The body goes through a tremendous amount of change during a woman’s pregnancy and as a result there are a few health conditions that may arise and some precautions that are important to keep in mind.
There are a few symptoms in pregnancy that, if experienced, require immediate attention. If you have a student experiencing one of these symptoms please immediately follow the advice given for each.
Vaginal Bleeding: While light spotting can happen throughout pregnancy, if the woman’s doctor is not aware of it and has not given the OK to continue exercising in spite of the light spotting, the woman needs to discontinue her practice and call her doctor, midwife or health care provider immediately.
Possible causes of vaginal bleeding in the first trimester:
- Subchorionic hemorrhage – may or may not impact viability of pregnancy
- Light spotting can also be normal
- Ectopic Pregnancy
Possible causes of vaginal bleeding in the second or third trimester:
- Labor (if before 37 weeks this would be premature labor)
- Placenta complications
- Placenta Previa is a condition in which the placenta is covering or partially covering the cervix. This is often diagnosed early in pregnancy but as the uterus grows the placenta moves with it upwards and away from the cervix.
- If the placenta is still partially covering the cervix in the third trimester the woman will not be able to deliver her baby vaginally and must have a cesarean. If a woman with placenta previa begins to have vaginal bleeding she must immediately go to the hospital, this could be an indication that the cervix is softening or dilating and is very dangerous as it could lead to immediate delivery of the baby.
- Placental Abruption is a condition that is very dangerous where the placenta detaches, either partially or completely, from the uterus. The placenta being separated from the uterus deprives the baby of oxygen and can lead to the need for immediate delivery or bed rest.
Fluid Leaking from the Vagina: The baby is encapsulated in a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac. This bag of fluid is what is referred to as the “bag of water” so when you hear someone say their “water broke” this is what they are talking about. 15-20% of women have their water break at the onset of labor.
Water breaking can happen in a couple of ways; a slow leak is when a woman might feel like she is constantly damp, or a big gush when she feels a large amount of fluid come out.
Either feeling needs to be addressed immediately with a call to her doctor or health care provider especially if the woman has not yet reached 37 weeks in her pregnancy or if the water is greenish or yellow in color or has a foul odor, as this could be a sign of the presence of meconium (baby’s first bowel movement) which can be an indication that the baby is in distress.
Fainting: Fainting should not be taken lightly; there are a few reasons pregnant women faint, among them are, dehydration (which can also cause contractions), hypoglycemia, and circulatory problems.
Women who faint might not be getting enough oxygen to their brains which effects the amount of oxygen the baby is getting as well. Have her call her doctor or health care provider immediately or go to the emergency room.
Heart Palpitations: When doing any prenatal activity, a woman should be able to breathe normally and be able to have a normal conversation while exercising. If she is out of breath or sweating profusely she is working too hard and needs to stop and rest. She needs to call her health care provider if heart is racing and doesn’t stop after a few minutes of rest.
Dizziness: Dizziness paired with headache, blurred vision or heart palpitations should be immediately reported to a health care provider. If a woman has dizziness alone, have her stop activity and see if it goes away. Always alert a health care provider with any medical conditions that arise.
Heartburn: Heartburn can be exacerbated by any inversions even if only held a short period of time. If a woman has heartburn she should avoid downward dog or any other inversion or semi inversion. If she develops heartburn during a class she should discontinue inversions.
Blurred Vision: Blurred vision can be a sign of dehydration or preeclampsia. Have the woman call her health care provider immediately if her eyesight is in any way effected while exercising.
Preeclampsia: is a condition that is diagnosed when a woman has elevated blood pressure and protein in her urine. Symptoms can include, headaches, blurred vision, swelling of hands and feet, high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It can be very dangerous; if not treated it can lead to Eclampsia (seizure) and this can lead to coma, or maternal or fetal death.
Sharp pain in abdomen or chest: This could be just the ligaments of the uterus stretching but it could also be contractions.
Braxton-Hicks contractions versus “labor” contractions: Braxton-Hicks contractions are like practice contractions for the uterus. They might be felt as early as 5 months or a woman might not feel them ever. They do not typically make any changes to the cervix or lead to labor. These contractions are typically felt high in the abdomen or all over the belly.
If a woman experiences more than 10 of these in an hour she should call her doctor. Labor Contractions: Labor contractions start out feeling more like menstrual cramps. They typically occur low and deep in the abdomen, they will come and go rhythmically.
If a woman starts feeling these contractions while exercising she should stop and rest, and if they continue after resting she should discontinue exercising and rest. If the woman has not previously informed her health care provider about these contractions and gotten the “go ahead” to exercise, she should do that before practicing yoga again. If a woman experiences more than 4 of these in an hour she should call her doctor.
Feeling pressure coming and going every few minutes accompanied by a feeling of having to have a bowel movement or feeling of having to urinate…have her discontinue practice and call care provider immediately!
Changes in body temperature: If a woman suddenly gets hot or flushed or cold and clammy it is a sign to stop exercising. The body for some reason is having problems regulating its temperature.
It is important that pregnant women not get overheated. A pregnant woman should not maintain a temperature of 101 or higher for any significant amount of time.
Edema: Edema or swelling is common in pregnancy, especially in late pregnancy and when the temperature is warm or hot. This can be normal, but also can be a sign of preeclampsia if high blood pressure and/or protein in the urine are associated with it.
It is important not to limit water intake; in fact she should drink lots of water, especially when it is hot. Edema happens because fluid (a woman has double the fluid levels in her body when pregnant) pools at the extremities. Upward massage and keeping hands and feet elevated are important.
Gestational Diabetes: Testing done between 26 and 28 weeks. The one-hour test is a blood test done an hour after consuming a sugary beverage containing 50g of glucose. If that test is inconclusive a 3-hour test is done requiring a fast for 10-14 hours prior.
Gestational diabetes is dangerous because it can lead to large babies with a higher chance of getting juvenile diabetes, the chance of high blood pressure during pregnancy is increased as well as increased cesarean rate and stillbirth.
Phlebitis: Swelling, heat, pain, itchiness, and redness in the calf of one leg can indicate the inflammation of a vein with a blood clot, especially if this happens directly following exercise.
Leg or Feet Cramps: Many pregnant women experience leg cramps. There are many theories as to why these occur frequently in pregnancy. Some people believe there is either a potassium or calcium deficiency.
Carpal Tunnel: Compression of the median nerve in the wrist that passes through the carpal tunnel. This compression in pregnancy is often caused by a combination of extra fluid and repetitive motions.
Downward Dog, Cat, and other hand weight bearing poses might need to be modified or avoided. Modifications can include the use of a wedge, using the fists instead of open palms, or elbows on the ground instead of palms.
Varicose Veins: Varicose Veins typically effect the legs and lower part of the body and are more common during pregnancy because of the increased blood volume and circulation issues due to the weight of the uterus. Hero or Virasana is supposed to promote better circulation and help with Varicose Veins.