When a woman learns that she is pregnant, it can be exciting and a little overwhelming. After all, there are many different things that she must take into account to ensure that both she and her baby is healthy. Doctor’s visits are important during pregnancy to ensure that both mother and baby are healthy and to check for any possible fetal complications. Fetal complications can include birth defects, genetic conditions, growth problems, and issues due to maternal antibodies. Accurate diagnosis of fetal complications is important to properly prepare to treat the newborn at delivery. Read on to learn more about fetal complications and the signs to look for.
Birth defects, or fetal anomalies, are structural defects that can visually be seen on an ultrasound. While some fetal birth defects are severe, others can be mild. If a birth defect is found on an ultrasound, you will be offered genetic counseling, genetic testing, a consultation with a maternal fetal medicine physician, and a pediatric specialty consultation to educate yourself regarding what to expect during pregnancy and after birth.
Genetic conditions are health problems caused by a change in a person’s genes. These conditions may be passed through a family or happen randomly in a pregnancy. During pregnancy, your provider will discuss the chances of genetic conditions affecting your baby, as well as the factors that put you at risk. A baby may have a higher risk of genetic conditions if there is a family history of a genetic disease, blood work during pregnancy shows an increased chance for a genetic condition, a pregnancy ultrasound shows signs of a genetic condition, both parents are carriers of the same genetic condition, or if a mother is over the age of 35 during delivery.
If your baby is at risk for a genetic condition, a genetic counselor can help to review your family history and pregnancy information in detail to determine if genetic testing is available.
Fetal growth disorders can occur when a baby grows too much or not enough during pregnancy. Your physician may monitor fetal growth by measuring your uterus over time. If your uterus is too small or too big, an ultrasound will be scheduled to check the baby’s growth. Ultrasounds may also be periodically scheduled to check your baby’s growth if you have a condition such as diabetes or hypertension, which may affect your baby’s size.
Babies can grow too large because of diabetes, genetic conditions that may lead to delivery complications, or if the mother gains excessive weight. Babies may be too small if they have a genetic issue or birth defect, if there is a problem with the placenta, or if the mother has a medical condition that can affect the blood vessels such as high blood pressure, lupus, or kidney disease.
In some cases, the blood types of a mother and her baby are incompatible. There is a test called the indirect Coombs test, which pinpoints anti-D antibodies in the mother’s blood serum. If these antibodies were to come into contact with fetal red blood cells, they would cause hemolytic disease (HDN), which causes a baby’s red blood cells to break down at a quick rate. By finding maternal anti-D before fetal red blood cells have been attacked, treatment can be given to prevent or limit the severity of HDN.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!