There is no doubt that pregnancy is one of life’s beautiful moments.
That said, it can also be a very vulnerable time for a woman.
Not only is her wellbeing important, but the little life she is carrying is in her hands. And things can go wrong.
To find out some of the common pregnancy difficulties, we spoke to qualified nurse and renowned midwife Sister Dorothy Mamabolo-Loti.
– Ectopic pregnancy
“In a normal pregnancy, a fertilised egg travels through the Fallopian tubes to the uterus where it attaches and starts to grow.
“But in an ectopic pregnancy, it attaches in some other place, most often in the Fallopian tube.”
Unfortunately, there is no way to save an ectopic pregnancy.
“It cannot turn into a normal pregnancy, sadly. If the egg keeps growing in the Fallopian tube, it can damage or burst the tube and cause heavy bleeding that could be deadly, so you will need quick treatment to end it before it causes dangerous problems.”
Mamabolo-Loti says there are some factors that can lead to an ectopic pregnancy such as smoking, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), often the result of an infection such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, and endometriosis where tissue grows outside the uterus, which can cause scar tissue.
“You cannot prevent ectopic pregnancy, but you can prevent serious complications with early diagnosis and treatment. If you have one or more risk factors for ectopic pregnancy, you and your doctor can closely monitor your first weeks of a pregnancy.”
– Umbilical cord around the neck
It is the stuff of Hollywood horror films; a vicious cord choking the baby to death! But the condition is actually quite common.
“This happens very frequently, about in one third of all births. Since the baby moves around in the uterus, the cord is bound to get wrapped around the neck.
“Usually, this is not diagnosed until the delivery of the baby. As it happens in almost a third of all deliveries, it is not a reason to worry. The chances of causing damage to the baby are very rare.”
There are certain rare circumstances that need to be monitored closely. “Sometimes it can happen that the cord gets stretched or compressed during labour and this will result in decreased blood and oxygen supply through the cord. This would also cause changes in the heart rate of the foetus.”
– Baby facing wrong way: breech presentation
“Most babies will move into delivery position a few weeks prior to birth, with the head moving closer to the birth canal.
“When this fails to happen, the baby’s buttocks and/or feet will be positioned to be delivered first. This is a breech presentation.”
Mamabolo says that the causes are not fully known, however, statistics show that a breech birth is more common in subsequent pregnancies, pregnancies of multiples, a history of premature delivery, when the uterus has too much or too little amniotic fluid or has unusual growths.
– Faint heartbeat of baby
“Faint foetal heart rate, also called bradycardia, is when an unborn baby’s heart has fewer than 110 beats per minute.
“In most cases, it is a temporary situation, though the cause usually needs to be determined for it to be treated.
“One of the most common causes is medication taken by the mother, such as narcotics, or an epidural. Hypertension in the mother can also result in a reduced foetal heart rate, whether for a few minutes or long-term.
– Faecal matter oozing into the womb
“Meconium is the earliest stool of an infant. Unlike later faeces, it is sticky like tar.
“It is normally retained in the infant’s bowel until after birth, but sometimes it is expelled into the amniotic fluid prior to birth or during labour and delivery. The stained amniotic fluid is recognised by medical staff and as a sign of foetal distress [baby not receiving oxygen in the brain]. When this happens, an emergency C-section is ordered.”