Childbirth Complications

Whether you are pregnant with your first, second or even third child, all mothers face anxious moments as they get closer to the delivery date. Pregnancy is common to all women; however, each woman reacts differently to labour. Although most labours can get by with few glitches, there are some complications that may occur during labour.

Foetal distress

Foetal distress means a baby is not coping well when in the womb. When you go into labour, contractions momentarily reduce blood flow (and oxygen as well) to the baby, and when the uterus relaxes, blood flow increases again.

In most babies, this is not a problem; however for some, contractions may distress the baby. The risk is higher if:

  • Your baby is smaller than average;
  • Your baby is overdue;
  • Contractions that are too fast, ie, too close together.

Health conditions in the mother, such as diabetes or kidney disease, may cause foetal distress too. Babies who are unwell, such as those with an inherited disorder, abnormality, or infection, or show an unfavourable reaction to a drug given to the mother, may also show some distress.

Abnormal position of foetus

The most common and ideal position is when a baby is facing the mother’s back, with his face and body angled to one side, the neck bent forward and is presented head first. There are a few other positions, which are abnormal and may pose a more difficult labour and delivery.

  • Breech position: This is when the buttocks are presented first, instead of the head. When the buttocks are delivered first, this may cause the head to get stuck inside, leading to complications such as nerve damage. Furthermore, the umbilical cord is compressed between the head and birth canal, and very little oxygen reaches the baby. Lack of oxygen can cause brain damage.
  • Other positions: Sometimes, the baby rests in a way where the neck is arched and the face or brow is thus presented first. A baby who lies horizontally across the birth canal and presents his shoulder first is known as transverse lie. Shoulder dystocia on the other hand, occurs when the baby’s shoulder is lodged against the mother’s pubic bone, after delivery of the head.

In pregnancies where the baby is in the breech position, the doctor may try to turn the foetus in the 37th or 38th week, so that it presents head first. If however, the baby is in breech position when labour starts, caesarean delivery is usually preferred. Normal delivery with breech position may cause injuries to the baby, or in some cases, babies may even die.

For babies with shoulder dystocia, doctors try to free the arm, which may sometimes result in damage to the nerves, or may break the arm or collarbone. An incision to widen the opening of the vagina (episiotomy) may be done to help with the delivery.

In case of foetal distress, or when there is prolonged labour, the doctor may assist your delivery with a vacuum extractor, forceps, or may even carry out an emergency caesarean operation if necessary.

What causes these complications?

Some health conditions in the mother may result in these complications; one of them is if she is suffering from diabetes. Being pregnant when you have diabetes is not something uncommon anymore; however, it is very important to control your blood sugar levels. Poor blood sugar control may lead to larger babies, which will pose a problem during delivery. Larger babies are at a higher risk of being in breech position and have a higher risk of getting injured during labour.

Poor nutrition, on the other hand, may result in babies that are smaller, which may also increase the risk of reduced liquor volume (low amniotic fluid), foetal distress, or abnormal lie positions.

Shoulder dystocia is usually more common in larger babies. It is also more common in women who are obese, have diabetes, or have had a previous baby with shoulder dystocia.

Don’t take chances

A pregnancy that has progressed smoothly may still give way to complications during labour. It is important to reduce any risk that may lead to higher chances of complications in delivery. Look after your health, keep up a healthy regime that includes both diet and exercise, and keep any health conditions, eg diabetes, in check.

Don’t take any chances when it comes to the health and development of your little one!

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