mother's hands with baby's foot

What are the factors that put a pregnancy at risk?

Most women around the globe are lucky to carry a safe pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. But, in some instances, the very same pregnancy that brings so much of joy, expectation and love can become nightmarish due to a variety of risks associated with pregnancy. Therefore, here is where leading gynaecology specialists like in East Melbourne Obstetrics and Gynaecology come into the place.

In broad terms, risks associated with pregnancy can be classified as:

  • Age-related risks
  • Risks from pre-existing
  • health conditions
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Condition of the pregnancy

Age-related risks

Teen Pregnancy

Anaemia and high blood pressure are often associated with teen pregnancy and pregnant teens are more likely to deliver the child earlier than older women (possible pre-term delivery). Teen pregnancy may also be impacted by STD (sexually transmitted diseases) or other infections. Teens are also less likely to get the pre-natal care that is vital for a safe pregnancy or understand the kind of drugs and medications they can use and those that they should avoid.

First pregnancy beyond 35 years of age

Although women beyond 35 years may carry a safe first-time pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby, much research indicates a higher element of risk for women in this age group. Potential risks in this case include:

  • C-section delivery
  • Complications in delivery including excessive bleeding
  • Prolonged labor which may last up to 20 hours
  • Labor not advancing
  • Newborn with genetic disorders
pregnant woman with white cloth

Pre-existing health conditions

Diabetes

When diabetes is not controlled strictly, the high level of blood sugar can lead to birth defects in the initial weeks of pregnancy and the concerned may not even have confirmed her pregnancy at that stage. To obviate this risk, apart from controlling diabetes, doctors often advise taking 40 mg of folic acid and multivitamin tablets every day.

High blood pressure

While high blood pressure poses a risk for the mother as well as the foetus, many women with high blood pressure have successfully carried their pregnancy to the full term and delivered healthy babies. However, if blood pressure cannot be controlled, it can potentially lead to an increase in the risk of low birth weight as well as problems with the mother’s kidneys.

Kidney diseases

Kidney diseases can pose problems to women in getting pregnant and the pregnancy itself can be fraught with significant risk of miscarriage. Changes in medication and diet, additional medication and more frequent visits to their GP/OB/Gynec would be required in such instances.

Auto-immune diseases

Multiple Sclerosis and lupus are among the pregnancy risks associated with auto-immune diseases. Some of these diseases can potentially enhance the women’s risk for pregnancy-related problems. Lupus, for instance, can enhance the risk of pre-term birth or stillbirth. Some women may, however, experience an improvement in symptoms during pregnancy, while others can experience flare-ups and associated challenges. Some medications prescribed to treat auto-immune diseases may also be harmful to the foetus.

Thyroid disease

Underactive or overactiveof foetal disof foetal dis thyroid when left uncontrolled can pose problems for the foetus and these could include poor weight gain, heart failure and other birth defects.

Infertility

Number of studies have noted that women taking drugs to enhance chances of pregnancy are at significant risk of pregnancy-related complications compared to women who become pregnant without such assistance. Vaginal bleeding and problems with the placenta are among potential hazards.

Obesity

Obesity can present more difficulties to pregnant women increasing her chances of developing diabetes during the pregnancy paving way to difficult births. There are also instances of some women weighing too little for a healthy foetus and their own health.

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Lifestyle Factors

Alcohol consumption

During pregnancy, if alcohol is consumed, it goes to the foetus via the umbilical cord. The medical world has consistently recommended that pregnant women should avoid consuming alcohol across their pregnancy. Stillbirth and miscarriage are often associated with women who consume alcohol during their pregnancy. Other associated risks include FASD (Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder) and elevated chances of birth defects. FASD is a technical term used to represent a group of foetal disorders that stem from alcohol consumption by the mother. Low body weight abnormal features on the face, short stature, hyperactivity disorder, hearing or vision problems, intellectual disability are among the potential issues that the child can suffer from on account of alcohol consumption by the mother.

a cup of wine

Conditions of Pregnancy

Several conditions associated with pregnancy can become a potential risk to the foetus and the mother. These include

Multiple gestation

Multiple gestation refers to pregnancy with two or more foetus in the womb. Pre-term birth is a significant risk associated with multiple gestation and infants are likely to be born before the full term of 37 weeks. Another cause of multiple gestation has also been attributed to getting pregnant beyond the age of 30 years and use of fertility drugs. Vaginal delivery may also be impracticable in the case of multiple gestation making C-section delivery a necessity, rather than an option. Further, in the safe delivery of multiple children, their birth weight can be significantly lower than a single baby from one pregnancy. Infants born through multiple gestation may also face breathing difficulties.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes or diabetes consequential to pregnancy can be managed and the woman carrying the pregnancy can deliver a healthy baby if they manage their diabetes through a treatment and diet plan advised by the doctor. But, if proper care is not taken and the gestational diabetes is left unattended, it can trigger potential risks like pre-term delivery, high blood pressure or preeclampsia.

Eclampsia and Preeclampsia

Women experiencing a sudden rise in blood pressure beyond the 20th week of pregnancy is termed as Preeclampsia and can impact the brain, liver and kidney of the mother. If not treated in time, this condition can turn fatal for the foetus as well as the mother or lead to a long-term health issue. Eclampsia, on the other hand, is a more severe form of preeclampsia marked by coma or seizures for the mother.