You’re healthy, you don’t smoke and you watch what you eat and drink, giving you and your growing baby every health advantage. Even so, specialized problems may arise during pregnancy. Be aware of these potential hazards and how to avoid or treat them.
Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. The changes in your body during pregnancy can raise your blood sugar (glucose) levels, which can cause problems for you and your baby.
Gestational diabetes is most likely to develop if you:
- Are overweight.
- Have a family history of diabetes.
- Gave birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more.
- Had a baby who died before birth.
- Had gestational diabetes in the past.
- Are of Latin, American Indian, African, Asian or Pacific Islander descent.
If your blood sugar isn’t under control, complications to the baby may include:
- Excessive weight
- Premature birth
- Low blood sugar
- Stillbirth (rare)
As the mother, you may experience:
- High blood pressure.
- Bladder or kidney infection.
- Shortness of breath.
- Harder birth and longer recovery time.
- Increased chance of cesarean delivery.
If you develop gestational diabetes, your healthcare provider will give you specific education on how to care for yourself. It’s very important to follow the diet, exercise and blood sugar monitoring plans you receive.
When you’re pregnant, a body temperature above 102 degrees for more than a few minutes can lead to birth defects or miscarriage. Limit anything that could raise your body temperature above 102 degrees, including:
- Saunas and hot tubs.
- Very long, hot baths or showers.
- Electric blankets or heating pads.
- Excessive exercise or hot weather.
If you become hot with a fever, call your doctor to find ways to lower it.
Preeclampsia is also called Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) or toxemia. No one knows what causes preeclampsia. It occurs in 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies and is most common in:
- First pregnancies.
- Women who have had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy.
- Twin or other multiple pregnancies.
- Women with high blood pressure or diabetes.
- Obese women.
Early preeclampsia can be diagnosed during a routine visit with your healthcare provider, so go to all your prenatal visits. If left untreated, preeclampsia can cause potentially life-threatening problems for you and your baby.
Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have even one of preeclampsia’s symptoms, including:
- Severe, persistent headache.
- Vision changes (blurring, seeing spots).
- Rise in blood pressure.
- Pain in your upper belly or shoulder.
- Rapid weight gain and/or swelling.
- Trouble breathing.
Rh factor is a protein found in some people’s red blood cells. If your blood is Rh negative and your baby’s blood is Rh positive, this is called Rh disease or incompatibility.
If and when some of the baby’s red blood cells leak into your system, your body will produce antibodies to fight the Rh factor as if it were a harmful substance. This usually doesn’t affect a first baby, but the antibodies will remain in your body and may affect your next baby.
A simple blood test will determine if you’re Rh negative. If you’re Rh negative and pregnant, you’ll get an injection called RhoGAM to prevent your body from producing Rh antibodies. RhoGAM injections are given:
- At about 28 weeks of pregnancy.
- Within 72 hours after a birth if your baby’s blood is Rh-positive (or unknown).
- Anytime your and your baby’s blood may mix, such as with miscarriage, amniocentesis or a blow to the belly.
Breathing in fumes from solvents — chemicals such as degreasers, paint, lacquers and paint thinners — may expose you and your baby to health problems, such as:
- Slow growth
- Premature birth
- Birth defects
Try to stay away from solvents while pregnant. If you use solvents in your workplace, talk to your boss and healthcare provider about a job reassignment while you’re pregnant. If solvents are nearby, keep windows open or a fan on, and wear gloves and a face mask.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a parasite found in cat feces, plant soil and raw or undercooked meat. The parasite can cause preterm birth or brain damage in a developing baby if the mother becomes infected during pregnancy.
To avoid toxoplasmosis:
- Never touch cat feces. Have someone else change the litter box.
- Wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after handling fruits, vegetables or raw meat.
- Cook all meat to at least medium, preferably well done. It should not look pink.
- Use gloves when you garden.
- Don’t touch children’s sandboxes.
If you think you may have been exposed to toxoplasmosis, a blood test can check for infection and guide treatment. Ask your healthcare provider for more information.