Pregnancy is nine—or ten—months of incredible change, growth and sheer amazement at what our bodies can do in a short period of time. We go from slim, fit and carefree to hurling out our guts all day, to glowing with a round little bump, to feeling every bump in the road. Then we feel all the springs in our bed at night as we resemble a turtle on its back while we attempt to sleep. Finally, after hours of hard work, we birth our teeny tiny brand new baby and start the next chapter in our lives.
But that next chapter begins with the introduction known as pregnancy, which gives us time to adjust to the impending changes ahead—while throwing even more changes at us the entire time. The nine months of growth are divided into three trimesters of more or less equal length and 40 weeks by the standard measurements used.
Some of us go over and end up at 42 or more weeks, while others cut it short by a week or two, though that is more common for subsequent babies. Each trimester has its own unique ups and downs—the enjoyable moments and the risks we need to watch out for. To simplify matters, we made this list of risks for each trimester.
First Trimester—Weeks 1-13
21 Will This Baby Stick Around?
During the first trimester, the biggest concern is for a miscarriage. Sometimes we can be pregnant before our missed period and not even know it because the pregnancy terminates before our period is due—known as a chemical pregnancy.
This is also one of the most crucial growing stages for the baby and the most hormonal for us, what with morning sickness and all. According to Live Strong, “Miscarriage is common in the first trimester; up to 20 percent of all diagnosed pregnancies end in miscarriage, most before 13 weeks. At least 50 percent of all miscarriages are caused by chromosomal abnormalities and are not preventable, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).”
Despite it being common, it sure isn't easy.
20 Is The Baby Nestled Where They Should Be?
Following a miscarriage, we have the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo attaches anywhere except inside the uterus lining as intended. It usually attaches to the fallopian tubes, but it can attach anywhere else really. This is a particularly dangerous occurrence for us as the burst fallopian tube can cause severe internal bleeding and emergency surgery to remove the embryo and stitch us back together.
As per Your Medical Source, “More than 95 percent of ectopic pregnancies occur in a fallopian tube. The narrow fallopian tubes are not designed to hold a growing embryo, so the fertilized egg in a tubal pregnancy cannot develop normally.”
19 Birth Defects Can Happen To Anyone
Between the 8th and 13th weeks of pregnancy, the embryo is most susceptible to exposure to harmful substances and illnesses which can then cause birth defects. It’s important at this stage to nix any bad habits that are lingering, wash our hands frequently and take folate—preferably methylated B vitamins altogether—every day to help with potential defects that can be avoided.
According to Live Strong, “Common birth defects that develop in the first three months include heart defects, which comprise between one-third to one-fourth of all birth defects, neural tube defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly, or lack of brain tissue. These affect one in 1,000 births.”
18 Stress Can Cause A Mess
We all know that stress is bad for us, especially in large doses. This goes doubly so for pregnant women in the first trimester who find themselves under severe stress levels. The stress can impact the baby and even change its development, sometimes only mildly while other times in a more severe manner.
According to Fit Pregnancy, “It seems that stress can actually affect the microbes that reside in an expectant mother's vagina, which, in turn, are transferred to the newborn during vaginal birth, resulting in changes to the little one's gut microbiome and brain development.” Now is a great time to find ways to de-stress and relax.
17 Morning Sickness Isn't For The Faint At Heart
While most morning sickness is unpleasant and annoying, a select few end up with severe morning sickness which can be dangerous for the expectant mother as it leads to dehydration which is never a good thing—in general, or especially when pregnant.
According to Parents, “While there is no single definition of hyperemesis gravidarum, when a patient has lost 5% or more of body weight or has been unable to keep anything down, including water for 24 hours, they have what we consider HG and require intervention,” says Sharon Mass, M.D., of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.”
16 Help! I'm On Fire
Urinary Tract Infections—or UTIs—are never fun and can come with severe risks if contracted during pregnancy. An infection can occur anywhere in the urinary tract from the kidneys to the bladder to the urethra and should be treated immediately during pregnancy to prevent further spread of the infection.
Baby Center notes, “During pregnancy, however, asymptomatic bacteriuria that's left untreated significantly increases your risk of getting a kidney infection and is associated with preterm labor and low birth weight. This is one reason your urine is routinely tested during pregnancy.”
Telling our doctor if it burns when we tinkle is just another gross part of pregnancy. Fortunately, UTIs can be successfully treated at home with D-mannose when caught early enough, but a kidney infection will often require hospitalization and warrants antibiotics.
