- Having your baby
- Baby & Mother Care
- Feeding your baby
- Fact sheets
If there are signs of more serious problems in your pregnancy, you may need immediate medical attention or increased monitoring. Below are some of the more serious problems that can occur.
Your iron requirements increase significantly with pregnancy as you make more blood for yourself and your baby. Iron is important to help prevent dietary iron deficiency (anaemia).Anaemia occurs when there are not enough red blood cells in your body and can result from illness, poor diet, severe sickness or extra strain on your body, such as when you are expecting twins. You will be given information on changing your diet, and you may be prescribed iron and vitamin supplements.
Not all instances of bleeding are serious – some women do bleed a little, on and off, throughout pregnancy, for a variety of minor reasons. You should contact your midwife or doctor for advice straight away if you experience bright bleeding from the vagina in pregnancy (jelly like bleeding is normal after 37 weeks gestation) or any severe abdominal pain as you will require medical attention. Most bleeding in later pregnancy is likely due to a problem in your placenta.
Sometimes the placenta is lying so low it covers the cervix and is more likely to bleed in this position. This is a serious condition called placenta praevia and needs careful observation, sometimes requiring hospital admission. In later pregnancy, bleeding may also indicate that the placenta is separating from the uterine wall (placental abruption). This could be life threatening to you and your baby and is a pregnancy emergency needing urgent medical attention in hospital.
Gestational (pregnancy) diabetes occurs in about three to eight per cent of women and is diagnosed using a fasting glucose tolerance test around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy. Some women will develop Gestational diabetes earlier in pregnancy, and some then go on to develop diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes can cause an increased risk of complications in pregnancy and birth, as well as a 1 in 2 chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
The good news is: with good management, these risks are significantly reduced.
For more detailed information, go to National Diabetes Services Scheme - Gestational Diabetes.
High blood pressure
Your blood pressure is checked regularly at the antenatal clinic. When blood pressure is very high, it can be a one-off occurrence, or it can be a sign of a more severe condition called pre-eclampsia. High blood pressure can affect your health and that of your growing baby.
Is an illness which only occurs in pregnancy, and one of the most common pregnancy complications affecting as many as 10% of pregnancies. It occurs more often in first pregnancies. Occasionally, women who have suffered it once find that it recurs in one or more subsequent pregnancies, and rarely a woman who has not experienced it in earlier pregnancies may develop it in a subsequent pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia initially has no obvious symptoms and most women with the condition feel fine. That’s why regular antenatal checks are so important. Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition of pregnancy, usually characterised by high blood pressure, protein in the urine and swelling.
Women can develop a severe itching of the skin later in pregnancy. It is important to see your midwife or doctor if your itch doesn’t clear up, or if no treatment helps, as this can be the sign of a potentially serious condition called obstetric cholestasis, where the liver is affected by pregnancy. Bile salts produced in the liver normally flow to your gut to aid with digestion, but in obstetric cholestasis, the bile salts build up in your body causing mainly severe itching and sometimes rash. Unfortunately there’s no cure for this during pregnancy but the symptoms will disappear after the baby is born.
Your midwife or doctor will monitor your condition to ensure the health of you and your baby, and discuss options to help relieve symptoms.
Fetal growth restriction
At your pregnancy care visits, your midwife or doctor will measure the size of your growing baby by measuring your tummy using a tape measure. The number of centimetres generally equals the number of weeks of pregnancy, to within about 2 cm. If you are measuring less than expected for your pregnancy, it is important to check that your baby is still growing well. This usually means you will have an ultrasound scan to check your baby’s growth and the amount of fluid around your baby. For more information, see: Baby center: 'What does small for dates mean?'
Baby’s position in later pregnancy
During pregnancy, your baby moves around constantly, and may changes positions many times. Toward the end of pregnancy, the baby’s head usually settles into the pelvis, and stays ‘head down’, and usually facing toward your back, in readiness for birth. If your baby stays facing your tummy or side, this is called posterior or lateral positions when you commence labour, it is not a concern but you may experience increased back pain or a longer labour. Getting into an upright or hands and knees position may assist with the progress of your labour.
If your baby happens to be in the ‘bottom first’ or breech position it will probably turn. If your baby remains in the breech position at about 36 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may offer to do a procedure called ‘ECV” or external cephalic version, to turn your baby to a head down position. If your baby does not turn your doctor will then discuss other options for birth, and will likely discuss a caesarean birth, as this is considered the safest way to have your baby.
Last Modified: Wednesday, 07 June 2023