This goes along with the question of “What if something goes wrong?” As I’ve already said in other articles, the simple answer is that the mother will handle it. Many freebirthers prefer to think of complications as ‘variations of normal’ that happen during pregnancy, labor, and birth. While the majority of pregnancies are low-risk and very safe, not all are completely uneventful. If they become too severe, the mother should of course see a doctor or midwife. However, many of these issues can be managed at home by a well-informed mother. There is no reason to panic!
Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced hypertension or, in other words, high blood pressure. It is also called toxemia. It is common in first time mothers, teenage or multiple pregnancies, and women over 40. Smoking, drinking, and other unhealthy lifestyle practices can increase the risk of preeclampsia. There may also be a genetic factor. It occurs once the pregnancy has reached 20 week gestation. It happens in only 5-8% of pregnancies, and those with healthy lifestyles are very unlikely to be affected by it. Preeclampsia can cause low birth weight babies by depriving the placenta of blood. It can develop into eclampsia, which will cause seizures, but this is very rare–especially for those who recognize the condition and treat it.
Mild preeclampsia will cause high blood pressure, water retention, and protein in the urine; you may swell more than usual and notice your pee is cloudy. Severe preeclampsia causes headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and shortness of brush. When a mother suspects preeclampsia, she should take it easy and get lots of rest. There are many things she can do to help lower her blood pressure. These include limiting salt intake, drinking more water, and avoiding unhealthy foods and substances like fried foods, alcohol, and caffeine. Exercising 30 minutes a day will also help. Preeclampsia is rare in those who do this regularly, so these methods are great for both prevention and treatment of this complication.
Bleeding is common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. As many as 20-30% of women bleed early on, and only half of them have miscarriages. Bright red bleeding or gushes of blood are signs of trouble. Do not wear a tampon if you are bleeding, and stop douching and having sex. Bleeding can be caused by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, or placental problems such as previa or abruption. Miscarriage is the most common, occurring 15% of the time. Ectopic pregnancies happen in about 1 in 60 conceptions. Molar pregnancies are extremely rare and end in miscarriage. Treatment should include lots of rest, as well as palpitating the stomach for placental location. In this situation it would be very wise for a woman to see a doctor or midwife in hopes of diagnosing the problem and treating it. In many cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented, but in late pregnancy, a C-section could save the baby’s life. Bleeding should be taken seriously.
Gestational diabetes is temporary and is cured by delivery of the baby. For some reason, during pregnancy, the body may stop producing enough insulin. Other names for it include glucose intolerance and carbohydrate intolerance. It occurs most often in older or overweight women, and there may be a genetic factor. Only 2-5% of all pregnancies are affected by gestational diabetes. It can cause macrosomia (or large birth weight). This increases risk of labor complications, like shoulder dystocia. The newborn may have hypoglycemia, low blood sugar, which usually clears itself up in a few days after a few breastfeeding sessions. The baby may be hungry, shaky, sweaty, dizzy, tired, weak, or more prone to crying, but he should recover quite quickly without any serious side effects. It could also cause jaundice, which also clears up on its own.
If a mother feels very thirsty, is peeing more often, is tired or nauseated, develops many infections, or experiences blurred version, she may have gestational diabetes. She can confirm it with a simple blood test, done at home if she likes. If gestational diabetes is suspected, it is best to err on the side of caution and begin treatment. A healthy diet is the best treatment. The mother should limit her intake of simple sugars and carbohydrates, get lots of rest, and exercise. Natural sugars, such as those found in fruits, are much safer. Snacking on healthier foods will make a big difference. Like preeclampsia, a healthy lifestyle is both good prevention and good treatment.
Severe nausea and vomiting can be a sign of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and multiple pregnancy. However, it does not always mean something is wrong. Some women just have very bad morning sickness that lasts throughout the pregnancy. A mother suffering from this should keep her eyes open for signs of a complication without worrying herself too much. Eating more, sticking to foods she can keep down, and ingesting lots of ginger can help her deal with it. Sleep-deprivation can be linked to these symptoms, so mothers should get lots of rest. Drinking lots of water will prevent dehydration and may help with the nausea.
Carrying multiples isn’t really a complication, but a variation of normal. It can make for a more difficult pregnancy and increase risk of certain afflictions. The average woman has a chance of only 3% of naturally conceiving twins. Fraternal twins are more common, and triplets occur in only 1 in 8,000 births. Twins are more likely to occur in women who are taking fertility medications, eat lots of conventional foods with additives, have had 4+ pregnancies or already delivered twins, or are overweight. A family history of twins increases that chance, as does cultural background, for African Americans are more likely to conceive multiples. The percentage increases every few years for women over the age of 30. Yams and high dairy diets can make twins more likely, too. The risks of preterm labor, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and severe nausea and vomiting, and breech birth are increased.