Problems in pregnancy: what can happen?
The truth about pregnancy is that even if everything goes normally, there are unpleasant symptoms and serious risks to both your partner and the baby's health. Journalist and father-of-two Gavin Evans gives you the facts…
There are good and bad points to any pregnancy, and unfortunately most women will experience some discomfort as their bodies change rapidly to accommodate the baby growing inside them.
These include morning sickness, which causes vomiting, nausea and despite its name doesn't always strike in the morning, exhaustion, heartburn, constipation, piles and varicose veins. There are also potentially more worrying complications, most of which can be discovered through a simple blood test.
When will they test?
Your partner will have blood tests early in pregnancy and in the third trimester. These identify her blood group, diseases and defective genes causing hereditary conditions.
What other risks are there?
Apart from the conditions listed above the main problems facing a pregnant woman are high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, anaemia and deep vein thrombosis.
What is anaemia?
Anaemia in pregnancy is a blood disorder caused by dilution of the red blood cells and/or hemoglobin (the iron-related protein in the blood that carries oxygen around the body). Anaumia in pregnancy is often not true anaemia.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms for the mother include exhaustion, pallor, constant colds, dizziness and fainting.
During pregnancy, your partner needs to pump up to 50 per cent more blood in order to supply the baby. She will also lose much more iron from her blood, and if her body is short of iron, it is hard to maintain this volume, which may put her and the baby's health at risk, causing premature birth, infection or even death.
How can we lower the risk?
Basically, your partner needs to increase her iron intake (easily achieved with meat, fish, chicken, spinach, molasses, beans and iron supplements, which include vitamin C to help her absorb the iron). She should also increase her intake of folic acid (a B vitamin that helps produce red blood cells). A health professional can recommend any necessary changes to her diet.
High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can occur late in pregnancy, although some women can get it early in pregnancy. It affects around ten per cent of pregnant women, particularly very young or older mothers.
It also increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure, and can lead to pre-eclampsia, a condition that develops in about one in five pregnant women who have high blood pressure. It causes problems with the kidneys, which leads to protein leaking into the woman's urine.
What are the symptoms?
The causes are unknown but symptoms include sudden weight gain, swollen legs, headaches, blurred vision and abdominal pains. It rarely develops into full-blown eclampsia (where the mother can suffer thrombosis, brain haemorrhage and coma).