Jun 27, 2022
Every pregnancy is different but comes with its own set of risks, which can be managed, reduced, and avoided, with proper prenatal care and support. While age and overall health are some of the most important risk factors that can increase the risk of facing difficulties during pregnancy, abnormalities may appear without rhyme or reason. These complications however may also affect the mother's or the foetus's health. Even women who are in good health before conceiving may have difficulties during pregnancy.
The key to ensuring the health of an unborn child is to receive proper prenatal care regularly. On the very first suspicion of conception, one should contact their doctor to set up the first prenatal check-up as soon as possible. Many healthcare practitioners recommend a double marker test, which is performed to assess if the foetus has any chromosomal abnormalities.
Understanding the health risks the unborn child may be prone to during pregnancy is the first step to avoiding them or at the very least, being prepared to manage them:
1. Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
Some pre-existing medical issues may make a mother more vulnerable to pregnancy risks, which is why there is such a long list of scans prescribed during pregnancy, to ensure good health for the mother and the foetus. These scans and tests include:
High Blood Pressure
Pregnant women who have high blood pressure are more likely to deliver a baby with low birth weight, have a preterm delivery, incur kidney damage, or develop preeclampsia during pregnancy.
PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome)
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disease that can cause irregular periods and ovulation failure. Pregnant women with PCOS are more likely to have a miscarriage, preterm birth, or develop gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. Due to this genetic abnormality, doctors suggest getting a NIPT test to screen for the same.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs when one faces difficulties adjusting, after experiencing a stunning, frightening, or hazardous incident. Rape, abuse, a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or the loss of a loved one are examples of such situations. People suffering from PTSD may suffer from:
● Serious anxiety
● Reminiscences of the incident
● Physical reactions like rapid heartbeat or perspiration when reminded of the occurrence
Women suffering from PTSD are more likely to have a preterm or low-birthweight baby. If one is suffering from PTSD, he/she should talk to a physician or mental health professional. Medication and counselling are generally used to treat PTSD.
Diabetes increases the risk of having a baby with birth defects. Even if diabetes is adequately managed, a baby is still more likely to have a significant birth problem. These risks are not affected if a mother did not have diabetes but develops the condition (gestational diabetes) during pregnancy. That is also one of the reasons why regular blood tests during pregnancy are essential.
2. Placenta Previa
During pregnancy, the placenta provides oxygen and nourishment to the baby to ensure optimal development. Normally, the placenta attaches to the upper section of the uterus, but in placenta previa, it completely or partially covers the cervix (which is the opening between the uterus and vagina). If there is scarring on the uterus from prior pregnancies or uterine surgery, or if there are fibroids, one may be at a higher risk of having complications, which is why it is wise to undergo proper blood tests during pregnancy, especially during the first trimesters.
Women over the age of 35 who conceive for the first time have a greater chance of high-risk pregnancies. According to research, they are more prone to developing issues. An ultrasound can help detect abnormalities that can help avoid miscarriages and pregnancy-related health issues, like gestational diabetes.
Individuals under the age of 17 are also prone to having high-risk pregnancies, as they may:
● Be anaemic
● Be less likely to receive comprehensive prenatal care
● Have premature labour or birth
● Be unaware of having sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs and STIs).
While these disorders may seem worrisome, proper prenatal (even preconception) care and newborn screening tests performed at the right time is crucial. A preconception consultation can also be quite helpful, allowing one to discuss their risk factors and what they can do to mitigate them. Ensuring good health before trying to conceive is the best thing one can do for their child.