Like all the rest of us, you may develop some illness while you are pregnant. Because pregnancy is an added strain, and because you have your baby to consider, it is most important for you to be familiar with the danger signals I discuss in Chapter 9. Here are a few conditions to which pregnant women are more than usually susceptible, and some possible complications of a pregnancy.
Cystitis and pyelitis
Cystitis is an infection of the bladder in which bacteria, pus, and sometimes blood are found in the urine. The symptoms are a desire to urinate often and pain and burning sensation on urination. It responds quickly to sulpha compounds or specific antibiotics and to drinking large quantities of fluid. It should be treated immediately, as it may lead to pyelitis—an infection of the kidney. The symptoms of pyelitis are chills and fever, back pain in the region of the kidneys, and sometimes pain on urination and too frequent urination.
Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
In this condition, the fertilized ovum has burrowed into the Fallopian tube instead of the womb. Since the tube is small, the egg is apt to burst through after it reaches a certain size. This is called a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. The tube may also abort the foetus by pushing it out. The symptoms are vaginal bleeding and severe pain on one side. With prompt surgery, mortality in this type of pregnancy has been greatly reduced. Removing one tube does not prevent a women from becoming pregnant again.
Since bleeding may indicate an ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage, or premature labour, it is essential to report it immediately to your doctor.
These conditions are fortunately very rare. Very little is known about their cause. Eclampsia is the more serious form and can be very dangerous. There is no specific medicine to cure eclampsia, but careful medical attention along a number of lines has saved many women with this condition. Even more important, prompt attention to the symptoms of toxaemia will usually prevent the person from developing eclampsia. The treatment varies in individual cases, but usually depends to a large extent on the regulation of salt intake and on rest.
Because these conditions can be serious, it is important to notify your doctor immediately if you observe any of the following danger signals of toxaemia: puffiness about the face and hands; persistent vomiting; severe, persistent headache; disturbances in vision—blurring, dimness, spots before the eyes; very rapid gain in weight.
Placenta praevia and premature separation of the placenta
These complications are also rare, and little is known about what causes them. Both occur in the last three months of pregnancy, and are accompanied by vaginal bleeding.
In placenta praevia, the placenta is misplaced. Instead of being attached high up on the uterine wall, it is down near the cervix. If some of the placental tissue is torn by the expansion of the cervix (mouth of the womb), pain and premature labour will result, with bleeding that can be serious for the baby.
Premature separation of the placenta is caused by a haemorrhage just below its point of attachment. A blood clot forms and loosens the placenta from its mooring. In both these conditions, get in touch with your doctor for immediate medical care.