15 When Falling Pregnant Leads To Falling
Dizziness and feeling faint or lightheaded are common in pregnancy but when accompanied by bleeding, abdominal pain, blurred vision, headaches or palpitations then it becomes more serious and we are told to contact our doctor. Plus if we actually do faint, we run the risk of hitting our head on something and injuring ourselves that way. As per American Pregnancy, “The main cause of dizziness in pregnancy is due to the rising hormones that cause your blood vessels to relax and widen. This helps increase the blood flow to your baby, but it slows the return of the blood in the veins to you.”
Second Trimester: Weeks 14-27
14 What If Labor Comes Too Soon?
Just when we get out of the first trimester with its miscarriage concerns, we are told to watch out for premature labor. This is especially true for high-risk mothers. Before 20 weeks, it’s known as a miscarriage and after 20 weeks, its premature labor.
Each week baby’s chances of survival increase so keeping him inside to cook is ideal. The first warning sign of a miscarriage or premature labor is vaginal bleeding similar to a period, accompanied by severe cramps. According to Healthline, “You may feel scared when you experience vaginal bleeding, but it’s important to remember that not all bleeding is a bad sign. Bleeding is common in pregnancy.”
13 Watch What You Eat, Mama
If we had relatively easy or no morning sickness then suddenly feel horrible in the second trimester, we might have food poisoning. In and of itself, it’s not bad for the pregnancy but depending on the severity and what exactly caused the bout of poisoning, it can affect the overall health of us and baby.
As per The Bump, “Most of the time, it won’t. Some cases of food poisoning are particularly dangerous to your baby, though. Listeria, a bacteria that may be present in uncooked foods and soft, unpasteurized cheeses, may cause miscarriage, premature delivery, infection or death to the newborn.”
Truth be told, there appear to be more cases of listeria among store-bought hummus and ice cream these days, but moms should be aware of the options and risks before choosing what is best for themselves.
12 When We Find Out We're Rh-
Okay so not exactly a risk but when mama is negative and baby is positive then there is a greater chance at something going wrong. When the two blood types mix, future pregnancies could face some pretty poor consequences, including fetal demise. According to Parenting, “If both you and your partner both have Rh-negative blood, there's no need to worry because you'll have an Rh-negative baby. But if you or your partner even carry a recessive gene for Rh negative blood—your baby could be either positive or negative. A potentially dangerous condition, called Rh Disease, can result when the mother is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive.”
Rates of sensitization are very low, but sensitization and injury can also result from the Rhogam injection. So, it’s important to be fully aware on this front if you have a negative blood type and your partner is positive. The Kleinhauer test can be performed to check for blood mixing and moms can then make a more informed decision on whether to opt for treatments like Rhogam.
11 Autoimmune Diseases Spring Into Action
Having an autoimmune disease (where our immune system attacks itself and our bodies) is already a very unpleasant experience to live with. Coupling it with the complications and physical demands of pregnancy can add to the stress we put ourselves under. But we can have successful pregnancies if we’re aware of the risks associated with our disease.
As NYU Langone tells us, “For decades, women with these conditions were advised to avoid pregnancy because of the risks, which can include miscarriage, preterm labor, and preeclampsia, a pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. Now, with proper medical care and counseling before and after giving birth, many women with autoimmune conditions can have safe and successful pregnancies.”
10 The Risk Of Chromosomal Abnormalities
Among the many tests available for pregnant women to undergo is a screening for chromosomal abnormalities or birth defects in the second trimester. Early exposure to harmful substances or an abnormality in baby’s chromosomes can cause defects such as Down Syndrome, cleft palate or even a miscarriage.
According to Very Well Family, “A chromosomal abnormality occurs when a fetus has either the incorrect number of chromosomes or chromosomes that are structurally flawed. These abnormalities may translate to the development of birth defects, disorders like Down syndrome, or miscarriage.” While these tests are optional, if they bring peace of mind then they might be a good idea to schedule.
9 Problems With The Placental Position
We all know how important the placenta is to the health and success of the pregnancy and baby’s growth. Without it, there wouldn’t be any baby. But it can come with its own set of complications which can include placenta previa.
According to March Of Dimes, “Placenta previa is a condition in which the placenta lies very low in the uterus and covers all or part of the cervix. The cervix is the opening to the uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. Placenta previa happens in about 1 in 200 pregnancies.” While they don’t usually affect the pregnancy as a whole, this complication does require a C-section to successfully deliver the baby.
