Every woman wants to have a healthy and complication-free pregnancy. Unfortunately, some women have a higher risk of developing certain pregnancy complications. Below, we’ve outlined 5 common pregnancy complications and given suggestions on how you can lower your chances of developing them.
1. Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women who did not have diabetes before they were pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2% and 10% of pregnancies in the US are affected by gestational diabetes every year. Gestational diabetes develops when your body does not make enough insulin during pregnancy. Insulin is responsible for turning the sugar in your blood (which comes from what you eat) into energy. Without enough insulin, too much sugar remains in the blood. Women with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for needing a C-section, having a very large baby (over 9 pounds), premature birth, and developing type 2 diabetes after pregnancy.
You can prevent pregnancy complications related to gestational diabetes by achieving a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Women who are obese during pregnancy are more likely to develop gestational diabetes.
2. High Blood Pressure & Preeclampsia
High blood pressure (HBP), which is also called hypertension, is a condition in which the pressure of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is too high. This can cause damage to the blood vessels and can lead to serious complications for pregnant women and their babies. According to the CDC, hypertension is linked to an increased risk of maternal complications like preeclampsia, placental abruption, and gestational diabetes.
Preeclampsia is a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy. This type of high blood pressure also includes signs that organs like the kidneys or liver are not functioning properly. Preeclampsia is linked to preterm birth, low birth weight, and damage to the kidneys, brain, or liver. While there is no surefire way to prevent preeclampsia, you can reduce your risk by:
- Getting to a healthy weight before you get pregnant
- Managing your weight when pregnant
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough exercise
- See your OB/GYN regularly
- Take any medications approved by your doctor
3. Obesity & Weight Gain
If a woman is obese before getting pregnant, she is at a higher risk of developing pregnancy complications like hypertension and gestational diabetes. While it is necessary to gain weight during pregnancy, your doctor will advise you how much weight is healthy to gain. Making sure you eat a nutritious diet and get regular exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy. However, it is not advisable to try and lose weight during pregnancy, so the best way to prevent weight-related pregnancy complications is to get to a healthy weight before pregnancy.
Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells in the body is lower than normal. The symptoms of anemia include fatigue, weakness, and pale skin. Several things can contribute to pregnancy complications involving anemia. During pregnancy, the body produces more blood to support the growth of the baby. If you don’t get enough of certain nutrients like iron, your body may not be able to produce enough red blood cells to keep up with the production of blood.
It is not uncommon for pregnant women to experience iron-deficiency anemia. Treating anemia with supplements with high levels of folic acid and iron can relieve symptoms and increase the number of red blood cells your body produces. You can prevent anemia during pregnancy by making sure you eat a diet rich in folic acid and iron and taking supplements. According to the CDC, all women of child-bearing age should get at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day.
While your baby is protected from many illnesses during pregnancy, there are some infections that can be passed from mother to baby. Some of these infections can be harmful during pregnancy. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a comprehensive list of infections that can affect pregnancy. These include some sexually transmitted infections, foodborne illnesses, and viral infections. To prevent passing an infection on to your baby during pregnancy, you can:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid certain foods
- Get tested for STDs and other chronic infections
- Get vaccinated before you get pregnant
- You can also consult this chart from the March of Dimes to find out what vaccines are safe to get during pregnancy.
At Green Valley OB/GYN, we have been providing quality obstetric and gynecological care to the women of the NC Triad for over 70 years. We offer a comprehensive list of services and procedures for women in all stages of life. If you have concerns about pregnancy complications, call us at (336) 378-1110 to schedule an appointment.