Pregnancy is such a fact of life that we often forget that it is actually classified as a medical condition and, as such, requires medical care. Pregnancy causes several changes in a womanís body, both hormonal and physical, and these changes can actually cause serious health risks; and health threats to the mother can also affect the baby. Sadly, many of these complications could have symptoms that are routinely confused for the normal effects of pregnancy, such as fatigue, headaches, and frequent urination.
This is why prenatal care is so important, and why you should make regular visits to your OB-GYN. The office of David Ghozland, M.D., Inc. also recommends you look for doctors who can be available off hours and on weekends to give peace of mind to women who are expecting.
Below are some of the common health risks that can occur with pregnancy, and how they are detected and treated with prenatal care.
Anemia is an abnormally low red blood cell count. Red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients in the blood, so when there arenít enough you can experience fatigue, memory problems, and there is a higher risk of premature births. There can be several causes of pregnancy-induced anemia including iron and folic acid deficiencies, and hormonal changes. Anemia is detected through a simple blood test, and regular prenatal care can ensure that the anemia is detected and treated early.
Hypertension is abnormally high blood pressure. Hypertension that occurs during pregnancy, in women with no prior history, is called preeclampsia. Hypertension often has no symptoms, which is why it is often called the silent killer. Some pregnant women may experience headaches, but many have no symptoms at all until the hypertension has progressed to a dangerous stage. If left untreated, hypertension puts the mother at greater risk for a stroke, and increases the risk of a premature delivery.† It can also cause life-threatening consequences to the mother after deliver. Hypertension could be caused by weight gain during pregnancy, but it can also be caused by hormonal fluctuations independent of weight.
Because hypertension is often asymptomatic, the only way to discover it is through regular blood pressure screening.† Regular prenatal care can detect high blood pressure, and allows the doctor to monitor the motherís condition and make the pregnancy as safe as possible.
Gestational diabetes is abnormally high blood sugar during pregnancy. It is similar to type 2 diabetes in that the motherís body still makes insulin; itís just not able to use it properly. Gestational diabetes has symptoms similar to type 1 and type 2 diabetes including:
∑† Excessive hunger;
∑† Excessive thirst; and,
∑† Excessive urination.
If left untreated, gestational diabetes can lead to:
∑† Hypertension in the mother;
∑† Premature birth;
∑† An abnormally large baby and complicated delivery, and;
∑† Jaundice, low blood sugar, and breathing issues in the baby.
Also, once a woman develops gestational diabetes, she is more likely to develop it in future pregnancies, and more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes is diagnosed through a simple blood test. Regular prenatal care can detect the elevated blood sugar, and allows the doctor to monitor the motherís condition. It also gives him the opportunity to prescribe lifestyle changes or medication to help manage the diabetes.
Extreme Morning Sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum)
Women experience varying extremes of morning sickness during pregnancy. Some may only experience it in the first few months, some may experience it during the entire pregnancy, and some may not experience any at all. However, extremely heavy vomiting can lead to a host of health problems, including drastic weight loss, dehydration and electrolyte loss.† It can be potentially life-threatening if left untreated.
Extreme morning sickness is generally diagnosed when the mother reports her condition to her doctor. However, regular prenatal checkups could also reveal the effects of the morning sickness during a routine exam.
As you can see, there is so much more to pregnancy than just eating for two; there is a whole set of physiological processes that can have a direct impact on the motherís health, and the health of the baby. Proper prenatal care can ensure that there are as few complications as possible, and that the pregnancy is safe for both the mother and baby.