A woman with Rh-negative blood who becomes pregnant by an Rh-positive man creates the possibility of having a Rh-positive fetus inside a Rh-negative mother. In rare circumstances, if the blood of the fetus mixes with the mother’s blood (they’re not supposed to!), the mother makes “antibodies” against the fetus’s blood.
Anemia is a condition in which the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood is reduced. Almost all living creatures on earth require oxygen to sustain life. In humans the blood is responsible for carrying oxygen to the cells of the body. Without oxygen, the cells die.
Many of the problems discussed above do not cause serious health risks for the pregnant woman and her unborn baby. The problems discussed below may be associated with poor outcomes for the mother and/or baby.
Constipation is a common problem in pregnancy sometimes aggravated by the iron supplements frequently prescribed to treat or prevent anemia. Calcium supplements may also constipate. Several natural factors contribute to constipation in pregnancy. Motility of the gut is reduced, water reabsorption in the colon is increased (extraction of water from the stool), and the enlarging uterus may actually crowd the colon.
During pregnancy the hormones which relax smooth muscle in other parts of the body (for example, the uterus and lining of the blood vessels) also relax the muscle at the entrance of the stomach (called the cardiac sphincter). Because of this, acid produced in the stomach can “regurgitate” and irritate the lining of the food tube (the esophagus). In the stomach a layer of acid-proof mucus protects the stomach from being burned. The esophagus does not have this protective layer.
Swelling is common in pregnancy. In fact, in one of the largest studies ever done on pregnant women, it was shown that among the women who did not develop pre-eclampsia, those who had some swelling had healthier pregnancies than women who did not.
The scientific name for stretch marks is “striae gravidarum”. Some doctors and midwives may call them simply, striae (pronounced, “stree-eye”). Stretch marks are the result of separation of the outer layers of the skin and overstretching (and damage) of underlying connective layers of skin. The results are reddened stripes on the breasts, abdomen and thighs.