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Pregnancy - health risks

Information

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.
  • Limit caffeine and coffee.
  • Plan healthy eating. If you're not sure how to do this, talk to your health care provider.
  • Optimize your sleep habits.
  • Get regular aerobic exercise.
  • Ask your provider if your weight is optimum.
  • If your menses are regular, you are probably ovulating. If you've been on birth control pills, consider getting off them for several months before attempting pregnancy.
Tobacco and vascular disease
Tobacco use and exposure may cause an acceleration of coronary artery disease and peptic ulcer disease. It is also linked to cancer, stroke, COPD, fetal illness, and delayed wound healing.

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. Take supplemental vitamins with at least 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9) a day.

Vitamin B9 benefits
Folate (folic acid) is necessary for the production of red blood cells and for the synthesis of DNA (which controls heredity and is used to guide the cell in its daily activities). Folic acid also helps with tissue growth and cell function. In addition, it helps to increase appetite when needed and stimulates the formation of digestive acids.

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.

See a prenatal provider before trying to get pregnant or early in the pregnancy. This 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:

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.

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:

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.

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: a history of preeclampsia; having twins or more; a history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease; or 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.

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.

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, and continue to get prenatal care until the baby is born.

Gallery

Abdominal ultrasound
Abdominal ultrasound is a scanning technique used to image the interior of the abdomen. Like the X-ray, MRI, and CT scan, it has its place as a diagnostic tool. Ultrasound scans use high frequency sound waves to produce an image and do not expose the individual to radiation. The procedure is painless and safe.
Tobacco and vascular disease
Tobacco use and exposure may cause an acceleration of coronary artery disease and peptic ulcer disease. It is also linked to cancer, stroke, COPD, fetal illness, and delayed wound healing.
Vitamin B9 benefits
Folate (folic acid) is necessary for the production of red blood cells and for the synthesis of DNA (which controls heredity and is used to guide the cell in its daily activities). Folic acid also helps with tissue growth and cell function. In addition, it helps to increase appetite when needed and stimulates the formation of digestive acids.

References

Berger DS, West EH. Nutrition during pregnancy. In: Landon MB, Galan HL, Jauniaux ERM, et al, eds. Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 6.

Gregory KD, Ramos DE, Jauniaux ERM. Preconception and prenatal care. In: Landon MB, Galan HL, Jauniaux ERM, et al, eds. Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 5.

Mullins EWS, Regan L. Women's health. In: Feather A, Randall D, Waterhouse M, eds. Kumar and Clarke's Clinical Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 39.

Last reviewed July 12, 2023 by John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team..

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