Did you know there are some gynaecological conditions that affect pregnancy? What’s more, these conditions often lurk without symptoms, meaning many women don’t know they have them.
Here at The Gynae Centre, patients who want to conceive often ask: what usually causes miscarriage in early pregnancy and what conditions make you a high-risk pregnancy? Let’s take a look. If you’re expecting a baby and have one of these conditions that affect pregnancy, or reason to suspect you might, you should speak to a doctor.
STIs and reproductive tract infections
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, and diseases such as HIV, not to mention reproductive tract infections that are often not sexually transmitted (such as bacterial vaginosis) are conditions that affect pregnancy, because they can increase the likelihood of miscarriage. What’s more, often these conditions lurk with no symptoms and many women don’t know they have them. So if there’s any chance you might be affected, get checked out as soon as possible.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous growths of fibrous tissue and muscle inside or outside the womb. Many women will get fibroids at some point in their lives and although they are mostly not dangerous, they may heighten the risk of miscarriage and other complications such as preterm delivery and foetal growth restriction.
Often a woman who has uterine fibroids will have no symptoms, meaning the fibroids go undetected. However, they can be easily diagnosed via transvaginal ultrasound.
Adenomyosis or endometriosis
Adenomyosis and endometriosis are two fairly common conditions that affect pregnancy. They are disorders that cause the inner womb lining (endometrium) tissue to grow in places it is not meant to. In adenomyosis, this tissue spreads into the uterus’ muscular wall, damaging the blood vessels as the uterine wall thickens. On the other hand, endometriosis causes the endometrial tissue to grow outside of the uterus, sometimes spreading to other nearby organs. Symptoms for both conditions include heavy and painful periods and sometimes painful sex, but unfortunately many women live with adenomyosis or endometriosis for many years before it is detected.
Scanning is helpful in identifying signs of either endometriosis or adenomyosis. Both conditions can affect fertility. Research indicates that adenomyosis carries an increased risk of miscarriage. There are mixed findings with respect to endometriosis in that regard, and further study is needed. If you are pregnant or planning to be, and you have or suspect you may have adenomyosis or endometriosis, it’s important to speak to a gynaecologist.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and other hormonal imbalances
Hormones govern many of the body’s functions. They are chemical messengers that carry signals to your organs, muscles and other tissue through the blood. Hormonal balance is crucial to the functioning of the reproductive system, and an imbalance of one or more hormones can create a problem. A gynaecological condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS, which results in enlarged ovaries and other problems) is one in which hormones are out of balance. Disorders that affect the body’s hormonal balance such as PCOS or an underactive or overactive thyroid are conditions that affect pregnancy. This is because they may make a pregnancy more likely to result in miscarriage or complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Therefore extra monitoring during pregnancy is advisable. If you have or suspect you have a hormonal imbalance such as PCOS and are pregnant or planning to be, talk to a doctor.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a common infection of the reproductive system in women. PID most often stems from a bacterial infection that has climbed from the vagina or cervix up to the reproductive organs. There are a variety of bacteria that can lead to PID. Often it’s due to an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea, but in many cases it stems from other bacteria (including normal vaginal bacteria) spreading upwards.
Symptoms may include pelvic discomfort, heavy or painful periods, unusual discharge of the vagina, bleeding outside of periods or after sex, and discomfort in the pelvis during sex. However it is important to note that PID often exists with no noticeable symptoms.
PID can result in fallopian tube narrowing and scarring, meaning a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy inside a fallopian tube instead of the uterus). If you are pregnant or planning to be and you think you could have PID, speak to a doctor.
Unusual womb structure
It’s not widely discussed, but some women have an unusual womb structure. Most women with an abnormally shaped uterus won’t experience any symptoms and will be unaware until pregnancy. Some uterine abnormalities are a risk factor for complications such as birth defects or preterm delivery, which is why early pregnancy scans with expert gynaecologists can offer more clarity or reassurance.
Sometimes the muscles of a woman’s cervix are unusually weak. This is called cervical incompetence or a weakened cervix. This problem could be caused by a prior injury in this region, often from a surgery of some kind. Cervical incompetence is a condition that can affect pregnancy because weakened cervical muscles can allow the cervix to open prematurely during the gestation period.
Dr Albert Aka, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Gynae Centre says: “A gynaecologist can diagnose an incompetent cervix during pregnancy via consultation, examination and scanning if necessary. They can then prescribe treatment to support the pregnancy, which may include progesterone supplementation, regular ultrasounds and if necessary a cervical cerclage (a procedure in which the cervix is stitched closed until the final month of pregnancy or in labour).”
If you have a condition that affects pregnancy or fertility, The Gynae Centre can help. Our consultants are among the best in the field and the gynaecological expertise we offer has given countless women the clarity needed to embark on pregnancy confidently. For peace of mind book an appointment online.