Women's Health and Education Center (WHEC)

Medical Disorders and Pregnancy

List of Articles

  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: Recognition & Prevention
    Maternal alcohol abuse is associated with impaired fetal growth; virtually all neonates with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) will exhibit significant growth restriction. The physicians should counsel patients presenting with drug or alcohol problems and refer them to an appropriate treatment resource when available. Physicians who detect the serious medical condition of addiction (drugs and/or alcohol) are obligated to intervene during pregnancy or Preconceptional counseling. On the one hand, no person has a right to use illegal drugs, and a pregnant woman has a moral obligation to avoid use of both illicit drugs and alcohol in order to safeguard the welfare of her fetus. On the other hand, effective intervention with respect to substance and alcohol abuse by a pregnant or a non-pregnant woman requires that a climate of respect and trust exist within the physician-patient relationship. Patients who begin to disclose behaviors that are stigmatized by society may be harmed if they feel that their trust is met with disrespect.

  • Asthma In Pregnancy
    Acute asthma attacks render both the mother and fetus vulnerable to progressive hypoxia and potentially disastrous results. Early studies of pregnant women with asthma revealed high rates of perinatal complications, including perinatal loss, prematurity, preeclampsia, and low birth-weight. Prospective studies performed in the last decade demonstrate essentially normal perinatal outcomes with modern management of asthma. Poor outcomes with some evidence of increased perinatal mortality and morbidity are also seen if the intensity of asthma therapy is decreased. Pregnant patients with asthma should be managed proactively to achieve a good perinatal outcome. Initial and ongoing assessment of the severity of an asthmatic woman's condition facilitates the stepwise addition of medication to optimize control of symptoms and prevent acute attacks. Educating patients is the key to their ability to use medication appropriately and initiate treatment before an acute disease process becomes critical.

  • Smoking during Pregnancy
    The perinatal complications associated with maternal tobacco use include preterm delivery, premature rupture of membranes, spontaneous abortion, ectopic pregnancy, low birth weight, intra-uterine growth restriction, placental abruption, placenta previa, still birth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smoking cessation and the resources available are also discussed. Screening for tobacco use can be done efficiently as a vital sign at every clinical visit. Tobacco control is one of the most rational, evidence-based policies in medicine. The Millennium Development Goals do not include an explicit target for reducing tobacco use, but this article explains how lower tobacco use could contribute to their achievement.

  • Isoimmunization (Rh Disease) in Pregnancy
    When any fetal group factor inherited from the father is not possessed by the mother, antepartum or intrapartum fetal-maternal bleeding may stimulate an immune reaction by the mother. The term hemolytic disease of the fetus/newborn, for instance has replaced hemolytic disease of the newborn because modern diagnostic techniques now allows us to detect the disorder much earlier. To prevent the disease, routine postpartum use of Rhesus immune globulin (Rh I G) in Rh-negative patients was introduced in the United States over 40 years ago. A subsequent recommendation for routine antenatal use at 28 weeks' gestation was introduced 20 years later. Despite these efforts, a recent review of the 2001 birth certificates in the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that Rh sensitization still affects 6.7 out of every 1,000 live births. Maternal immune reactions can also occur from blood product transfusion.

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