Written by: Cally Worden
Pregnancy is the most natural thing in the world, but it takes a huge physical toll on a woman’s body, and not all pregnancies run smoothly. If you’re one of the many women who are suffering difficulties it’s important to realise you are not alone. Here are five of the most common and unpredictable pregnancy challenges that mums-to-be may face:
1: Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
The plight of the Kate Middleton during her first pregnancy did much to raise awareness of this horrid pregnancy condition. Affecting between 0.3 and 1.5 percent of women, HG manifests as severe nausea and vomiting. This is not your standard morning sickness (as awful as that can be). HG takes morning sickness and multiplies it to the n’th degree. It’s thought that HG is sparked by an extreme excess of hormones that the brain and body simply can’t adjust to. It responds in the only way it knows how – by rejecting and ejecting anything that is put into it. In rare cases HG can also be caused by a urine infection.
The Treatment – if a woman is losing too many fluids as a result of HG, she may be placed on a drip. Regular hydration is recommended in any event, with diluted fruit juice, sports drinks, flat lemonade, clear soup, weak tea and cordial all recommended by experts. Advice is also to eat small meals whenever you can, starting the day with a dry cracker to help settle your stomach, if you can keep it down.
2: Low-Lying Placenta
Around 5% of women suffer from a low-lying placenta, a condition also known as ‘Placenta Praevia’ that usually shows its face at around 18-20 weeks into the pregnancy. In a normal pregnancy the placenta either sits high in the uterus, or along the front or back wall. A low-lying placenta can block the birth canal, and cause internal bleeding that is potentially dangerous to both mother and baby. It also increases the risk of a premature birth.
The Treatment – in most cases (95%) the placenta will move upwards away from the cervix and a natural birth will follow. In the remaining 5% of cases careful ultrasound scanning will be undertaken in the latter stages of pregnancy to monitor the position of the placenta. A caesarean section may be recommended for safety.
Pre-Eclampsia affects around 10% of pregnant women, and is a very serious medical condition. It is apparent in high blood pressure, kidney problems (that can cause protein to leak into the urine), and an excess swelling in the feet, hands and face.
The Treatment – the only treatment for pre-eclampsia is delivery of the baby. Medication may be given to help reduce some of the symptoms, but it is crucial that the mother gets enough rest. Early-onset pre-eclampsia raises the probability of a caesarean birth, and in later pregnancy an induction is often recommended to speed things along.
4: Symphis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD)
A woman’s pubic bones will naturally spread throughout her pregnancy to make space for the baby and to facilitate the birth. In SPD the bones can spread too far and too early, causing excruciating pain in the hip, pubic bones, perineum and upper thighs. It is often linked to an excess of oestrogen.
The Treatment – there is no cure for SPD, but support bands can be worn to ease the pressure on the pelvis, and crutches may help too. Sometimes stretching and mobility exercises can also help.
5: Gestational Diabetes
Between 3 and 8 percent of women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, usually at around 24-28 weeks. These higher-than-average blood sugar levels can lead to both mother and baby being at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The Treatment – the expectant mother has to monitor her blood glucose levels for the duration of her pregnancy, and a healthy diet and exercise plan can help to keep things neutral. In extreme cases some women may need to inject insulin to prevent blood sugar levels spiralling out of control. In most cases of gestational diabetes the mother’s blood sugar levels return to normal post-birth, but there is a 50% increase in the risk she will develop type 2 diabetes later in life, and also an increased risk that her child will too.