leg, or pelvis. Pregnant women are five times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis than other women due to decreased blood flow to the lower half of the body during pregnancy.
Clots in the limbs sometimes break free and travel to the lung, resulting in a dangerous lung clot called a pulmonary embolism, so it’s vital to prevent them when possible by:
- Exercising regularly, even if it’s just moving the limbs while on bed rest
- Staying hydrated
- Wearing compression stockings
If you have a personal or family history of blood clots, let your doctor know, and report limb swelling or tenderness right away.
Pregnancy places extra strain on your heart, which can sometimes bring to light previously undiagnosed heart conditions.
Heart disease in pregnancy can be hard to diagnose since it often has the same symptoms as those caused by pregnancy:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
But the undiagnosed heart disease is one of the top causes of maternal deaths in developed countries.
If you have symptoms that mimic heart disease or feel that something isn’t right, consult a cardiologist to be sure. This is especially true if you have a family history of heart disease.
Maternal sepsis is the third most common cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. Sepsis is an illness caused by a severe bacterial, viral, or fungal infection and can infect anyone. However, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are at greater risk.
Sepsis can result when the body’s response to any infection causes excess inflammation, shutting down the body’s systems. Common infections leading to sepsis are:
- Staph infection
- Urinary tract infection
- E. coli
In addition to general infections, women are at risk when giving birth or during invasive procedures, during which bacteria can enter the body.
Symptoms of sepsis include:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Fever and chills
- Clammy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Racing heartbeat
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge
Sepsis can lead to organ failure and death, so it’s important to catch and treat it early.
Performing CPR on a Pregnant Woman
Research has shown that women in cardiac arrest are less likely than men to receive CPR, and receiving CPR in pregnancy is even less likely to happen. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that those close to you know how and feel comfortable performing CPR on pregnant women.
CPR in pregnancy is almost identical to performing CPR on anyone else:
- Call 911
- Start chest compressions
- Perform rescue breathing
- Restart heart with AED
Note that rescue breathing is included in CPR on pregnant women, although it’s excluded from CPR in most other cases nowadays.
CPR can save both mother and baby’s life, keeping the mother’s heart pumping long enough for emergency personnel to arrive. Remember that the best way to keep yourself and your baby safe is preventative measures and early detection of warning signs.
Always listen to your body and check with your doctor if you think anything feels off, even if you think it’s no big deal.