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22 Complications of Pregnancy
Martha Lally; Suzanne Valentine-French; and Dinesh Ramoo
Minor complications: There are a number of common side effects of pregnancy. Not everyone experiences all of these, nor to the same degree. And although they are considered “minor,” this is not to say that these problems are not potentially very uncomfortable. These side effects include nausea (particularly during the first three to four months of pregnancy as a result of higher levels of estrogen in the system), heartburn, gas, hemorrhoids, backache, leg cramps, insomnia, constipation, shortness of breath, or varicose veins (as a result of carrying a heavy load on the abdomen).
Major complications: The following are some serious complications of pregnancy which can pose health risks to mother and child and that often require hospitalization.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the zygote becomes attached to the fallopian tube before reaching the uterus. About one in fifty pregnancies in the United States are tubal pregnancies and this number has been increasing because of the higher rates of pelvic inflammatory disease and chlamydia (Carroll, 2007). Abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, nausea, and fainting are symptoms of ectopic pregnancy.
Preeclampsia, also known as toxemia, is characterized by a sharp rise in blood pressure, a leakage of protein into the urine as a result of kidney problems, and swelling of the hands, feet, and face during the third trimester of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is the most common complication of pregnancy. It is estimated to affect 5 to 10 percent of all pregnancies globally and accounts for 40 to 60 percent of maternal deaths in developing countries (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2013). Rates are lower in the United States and preeclampsia affects about 3 to 5 percent of pregnant women. Preeclampsia occurs most frequently in first pregnancies, and it is more common in women who are obese, have diabetes, or are carrying twins. When preeclampsia causes seizures, the condition is known as eclampsia, which is the second leading cause of maternal death in the United States. Preeclampsia is also a leading cause of fetal complications, which include low birth weight, premature birth, and stillbirth. Treatment is typically bed rest and sometimes medication. If this treatment is ineffective, labour may be induced.
Maternal mortality: Approximately one thousand women die in childbirth around the world each day (World Health Organization, 2010). Rates are highest in Subsaharan Africa and South Asia, although there has been a substantial decrease in these rates. The campaign to make childbirth safe for everyone has led to the development of clinics accessible to those living in more isolated areas and training more midwives to assist in childbirth.
Spontaneous abortion is experienced in an estimated 20-40 percent of undiagnosed pregnancies and in another 10 percent of diagnosed pregnancies. Usually the body aborts due to chromosomal abnormalities, and this typically happens before the twelfth week of pregnancy. Cramping and bleeding result and normal periods return after several months. Some women are more likely to have repeated miscarriages due to chromosomal, amniotic, or hormonal problems, but miscarriage can also be a result of defective sperm (Carrell et. al., 2003).