For women to get pregnant, the sperm must meet and fertilize the woman’s egg to form an embryo. The embryo is known as child which is further carried by the woman for nine months, after which she gives birth. In case of successful implantation and embryo formation, there are some early signs through which one can determine if someone is pregnant or not. Some of the pregnancy signs include:
- In early pregnancy, progesterone levels can rise dramatically, and this can put one to sleep if taken in high doses. Low blood pressure and low sugar levels can also sap energy, which makes women tired.
- A pregnant woman’s breasts can become sore, tingly, or tender and may feel heavy and full.
- Morning sickness is an early sign of pregnancy and can begin as early as two weeks post conception. Nausea may be accompanied by vomiting as well.
- Some amount of vaginal bleeding or spotting is normal and doesn’t last long. There may be cramps just like those experienced during a period.
- Hormonal changes can also lead to mood swings. One moment you are happy, and the next you feel low.
- In pregnancy, a woman may have food aversion to certain foods or may feel cravings for certain edible items.
- Feeling dizzy or faint, having headaches or constipation are also signs of pregnancy.
Stages of pregnancy
Pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks and falls under three trimesters.
1st to 12th week
This trimester has multiple changes that the body undergoes. The period stopping is a clear symptom of pregnancy, and hormonal changes cause other changes as well, such as:
- Weight loss or gain
- Mood swings
- Need to pee often
- Morning sickness
- Avoiding or craving food
- Swollen and tender breasts
2. 13th to 28th week
Many women fi d the 2nd trimester much easier. Symptoms like nausea and fatigue go away. Now the stomach will expand to make way for babies. Women may see/feel the following:
- Stretch marks
- Body aches
- Darkening of sin near nipples
- Numb hands
- Swelling of fingers, face, and ankles
3. 29th to 40th week
Some discomforts from 2nd trimester will continue to occur. Many feel the need to pee more or get breathless as the baby puts pressure on you. You will see/feel the following:
- Trouble sleeping
- Moving baby
- Tender and leaky breasts
- Short breath
Pregnancy complications and their treatments
Women can face various complications during pregnancy, and even the most healthy women also suffer from these complications. Prenatal tests can sometimes spot such problems early on. The following are the complications that can occur during pregnancy and their treatments you should be aware of.
Depression is common during pregnancy. A woman can feel extreme sadness during pregnancy or after birth. The depression felt after birth is commonly known as postpartum depression, and its more common than one would think. The symptoms are feelings of irritability, sadness, helplessness, thought of harming self or the baby, and appetite changes.
Treatment: Pregnant women going through depression can be treated with medicines and therapy. Depression can affect both the baby and mother and must be treated.
When the level of healthy red blood cells is quite low, a woman has anemia. Common symptoms are feelings of weakness, shortness of breath, and pale looking skin.
Treatment: The underlying cause must be treated to manage anemia. Women having pregnancy-related anemia are prescribed folic acid and iron supplements. The iron levels are monitored throughout the pregnancy to ensure that the woman isn’t anemic.
An ectopic pregnancy happens when an egg implants outside the uterus, for example, in a fallopian tube. Such pregnancies aren’t viable and can cause issues for the woman. Vaginal bleeding, feelings of dizziness, shoulder, and abdominal pain are some of the symptoms.
Treatment: The egg cannot develop in an ectopic pregnancy and hence must be removed surgically.
Diabetes during pregnancy means gestational diabetes, which is characterized by high blood sugar levels. Usually, women may not feel any negative symptoms, and only screening can show the level of blood sugar. But sometimes there may be extreme hunger, fatigue, or thirst.
Treatment: Most women can control sugar levels during pregnancy by following a healthy meal plan. The doctor may also prescribe insulin to manage diabetes. If this isn’t controlled, then there may be further risks of preeclampsia, cesarean, or early delivery.
The fetus or the unborn baby may have issues such as heart problems or poor growth. The baby may be smaller than normal, may not move enough, or some prenatal tests show some problem. In such cases, immediate treatment is important.
Treatment: Sometimes, the results of tests may mean that the mother needs special care till birth. This means the mother will have to be hospitalized and put certain medications to ensure that the baby is fine.
A high blood pressure problem can appear from 20 weeks of pregnancy that lasts until childbirth. Once the child is born, this problem usually goes away.
Treatment: Usually, the mother is monitored for blood pressure, and generic medicines are administered to keep this under control.
A baby may be lost via natural causes if the pregnancy hasn’t reached a 20-week mark. Miscarriages can occur even before a woman finds out she is pregnant. Around 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Certain symptoms of a miscarriage are – abdominal pain, cramping, spotting, vaginal bleeding, tissue, and fluids passing from the vagina.
