A good pregnancy care is essential before, during, and after your pregnancy. It helps to promote a healthy pregnancy and smooth delivery for you and your babies.
A preconception care is a type of preventive measure that helps women to achieve healthy pregnancy before they even become pregnant. This type of care is important to forestall any potential complications and begin treatment before expectant mother try to conceive. A good preconception care is helpful for potential mothers to adopt healthy habits such as getting proper nutritional support, avoiding harmful chemicals, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol in order to increase the chances of them having a safe pregnancy and healthy babies.
Prenatal care is given to pregnant women before their babies are born. It is an important care to ensure successful pregnancy and healthy fetal development. Prenatal care helps to lower risk of pregnancy complications and protect infants from possible health problems through early detection and intervention. Prenatal care is also very beneficial to expecting mothers to ensure a smooth delivery and a healthy pregnancy. Proper prenatal care includes physical exam or testing, advice on practicing healthy lifestyle habits, proper diet and supplements as well as avoidance of harmful substances.
Postpartum care is also known as post-delivery care or care given to mothers after giving birth. During this period, the mother will experience many physical and emotional changes including pain or soreness, depression, low iron levels, persistent bleeding, bowel and urinary problems. Besides, adjusting to motherhood can be challenging as it changes your family unit and routine especially for new mothers. Thankfully, postpartum care can help to address these issues and help you adjust to life as a new parent.
Pregnancy complications are health problems that are related to pregnancy. Some of these complications can be difficult to distinguish from normal symptoms of pregnancy, but regular prenatal care visits will help to detect complications early and prevent them from causing serious consequences. Understanding some of the most common pregnancy complications can help to promote healthy pregnancy:
→ Gestational hypertension
Gestational hypertension, also known as pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH), is a development of high blood pressure during pregnancy. It is diagnosed when blood pressure readings are over 140/90 mm Hg after week 20 in pregnancy. This condition affects about 6 to 8 percent of pregnant women and goes away after delivery. Another type of hypertension called chronic hypertension, is referred to women who develop high blood pressure before pregnancy, or early in pregnancy (before 20 weeks). Both gestational hypertension and chronic hypertension can progress into preeclampsia, which is a severe condition occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, characterized by high blood pressure and significant amount of protein in the urine.
Gestational hypertension is more common in women younger than age 20 or older than age 40, in women with a first pregnancy, in mothers carrying multiples, in women who had high blood pressure before pregnancy and women with kidney disease or diabetes. Gestational hypertension can have serious consequences on mother and her baby. With high blood pressure, the placenta is not receiving enough blood supply, and the baby gets less oxygen and food which can result in low birth weight, poor fetal growth or injury to developing organs. In serious cases, conditions such as placental abruption, dangerous seizures called eclampsia and even death in the mother and fetus may occur. Fortunately, gestational hypertension can be averted with proper diet and lifestyle changes as well as prescribed medication. The signs and symptoms of gestational hypertension vary individually, and may include high blood pressure, absence or presence of protein in the urine, swelling, blurred or double vision, nausea, vomiting, sudden weight gain or pain around the stomach. However, in certain patients, it can be asymptomatic, hence monitoring the blood pressure is an important part in pregnancy care.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy and it is characterized by high blood pressure and significant amount of protein in the urine. The presence of protein in the urine usually suggests organ systems damage, mainly the liver and kidneys. Preeclampsia is an advanced stage of gestational hypertension and can cause greater damage to the mother and her baby. If left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, such as seizures or eclampsia.
→ Ectopic pregnancy
In a normal pregnancy, a fertilized egg formed in the fallopian tube travels and becomes attached in the uterus. However, if the fallopian tube is narrowed or blocked completely, the fertilized egg may never reach the uterus and implants in places outside of the uterus, such as fallopian tube, ovary, cervix, or abdomen. This condition is known as ectopic pregnancy, and it happens in about 1 out of every 50 pregnancies. Since the locations other than uterus are not designed to hold a fetus, the fetus usually does not survive for long. As the pregnancy grows, the structure containing the fetus can break if overstretched, resulting in a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. This can cause major internal bleeding, infection, and death in certain cases.
The chances of developing an ectopic pregnancy are higher if the person is older than age 35, and have factors such as disorders of fallopian tubes, pelvic inflammatory disease, sexually transmitted disease, endometriosis, previous ectopic pregnancy, history of abortion, or smoking cigarettes. Ectopic pregnancies can appear like normal pregnancies in the early stages, including missed periods, breasts tenderness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and frequent urination. However, there are several warning signs of ectopic pregnancies that require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include abnormal vaginal bleeding, severe pain in the abdomen or pelvis, shoulder pain and feeling very weak, dizzy, or fainting.
→ Gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. It usually occurs in the middle of pregnancy and is often tested between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. It is believed that the hormones from placenta block the action of the mother’s insulin in her body, causing the body to become resistant to insulin, resulting in elevation of blood sugar. Uncontrolled gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for the mother and the baby. These health problems include preeclampsia, excessive birth weight, early birth, low blood sugar and type 2 diabetes in later life. Fortunately, gestational diabetes can be controlled by following a healthy diet and being physically active, and the blood sugar typically returns to normal soon after giving birth. For most pregnant women with gestational diabetes, they don’t have major signs or symptoms. Some women are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, and these factors include women age greater than 25, family or personal history of type 2 diabetes, or excessive weight. Hence, it is advisable to seek early health care for risk evaluation for gestational diabetes before pregnancy, and attend regular pregnancy check-up.
→ Lower back or pelvic girdle pain
About half of pregnancy women experience lower back pain (LBP) or pelvic girdle pain (PGP), and they are common problems that may be overlooked and under-treated. Lower back pain is pain or discomfort located between the 12th rib and fold of the buttock, while pelvic girdle pain is located between posterior iliac crest and gluteal fold, particularly involving the sacroiliac joints. Although these two conditions are not life-threatening, but they can put significant burden on pregnant women regarding their daily functioning and health quality. Furthermore, these problems may lead to chronic pain even after delivery. They often cause sleep disturbances, disruption of social and sexual life, reduced work capacity, increased stress, decreased physical activity, and difficulty sitting, walking, standing, and climbing stairs. Most of the time the exact cause of these conditions in pregnancy are not well known, but it is believed that a combination of traumatic, hormonal and biomechanical mechanisms may lead to reduced stability and integrity in the pelvic girdle and lower back area. However, in rare cases, pain in the lower back or pelvic area during pregnancy can be associated with more severe conditions, such as ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cyst, or urinary tract infection. Therefore, it is important to discuss with a health care professional if you experience lower back or pelvic girdle pain during pregnancy for proper diagnosis and treatment.