Complications that Can Arise Before or During Childbirth

Complications that Can Arise Before or During Childbirth
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  • 0:03 Complications
  • 0:44 Placenta Previa & Abruption
  • 2:22 RH Factor & Pregnancy
  • 3:28 Preeclampsia
  • 4:06 Childbirth
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson discusses the different kinds of complications that might arise during pregnancy and during childbirth. Issues like placenta previa and breech will be covered.

Complications from Complex Processes

Pregnancy is a very complex process. And in any process that has a lot of parts working together, a lot of things can go wrong. I mean, a basketball is pretty simple compared to something like a car. What can go wrong with a basketball? I think the worst that will happen is it will deflate. Not much else will go wrong with it.

But in a car, well, that's a different story, isn't it? Tires can puncture, the engine can burst into flames, and the brakes may stop working at just the wrong moment. Because of the complexities of pregnancy, a lot of stuff can go awry, and this lesson will focus on some of the complications that can arise before or during childbirth.

Placenta Previa and Placental Abruption

Okay, let's get to it then. One major feature of pregnancy is the development and use of the placenta. The placenta is a structure inside the mother's womb that allows for nutrient uptake and waste elimination. There are a couple of things that can go wrong in relation to the placenta that I want to go over. One of these things is known as placenta previa, a complication that occurs in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy where the placenta partially or fully blocks the cervical opening.

As a quick review, the cervix is the lower end of the uterus. During childbirth, it opens up into the vagina (sometimes called the birth canal). You can remember the order and function by the abbreviation and mnemonic UCV: the 'u'terus 'u'ses its 'c'ervix to 'c'onnect to the 'v'agina for a 'v'isit from the stork.

Normally, the placenta lies in the upper part of the uterus (also called the womb). This allows the baby to leave the womb through the cervix during childbirth. But if the placenta is located in the lower womb, it acts like a cork stuck in the neck of an upside-down bottle. Nothing is going to get through. Women with this complication may experience sudden, light to heavy, painless bright red bleeding from the vagina and may need a C-section to avoid serious consequences, including death to both the mother and baby.

Another complication related to the placenta is called placental abruption. This is the premature peeling away of the placenta from the uterus prior to birth. It's a problem because if this happens, the baby will be starved of important nutrients, including oxygen.

Rh Factor and Pregnancy

As you know, oxygen is carried by red blood cells. In another complication, called Rh incompatibility, the baby's red blood cells can be outright destroyed by the mother's immune system! The immune system is the collection of cells and organs responsible for defending you when you're sick, and sometimes it targets the wrong thing. Rh incompatibility is better defined as a complication associated with pregnancy when a woman has Rh-negative blood and the baby has Rh-positive blood. Rh factor itself is simply a protein located on red blood cells.

You can think of the Rh factor as a red bull's eye drawn out on a piece of paper and the immune system as any weapon that aims for the center. The mother's immune system will aim to attack the baby's red blood cells because they are different, because they are not Rh-negative like the mother's own blood. This causes the destruction of the baby's red blood cells; that means the baby won't be able to get enough oxygen and can die.


Red blood cells are also partially responsible for blood pressure. Duh! There's actually a condition that can occur during pregnancy involving blood pressure; it's called preeclampsia, a complication of pregnancy whereby a woman develops high blood pressure and proteinuria usually after the 20th week of pregnancy. Proteinuria is simply protein in the urine, and it's a sign of potential kidney problems. No one knows for sure why preeclampsia develops in some women, but we do know that some pretty bad complications will occur if it's not taken care of. The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver a baby.

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