Treatment: In most cases of miscarriage, it cannot be prevented. However, one can deal with its emotional impacts through counseling.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is a condition where a pregnant woman experiences severe vomiting and nausea during pregnancy, which is like an extreme form of morning sickness. Common signs of this include constant nausea, weight loss, vomiting, dehydration, feeling faint, and reduction in appetite.
Treatment: The first line of treatments include bland food and fluids, and sometimes medicines can be prescribed to deal with nausea. Women may be hospitalized to get fluids in the body through IV. Some women may feel better after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The placenta may separate itself from the uterus wall, and the baby may not get enough oxygen. Uterine tenderness, cramps, bleeding are some signs.
Treatment: The treatment depends on the time when it is diagnosed. A minor separation means some bed rest can take care of it. Moderate cases may need complete bed rest, while a severe case may need immediate medical attention or early delivery.
Preeclampsia is a condition that causes kidney problems, along with high blood pressure. It is also known as toxemia. It usually occurs after the 20th-week mark. The signs of preeclampsia include dizziness, blurred vision, headache, protein in urine, swollen face, and hands.
Treatment: The only effective treatment is delivering the baby. Early labor can be induced if the situation is mild and the baby can be delivered, that is, its near term around 37-40 weeks. If the baby isn’t in the near term, then the doctor may prescribe medicines and bed rest.
Women who are previously diagnosed with preeclampsia can get eclampsia as well. This condition causes them to develop seizures or go into a coma. Blurred vision, severe headaches, seeing spots, or abdominal pain are symptoms.
The placenta can cover the full or part of the opening of the cervix in this condition. Some women may not experience any symptoms or have pain free vaginal bleeding during the 2nd or 3rd trimester.
Treatment: When the condition is diagnosed after 20 weeks, without any bleeding, then the woman just needs to rest and reduce her physical activities. If she experiences heavy bleeding, then she may have to be hospitalized to control that. If the bleeding is under control, then bed rest may be prescribed. However, if bleeding isn’t controlled, then early labor may have to be induced, or if preterm labor begins, then a cesarean section needs to be performed.
In this condition, a woman can go into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy are complete. Cramping, pelvic pressure, vaginal discharge, contractions, and back pain that radiates to the abdomen are some symptoms.
Treatment: Bed rest and medication that stops the labor from progressing is one way to treat it. But sometimes the woman may have to give birth early, which can be risky.
Risks During Pregnancy
Pregnant women must take care of themselves, as there are risks to pregnancy. Some women are subject to higher risks based on certain factors.
Babies inside the womb are protected from various illnesses. But some infections contracted by the mother can influence the baby as well. Some infections that a woman needs to guard against are:
- Cytomegalovirus – this virus can affect babies if the mother is infected and can cause vision or hearing loss or other disabilities.
- Bacterial vaginosis – Caused by growth in bacteria in the vaginal region, this infection has been known to cause preterm labor and low birth weight in babies.
- Hepatitis B virus – If passed to the baby, it can cause a lifelong infection in the child and can cause liver damage.
Pregnancy may not survive full term leading to stillbirth. Sometimes there are no causes behind a stillbirth, and it can occur at any time. Certain health issues may contribute to it, such as infections, chromosomal abnormalities, placental problems, etc. If you are above 35, here’s an FAQ for later childbearing answering questions on complications and risk of later pregnancy.
A baby can be in a breech position if its feet are positioned to come out before the head. This happens in 4% of births. Babies are born healthy, but a doctor can advise against a vaginal delivery of the baby is too big to pass or is in distress if it cannot pass through the vaginal canal.
Babies exposed to certain elements like cigarette smoke, drugs, or alcohol during pregnancy are at risk for low birth weight. Such babies are at risk for blindness, heart infection, respiratory infection, and learning disability.
The age of a woman can also have risks for pregnancy. Women who are under 20 are at a higher risk of medical complications. Teenage mothers are more likely to have a baby with low weight, may deliver prematurely, may have preeclampsia, or experience hypertension. Due to the young age, women may have an underdeveloped pelvis, nutritional deficiencies, and high blood pressure. Whereas, women above 35 may have underlying conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, etc. they may also have chromosomal issues, and this can be a cause for Down’s syndrome in the newborn. The chance of miscarriage is also high.
The overweight or underweight woman also faces risks in pregnancy. Obese women have a higher chance that their babies will have heart problems, spina bifida, hydrocephaly, and cleft lip. Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia are also common for them. Underweight women can have an underweight baby or give birth prematurely.
Women who are exposed to environmental toxins, recreational drugs such as ethanol or cocaine can cause adverse effects in the child. Exposure to strong medicines can also cause problems for babies later.
Women who are pregnant need to take care of their bodies before, during, after pregnancy, as long as the child is breastfeeding. Pregnancy is a delicate stage, and women need to be careful. Most issues and complications have treatments available, but certain risks and risk factors don’t have any treatments, so women need to be cautious, take rest, and consult with their doctor regularly.