The bumpy road of pregnancy

Having a baby can be a wonderful experience, but it often brings a whole new range of medical issues for the mother, writes Naoise Coogan.

LET there be no doubt about it, planned pregnancy brings the most wonderful discovery for any woman.

Seeing that blue line brings with it euphoric emotions but also fears. Will I be a good enough mother? How will I cope with a tiny baby? Will I fall in love with my baby when he/she is born?

However, before any of these issues become relevant there are the next nine months to get through. And many women are not always aware until they are in the throes of pregnancy that there are some difficult times ahead before the joyous arrival.

Because so many women are having difficulty conceiving these days, pregnant women often feel guilty for complaining about pregnancy-related issues which are causing them pain or discomfort. And women are often even slower to discuss their emotional fears because as far as most people are concerned ‘you are lucky to be pregnant at all’.

Frequently, the reason that pregnant women don’t talk about the ‘troublemakers’ of pregnancy is because many of their problems are downright embarrassing. There is no easy way to talk about haemorrhoids, the constant need to urinate, leakages and other very common pregnancy conditions. But the reality is a huge percentage of pregnant women are treated for many of these aliments but don’t talk about them.

Each trimester brings with it, its own problems.

In the first trimester, the biggest fear is of miscarriage. Some 20% of women will miscarry.

Morning sickness

Whoever invented this name has never been pregnant because although a third of women get morning sickness, most of them are afflicted with this feeling of nausea and/or vomiting for the entire day and night for at least three months. Many women suffer more serious morning sickness — hyperemisis — which can lead to hospitalisation, intravenous feeding and rehydration.

Haemorrhoids

Haemorrhoids, or varicose veins in the rectum, frequently occur during pregnancy. Up to 50% of pregnant women are afflicted with this curse which occurs because the blood volume increases and the uterus is putting pressure on the pelvis. This leads to the veins in the rectum enlarging into grape-like clusters. Coupled with constipation, another common pregnancy woe, haemorrhoids can make going to the bathroom painful. The doctor can prescribe a cream or an ointment to deal with haemorrhoids. It is best dealt with on first realisation of the problem.

Bladder/kidney problems

During the second trimester bladder problems can arise. Leakages occur in 60% of pregnant women. Once the baby is born, for most women bladder weakness will desist, particularly if exercises are used to strengthen pelvic floor muscles.

Kidney infections are extremely common and can be very painful.

Sometimes these are hard to pick up on as the pain can be masked by pregnancy cramps and general discomfort. If left untreated kidney damage can occur and therefore any burning or stinging pains in the kidneys or while urinating should be addressed immediately.

Sleep deprivation

Many pregnant women don’t sleep well in the second trimester for a number of reasons. The need to urinate during the night can lead to several trips to the loo. The growing bump can also be a discomfort.

Blood pressure

Preeclampsia or high blood pressure affects one in 10 pregnant women. Ray O’Sullivan, consultant gynaecologist at private medical company, Women’s Health Group, says: “This can be very worrying as high blood pressure can lead to a premature delivery. It is very stressful for parents if a child has to be delivered several weeks early but it is imperative if there is danger to the health of the mother.”

Pelvic girdle dysfunction

PGD is a very painful condition which occurs in one in three pregnant women and it occurs when the pelvis splits as a result of the weight of the baby. Many women end up on crutches or are unable to walk if they are struck with PGD. The situation does rectify itself after pregnancy.

Prolapse

Prolapse sees the walls of the vagina caving in as a result of a dropped womb, bladder or bowl which occurs as a result of vaginal deliveries. it requires surgery to rectify.

“Many doctors and pregnant women sell pregnancy like a Mills and Boon story,” says Mr O’Sullivan. “However, for most women the reality is very different. Women suffer all sorts of ailments throughout their pregnancies and then they must deliver. This can also present problems and doctors will always do what they have to do to ensure a healthy mother and baby. However, childbirth leaves its scars on mothers and prolapse is one of these scars.”

After all that — how is it that so many women are so anxious to conceive? Most women are so happy to be pregnant but many do not enjoy the pregnancy and that this is understandable. Some people suffer far more than others and others don’t suffer until after the baby has been born.

“Some 70% of problems associated with pregnancy are in the post-natal period,” says Mr O’ Sullivan.

However, the most important thing is to enjoy the end result — the beautiful baby that pops out. All of the above fades into insignificance when your baby is born. But be informed before you take the plunge.

Nothing can prepare you for the changes that your body will undergo, but equally nothing can prepare you for the joy that a baby brings into the lives of it’s mum and dad.

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