Understanding common pregnancy concerns

Pregnancy can be one of the most thrilling and most worrisome times in a woman’s life. But worrying out about every little thing you come into contact with can give you a long and stressful three trimesters. For this reason, knowing what could truly be harmful to the baby and what’s not a real concern is the key to knowing when to seek medical support where necessary.

According to gynecologists, a pregnant woman’s body changes a lot during pregnancy due to a variety of issues. The causes can be conditions you already have or conditions you developed.

Some complications can arise from being pregnant with more than one baby, previous problem pregnancies, or being over age 35. When these health issues are not detected and treated early enough they can affect not only the mother but also the baby’s health.

Below are some common conditions that can complicate a pregnancy:

Preeclampsia

According to Dr John Muganda, an obstetrician and gynecologist based at Polyclinic la Midicale in Kigali, preeclampsia is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy. Some symptoms of preeclampsia may include high blood pressure and protein in the urine, occurring after week 20 of pregnancy.

“The only cure is delivery, which may not be best for the baby. Labour will probably be induced if the condition is severe and the woman is near term (37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy). If it is too early to deliver, the mother can be hospitalised to watch her and baby’s health”, he said.

Anemia

Mugande says if a pregnant woman is not getting enough iron or certain other nutrients, their body might not be able to produce the amount of red blood cells to carry oxygen to her tissues and to her baby. This condition is called anaemia.

Symptoms of anaemia during pregnancy can be mild at first and often go unnoticed. However, as it progresses, the symptoms will worsen.

“If it is severe but goes untreated, it can increase your risk of serious complications like preterm delivery. Treating the underlying cause of the anaemia will help restore the number of healthy red blood cells. Women with pregnancy-related anaemia are helped by taking Iron and folic acid supplements,” he says.

Ectopic pregnancy

Josephine Murekezi , a senior midwife at King Faisal Hospital, Kigali, says ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes .Abdominal pain, shoulder pain ,vaginal bleeding are the common symptoms .

“With ectopic pregnancy, the egg cannot develop. Drugs or surgery are used to remove the ectopic tissue so your organs are not damaged,”she says.

Diabetes

According to nutritionists, while some women may get pregnant while having diabetes pregnancy alone can also lead to diabetes.

Anastastie Mukakayumba, a nutritionist at Santé Plus, Kigali, says high blood sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to pregnancy diabetes. Usually, extreme thirst, hunger, or fatigue are the symptoms.

“Screening test shows high blood sugar level. Poorly controlled diabetes increase the risk of having early delivery, preeclampsia, caesarian delivery, or having a big baby which can complicate delivery, baby born with breathing problems. Most women with pregnancy-related diabetes can control their blood sugar levels by following a healthy meal plan. Some women also need insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control,”she says.

High blood pressure

Muganda says high blood pressure that starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy goes away after birth. It presents with painless vaginal bleeding during the second and third semesters.

“If diagnosed after the 20th week of pregnancy, but with no bleeding, a woman will need to cut back on her activity level and increase bed rest. If bleeding is heavy, hospitalisation may be needed until mother and baby are stable. If the bleeding stops or is light, continued bed rest is resumed until the baby is ready for delivery,” he says.

Vaginal infections

According to Murekezi, who is also the president of the Rwanda Midwives Association, thanks to the changes in hormones that happens during pregnancy, expectant mothers are more susceptible to a host of vaginal infections.

“The most common are: bacterial vaginosis (BV), yeast infections and trichomoniasis. The good news is that when vaginal infections are diagnosed promptly they’re radically treated with antibiotics,” she says.

Experts say some of these conditions can even lead to maternal death, premature births as well as miscarriages if not given due attention, especially if the mothers ignore antenatal care and other instructions.

Murekezi advise that antenatal care should even start before one gets pregnant. “Before getting married , a couple should be aware of their health status by getting a complete check up to make sure they are in good health and that they don’t have any illnesses or other conditions that could affect the pregnancy.”

On the other hand, Mukakayumba says it’s especially important for women who plan to become pregnant to take vitamins with folic acid because neural tube defects (problems with the development of the spine and nervous system) happen in the first 28 days of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.