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Pregnancy - health risks

If you are trying to get pregnant, you should try to follow healthy habits. You should stick to these behaviors from the time you are trying to get pregnant all the way through your pregnancy. Do not smoke tobacco or use illegal drugs, stop drinking alcohol, and limit caffeine and coffee.

Talk to your health care provider about any medicines you may be taking to see if they can affect your unborn baby. Eat a well-balanced diet and take supplemental vitamins with at least 400 mcg of folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9) a day.

If you have any chronic medical problems (such as high blood pressure, kidney problems, or diabetes), talk to your provider before trying to get pregnant.

Seeing a prenatal provider before trying to get pregnant or early in the pregnancy can help prevent, or detect and control health risks to the mother and unborn baby during pregnancy.

Talk to your provider if you are planning to get pregnant within a year of your or your partner's traveling abroad. This is especially important if traveling to areas where viral or bacterial infections could affect the health of an unborn baby.

Men need to be careful, too. Smoking and alcohol may cause problems with the unborn baby. Smoking, alcohol, and marijuana use have also been shown to lower sperm counts.

Is Your Pregnancy High Risk?

  • You may have a high-risk pregnancy if you:

     

    A. Are age 35 or older

     

    B. Are obese or have diabetes or high blood pressure

     

    C. Drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or use drugs

     

    D. Had an earlier high-risk pregnancy

     

    E. Any of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is any of the above. Work with your doctor to manage any health problems before you get pregnant. Ask for advice on how to quit any habits such as smoking that may put your baby at risk. Getting regular prenatal care is the best way to have a healthy baby.
  • Which pregnancy problems can put your baby at risk?

     

    A. Diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)

     

    B. High blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine (preeclampsia)

     

    C. Problems with the uterus, cervix, or placenta

     

    D. Certain blood type mismatches

     

    E. Early labor (preterm labor)

     

    F. All of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is all of the above. If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may want to see you more often and do more tests while you are pregnant. That way, your doctor can treat any health problems early on before they affect your baby.
  • If you are carrying twins or triplets, you have a high-risk pregnancy.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is true. Carrying more than one baby puts more of a strain on your body and your uterus. It puts you at a greater risk for health problems. For example, you are also more likely to deliver before your 38th week (preterm delivery).
  • Your doctor can prevent health problems from blood mismatches.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is true. Rh incompatibility occurs when a pregnant woman has Rh-negative blood and her baby has Rh-positive blood. It can cause mild to severe -- and even deadly -- health problems. Fortunately, any problems can be prevented by injecting the mother with a medicine called RH immune globulin.  
  • Which of the following is true about gestational diabetes?

     

    A. It is high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy

     

    B. It often has no symptoms

     

    C. It means you may have a large baby

     

    D. It usually goes away after you give birth

     

    E. All of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is all of the above. Gestational diabetes occurs because pregnancy hormones keep insulin from doing its job. This causes sugar (glucose) to build up in your blood. It usually goes away after you give birth, but you are at risk for diabetes later in life. Your doctor can help you manage diabetes and prevent problems.
  • The only way to cure preeclampsia is by having your baby.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is true. Preeclampsia is high blood pressure and high protein in your urine that occur during pregnancy. Symptoms may include swelling of the hands and face and sudden weight gain over 1-2 days or more than 2 pounds a week. Tell your health care provider right away if you notice unusual swelling or weight gain.
  • Treatment for preeclampsia includes:

     

    A. Bed rest, lying on your left side most or all of the time

     

    B. Drinking plenty of water

     

    C. Eating less salt

     

    D. Medicines to lower your blood pressure

     

    E. More tests to monitor you and your baby

     

    F. All of the above

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is all of the above. If your baby still has a lot of growing to do and you have mild preeclampsia, you can manage the disease at home until your baby has a good chance of surviving after birth. If needed, your doctor may have you stay in the hospital so you and your baby can be closely watched for any problems.
  • You can prevent preeclampsia.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is true. The American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists recommends low-dose aspirin therapy for women at high risk of preeclampsia. These risk factors include:

    • History of preeclampsia
    • Having twins or more
    • History of diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease
    • Having an autoimmune disease, such as lupus

    Anyone can develop preeclampsia, so be sure to see your doctor for regular prenatal care.

  • Most babies born at 28 weeks don't survive.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer
    The correct answer is false. At least 90% of babies who are born at 28 weeks survive. Being born early used to cause most infant deaths. Better medical care has helped more premature babies survive. The closer a pregnancy gets to full term, the greater the chance the baby will live.
  • Getting early and good prenatal care reduces the chance of premature birth and other problems.

     

    A. True

     

    B. False

    Correct Answer

    The correct answer is true. The best ways to prevent an early birth are to:

    • Be in good health before getting pregnant
    • Get prenatal care as early as possible in the pregnancy
    • Continue to get prenatal care until the baby is born

References

Gregory KD, Ramos DE, Jauniaux ERM. Preconception and prenatal care. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 6.

Nelson-Piercy C, Mullins EWS, Regan L. Women's health. In: Kumar P, Clark M, eds. Kumar and Clarke's Clinical Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 29.

  • Ultrasound in pregnancy

    Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

    The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

    Ultrasound in pregnancy

    illustration

  • Tobacco health risks

    Tobacco health risks - illustration

    In general, chronic exposure to cigarette smoking may cause increased risk of cancer, COPD, coronary artery disease, stroke, fetal illnesses, and delayed wound healing.

    Tobacco health risks

    illustration

  • Vitamin B9 source

    Vitamin B9 source - illustration

    Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or who are pregnant often require additional supplementation of folic acid. Adequate folic acid is important for pregnant women because it has been shown to prevent some kinds of birth defects, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid to help prevent these kinds of serious birth defects.

    Vitamin B9 source

    illustration

    • Ultrasound in pregnancy

      Ultrasound in pregnancy - illustration

      The ultrasound has become a standard procedure used during pregnancy. It can demonstrate fetal growth and can detect increasing numbers of conditions including meningomyelocele, congenital heart disease, kidney abnormalities, hydrocephalus, anencephaly, club feet, and other deformities. Ultrasound does not produce ionizing radiation and is considered a very safe procedure for both the mother and the fetus.

      Ultrasound in pregnancy

      illustration

    • Tobacco health risks

      Tobacco health risks - illustration

      In general, chronic exposure to cigarette smoking may cause increased risk of cancer, COPD, coronary artery disease, stroke, fetal illnesses, and delayed wound healing.

      Tobacco health risks

      illustration

    • Vitamin B9 source

      Vitamin B9 source - illustration

      Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or who are pregnant often require additional supplementation of folic acid. Adequate folic acid is important for pregnant women because it has been shown to prevent some kinds of birth defects, including neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid to help prevent these kinds of serious birth defects.

      Vitamin B9 source

      illustration

    Self Care

     

    Tests for Pregnancy - health risks

     
     

    Review Date: 8/26/2017

    Reviewed By: Peter J. Chen, MD, FACOG, Associate Professor of OBGYN at Cooper Medical School at Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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