Even when we’re going through a pandemic, the circle of life continues.
There are new and expecting mothers around us, dealing with the joys and the troubles of motherhood – dealing with changing priorities, and even extreme fatigue. But for a select few, the bodily changes that’s associated with pregnancy, can mean the beginning of certain chronic conditions.
While the onset of pregnancy and its related bodily changes can cause a number of complications, the presence of COVID-19 around us, may be especially worrying. But equipped with the right information and the right management approach, mothers living with these conditions can still stay healthy and focus on the new journey of motherhood that they are embarking on.
3 Pregnancy-Related Chronic Conditions Expecting Mothers Should Know
Hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy directly have an impact on bodily systems. Sugar processing is especially an aspect that gets affected during pregnancy, for some women. This, in essence, is gestational diabetes. It’s a chronic condition that causes high blood sugar during pregnancy, which can often create problems for a mother’s health and her baby’s.
Awareness about gestational diabetes is higher and linked to its rising prevalence – affecting 4.6%-14% people in urban areas in India, and 1.7-13.2% in rural areas. While this has brought gestational diabetes to mainstream conversations, many still don’t know how to handle this condition.
Managing gestational diabetes is simple and not very different from managing one’s overall health. Eating better food, exercising consistently, taking the right medication and regularly checking your blood sugar, are all easy steps that can make a huge impact in disease management.
For most women, their sugar levels go back to normal after delivery.
But a certain segment of women develop insulin resistance post-delivery, or even Type 2 diabetes later in life. The practices that they learn during their pregnancy can be employed effectively to prevent these in the long run.
Problems associated with blood pressure often go undiagnosed in most people until it’s too late. Even in the case of pregnant women, there are chances of blood pressure becoming high slowly, and only being diagnosed when it’s too far gone. Regular blood pressure monitoring is an essential part of prenatal care that all expecting mothers need to do.
Preeclampsia as a condition, can only be detected early with such monitoring.
Any BP reading above 140/90 mmHg can be problematic for expecting mothers, and when readings above this are documented on two occasions, at least 4 hours apart, it’s important to start seeking help.
The other tell-tale symptoms of preeclampsia include the presence of protein in urine, severe headaches, decreased urine output, and even shortness of breath. Keeping prenatal appointments can help in preventing and early detection of this condition. But if a patient experiences further symptoms, it is important to seek immediate help.
This is because headaches, nausea and other symptoms associated with preeclampsia are normal during pregnancy, and ignoring them may indicate something more serious.
When left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to serious complications for both the mother and the body. In earlier stages of pregnancy, doctors usually treat this condition with medicines that help lower blood pressure, as well as for preventing seizures (a possible complication).
Doctors usually decide on the treatment for this company, based on the severity of the condition. In most certain cases of preeclampsia, doctors may also suggest earlier delivery after 37 weeks to ensure the best health for both the mother and the baby.
After delivery, the BP levels usually go down to a normal range.
While pregnancy and motherhood is a fulfilling experience, there is also another side to it that often goes undiscussed. The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can affect brain chemicals and lead to depression during and after delivery. A family history of depression may also increase a woman’s chances for developing it.
A lot of times, the feelings of despondency are ignored by women as simply baby blues – a condition of feeling low for a short period after delivery. But there are certains symptoms that go beyond mood swings and anxiety.
The tell tale symptoms of pregnancy related depression include changes in appetite, sleep, or in energy levels. While these changes are normal due to the stressors of new motherhood, there are other symptoms that can help in diagnosis. This includes crying for no reason, or feeling distant from their loved ones, or even their new baby.
With over 13% of women experiencing postpartum depression, it is definitely not a rare condition. But when left untreated, they can cause long term problems in both the mother and her relationship to her baby.
Depending on the severity of the depression, doctors can suggest treatment plans which may include therapy and/or medication. Receiving support from their family and the community around them can also massively help new mothers in handling their situation better, and getting the help they need.
With the increased worry about COVID-19 affecting most people, it is natural that those going through postpartum depression may be additionally affected. The best way to address this issue is to pay close attention to one’s moods, and seek the necessary help.
A Word About Chronic Conditions During Pregnancy and Covid-19
When talking about comorbidities like the ones that women experience during pregnancy, COVID-19 also is a topic that needs to be discussed, right now. There are a number of changes that happen to a woman’s immunity and physiology during pregnancy. This can make them more susceptible to developing infections of any kind. Since pregnant and new mothers are exempt from vaccination as well, there are currently no preventive measures in place.
Following all the usual preventives measures is the best option that any pregnant mother can take during this time.
But if you’re an expecting mother and you do get infected, there are still things that you can do. Especially if you have elevated blood sugar or blood pressure, complications from COVID-19 are largely dependent on how well managed your conditions are. Following all of the advice that your doctor suggests, and routinely tracking your vitals can help avoid such complications.
While the above-mentioned conditions do warrant extra attention and care for pregnant women, they are still treatable, with the guidance of the right doctor and strict adherence to their treatment plan. Even with COVID-19, preventive care can go a long way in avoiding infection, and in preventing complications, in case of complications.
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