8 When There's More Than One Baby On Board
Having twins isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless it comes as a complete shock and wasn’t in the original plan at all. Some people thrive on having twins or more babies in one go, but there are complications for these types of pregnancies. The most common complication is a premature birth.
Since we are carrying an additional baby, everything is doubled and the pregnancy is shorter. As per Very Well Family, “Twin pregnancy is not just risky for the babies, but also to the mother. However, many of the risks to the mother are also risks to the unborn babies, since they can lead to premature labor, complications, or in the worst cases, fetal death.”
Third Trimester: Weeks 28-40+
7 And If That Sac Won't Play Nice
Placenta Abruption is the medical condition where the placenta (for reasons of its own) separates from the uterine wall. This usually occurs in the third trimester or during labor but can happen in the second trimester as well. According to American Pregnancy, “Only about 1% of all pregnant women will experience placental abruption, and most can be successfully treated depending on what type of separation occurs.” For partial separation, bed rest and monitoring are the go-to treatments while complete separation usually requires delivery. There is no way to reattach the placenta and no way to stop it from detaching in the first place.
6 Preterm Labor Has A Whole New Meaning Now
We’re in the final trimester but there is still the risk that baby will try to come early. Each week that baby stays inside and cooks in her nice safe environment improves her chances of surviving outside the womb. Bedrest (as fun as it sounds) is usually prescribed, along with certain medications and steroids to stall labor and speed up baby’s lung development. According to Healthline, preterm labor is “When labor occurs before the ninth month or 37th week of pregnancy, it’s considered “preterm." Various conditions may cause preterm labor such as bladder infection... or a long-term medical disease (like diabetes or kidney disease).”
5 Preeclampsia Is Not To Be Messed With
No one knows exactly what causes preeclampsia or how to specifically treat and prevent it, aside from the safe (and often premature) delivery of the baby. What is known is that it is very dangerous for the mother and baby, and is best known for sudden swelling of various body parts—including the face and ankles.
As Your Medical Source tells us, “Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, swelling of the face and hands, and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is a potentially serious condition that, if left untreated, can lead to complications or death in the mother or the baby.” The condition usually warrants induction of labor.
4 The Risk Of PPROM
PPROM—or Preterm Premature Rupture Of Membranes—can occur in the second or third trimester and is serious, often leading to premature labor. Loss of amniotic fluid which is essential to baby’s growth and development in the womb can occur with PPROM as well.
According to Healthline, “While your water is supposed to break when you go into labor, it can cause serious problems for your baby when it happens too early. This is called preterm premature rupture of membranes, or PPROM. The exact cause of PPROM isn’t clear, but in many cases, the source of the problem is an infection of the membranes.”
3 Temporary Diabetes
Diabetes is no fun and gestational diabetes is especially not fun. This can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate and has been linked to neonatal hypoglycemia and have a larger baby (which is fine and not a cause for concern in the vast majority of cases). According to Your Medical Source, “A small percentage (one to four percent) of pregnant women develop diabetes mellitus, usually in the second or third trimester, referred to as gestational diabetes. The disease poses a serious threat for both the woman and her unborn child.”
This is a temporary disease which resolves itself after the birth of the baby. Many women are able to control the condition during pregnancy through dietary measures.
2 When Baby Stops Growing
IUGR—also known as intrauterine growth retardation or restriction—occurs when baby’s growth rate slows down in the third trimester instead of picking up like it should. This is one reason why tracking our weight gain and eating properly is important during pregnancy.
According to Live Strong, “A fetus develops on a specific timetable, with the third trimester devoted mostly to gaining weight. In 3 to 10 percent of pregnancies, fetal growth lags in the last few months of pregnancy, a condition known as intrauterine growth retardation or restriction—IUGR. This condition increases the risk of fetal death before or around the time of delivery.”
1 Topsy Turvy Baby
A breech baby is where the baby has wedged himself feet or bum first instead of headfirst to be born vaginally. Most babies turn on their own before birth. but the few that don’t are the ones we all hear about. If the baby is incomplete or partial frank position then a vaginal delivery is fine, but feet first will generally require a C-section. According to Today’s Parent, “Most babies do turn on their own before their due date. In fact, your chances of having a breech baby decrease with each passing week. While about 30 percent of babies are breech at 30-32 weeks, only 3 percent are still breech at term...”
References: Live Strong, Your Medical Source, Fit Pregnancy, Parents, Baby Center, American Pregnancy, Healthline, The Bump, Parenting, NYU Langone, Very Well Family, March of Dimes, Very Well Family, American Pregnancy, Live Strong, Today's Parent