Pregnancy

Other conditions in pregnancy

Various conditions or complications can affect women in pregnancy. Although most of these are quite unusual, they can have serious consequences for the mother or the baby. Regular antenatal monitoring such as blood and urine tests and checking blood pressure can help spot these problems early.

Infections
Several women had various types of infection, which could have implications for the pregnancy. For example, one mother had a streptococcal infection which was treated with antibiotics and another had a parvovirus infection ('slapped cheek' syndrome) which needed careful monitoring.

Rubella (or German measles) is another infection that can cause problems, but vaccination against rubella is now widespread and women's immunity level is usually checked in early pregnancy. All women should be offered a test for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which can lead to AIDS).

Anaemia
Blood tests can also pick up anaemia (low red blood cell count). This can make women feel tired, dizzy or breathless, and can also weaken the body's resistance to infections. Some people who were told they were anaemic had not noticed any changes in how they felt, but others had felt very tired and listless. The midwife or GP may suggest taking iron tablets if the red cell count falls below a certain level.

Gestational diabetes
Some women develop a form of diabetes in pregnancy, called gestational diabetes. Urine and blood testing can pick up women who may be at risk. However, it is still uncertain whether screening everybody is helpful; many women who have slightly raised blood glucose levels will have perfectly normal pregnancies, and screening and further tests may make them needlessly anxious. (See also 'Pregnancy with another condition or disability' for more on pregnancy when women already have diabetes).

Pre-eclampsia
In later pregnancy, some women are at risk of developing a condition called pre-eclampsia. High blood pressure and swelling are common warning signs, as one mother explained. When her midwife recognised the symptoms, she was immediately referred to hospital and she had an induction the next day.

Another mother developed pre-eclampsia earlier in pregnancy. She already knew from the 20-week scan that her baby had a heart defect. When doctors found the baby's heart had slowed down and recommended an emergency caesarean she was afraid he might not survive.

These women were advised it was best to have the baby straightaway, but another mother (who had epilepsy) was monitored in hospital for a week before she was induced.

Placenta praevia/placental abruption
Another worrying symptom in later pregnancy is bleeding. This may be caused by harmless changes to the cervix, but it can also indicate a more serious conditions such as placental abruption (when part of the placenta becomes detached from the uterus) or placenta praevia (when the placenta is low-lying and may block the cervix). It is always important to consult a doctor or midwife about bleeding in later pregnancy.

One mother in her second pregnancy was told her placenta was low-lying but she was able to stay at home apart from two nights in hospital. She had a caesarean birth the previous time, and was deciding whether to try a vaginal birth next time, but this would not have been an option if the placenta had remained low-lying. (The placenta itself does not move, but as the uterus grows, the area to which the placenta is attached stretches upwards, and so a low-lying placenta may clear the cervix).

For women who already had other children, the prospect of having to stay in hospital for several weeks raised many practical difficulties, as well as anxiety about the pregnancy and the baby. On the other hand, as this mother pointed out, it was good to know she was in the right place if anything did suddenly go wrong. She, and others who spent some time in hospital before birth, valued the camaraderie and support of other women sharing the same experience.

See also 'Rarer complications'.

Last reviewed May 2017.
Last updated August 2010.
 

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