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Pregnant? How to avoid threats to life

By Correspondent | March 16th 2016 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Every expectant mother has concerns about different complications that can occur during the nine months of pregnancy.

While some like nausea and vomiting are common and pass by after the first trimester, others are serious and potentially life-threatening to either the mother, baby or both.

First-time mother Christine Wanjiku found herself in a life-threatening situation in May 2014 during an ante-natal clinic visit. She was found to have elevated blood pressure and protein in her urine in the 32nd week of her pregnancy.

Subsequent blood tests revealed that she had HELLP syndrome - a potentially terminal liver disorder characterised by the destruction of red blood cells, elevated liver enzymes and low blood platelet count. The obstetric scan also showed that the baby was being affected by this condition and immediate delivery was highly recommended.

“My doctor told me the complication was severe and they had to deliver the baby immediately. Although I had not experienced any problems before, I was vomiting, one kidney was failing, my liver was not working well and by the time I went into theatre for a Caesarean section, my platelets were very low and I risked getting blood clots,” she says.

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Christine’s baby weighed in at 1.7kgs. Her lungs were not fully formed and she had to be admitted to the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a month.

“My daughter is now well and turning two years on May 21. Ante-natal clinic visits are very critical in diagnosing these complications and expectant mothers should have them right from week one of their pregnancy,” Christine now advises.

Consultant obstetrician and gynecologist Sikolia Wanyonyi, echoes this mother’s sentiments saying women should attend ante-natal clinics as early as 12 weeks into their pregnancies.

“During the first visit, the doctor asks the patient various questions including family medical history, previous pregnancies and runs various tests. This helps to identify patients who may be at risk of various complications and allows the doctor to develop a plan to help them cope throughout the pregnancy,” Dr Wanyonyi says.

Wanyonyi says that attending ante-natal clinics makes it easy for medics to diagnose infections, which if left untreated can cause complications in pregnancy, affect the baby, cause pre-term labour, miscarriages and low birth weight.

Dangerous infections include malaria, flu, hepatitis, meningitis, urine infections, sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Malformation of the foetus is also a major concern in pregnancy and this can be detected early by an ultrasound scan.

“Ultrasounds can identify up to 70 per cent of malformations at 20 to 22 weeks including those of the heart, limbs and head,” he says.

There are many other complications experienced during pregnancy and delivery. But with the advancement in science and technology, many can be predicted and prevented.

Visiting the doctor before conception and in early pregnancy enables doctors to advise and closely monitor the patient as the pregnancy develops and to be prepared for any eventualities during delivery.

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