Best Way to Understand the Complications of Pregnancy

Developing a complication during your pregnancy may make it high risk. You may experience preterm labor, and your baby may have to be delivered early. Your care may be put under the charge of a perinatol­ogist, a highly trained medical specialist for high-risk pregnancies whose goal is to eliminate—or at least minimize—any secondary prob­lems caused by the complication, and to maintain your pregnancy and the health of your baby.

When complications are detected early and controlled through close observation and proper medical management, premature birth may be avoided, arid you’ll most likely have a healthy outcome for yourself and your baby.

Complications of Pregnancy Best Way to Understand the Complications of Pregnancy

If you are diagnosed with one of the complications of pregnancy we’ll discuss below, you will certainly receive detailed explanations from your doctor, and you may also be given patient education bro­chures and other printed literature to help you understand what has happened to your pregnancy. Of course, check with your doctor about where you can also seek out reliable information on the Internet to supplement your knowledge.

The following thumbnail descriptions will provide an outline of your condition. They may also be helpful to your concerned friends and family—those who wish to understand what’s happened to your pregnancy.

Incompetent Cervix

If you have an “incompetent cervix,” your cervix is not able to remain closed during the pregnancy. Sometimes it lacks the normal firmness or it can also be very short. From about 13 weeks of pregnancy, the combined weight of the baby, the fluids, and the placenta may exert enough pressure on the cervix to cause it to thin and open, resulting in a miscarriage.

Miscarriage from an incompetent cervix may occur as early as the fourteenth week of pregnancy if undetected or untreated. When incompetent cervix affects a pregnancy after the twentieth week of gestation, it can lead to preterm labor and birth.

Diagnosing Cervical Incompetence

In the past, your incompetent cervix might not have been diagnosed until you’d had several miscarriages. Nowadays, physicians can check for this problem after one miscarriage. Vaginal ultrasound detects early changes in the cervix. An incompetent cervix can be treated with a minor surgical procedure that is somewhat like putting a sewing stitch through the cervix. This procedure, called cerclage, will be described in more detail in the following paragraphs.

DES and Incompetent Cervix

You may have an incompetent cervix because your mother took diethylstilbestrol (DES) during her pregnancy with you. From 1938 to 1971, many women took the medication DES to prevent miscarriages during their pregnancies. It was later discovered that their daughters often had defects in their reproductive organs.

Having an abnormally shaped uterus or cervix can cause you to mis­carry due to incompetent cervix. If you are the daughter of a woman who used DES, you may have:

Complications of Pregnancy 1 Best Way to Understand the Complications of Pregnancy

  • Abnormalities of the uterus. A bicornuate uterus is heart-shaped, and a didelphic uterus is one that has two compartments, separated by a wall, in the uterus. Often with a didelphic uterus there are two cervices. Both abnormalities can prevent a fetus from grow­ing but are correctable. An underdeveloped cervix opens prema­turely and requires surgical intervention to maintain pregnancy.
  •  Abnormal pap smears. The cells on the surface of the cervix are not normal and indicate the possibility that cervical cancer may develop.

Happily, over time there will be fewer and fewer women with mal­formed reproductive organs due to DES because the use of this med­ication was stopped in 1971. The youngest women affected by this medication are in their mid-3os in the first decade of the 2000s.

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