Pregnancy-related illnesses

Some women bloom during pregnancy, but these two mums weren’t so lucky.


Most pregnant women do their utmost to look after their health, but sometimes complications can occur. The good news is that with regular antenatal checks, these are often spotted early. These two mums share their advice on how to overcome pregnancy problems.



MINAL BHATT, 32, has one daughter Mahi, 13 months, and lives in Elstree, Hertfordshire, with her husband Divyang.

What is pre-eclampsia?

  • It’s not known what causes it but one theory is that it may be a result of a defect in the placenta. Symptoms are usually spotted at antenatal checks, so it’s vital you attend these.
  • It can start at any time and affects one in 10 pregnancies. 
  • It’s most likely to affect a first-time pregnancy, women older than 35 or under 20, or those with a body mass index over 30.
  • The only known ‘cure’ is to deliver the baby.

Call Action on Pre-eclampsia on 0208 427 4217 for info.

Minal’s advice

  • If you think something’s wrong, make sure that the doctors are aware.
  • Rest. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t do everything you’d planned.
  • Get your hospital bag ready in good time so that you’re prepared in case of problems.
  • Share your experience with other mums at your antenatal group.

Gestational diabetes

NIKKI FREEMAN, 38, lives in Whitwell, Hertfordshire, with her husband Andy, and their son Archie, nearly 2.

What is gestational diabetes?

  • It usually occurs in the second or third trimester. No one’s sure why but it may happen if you can’t produce enough insulin to meet the extra demands of pregnancy.
  • You’re most at risk if you’re overweight, or have a family history of Type 2 diabetes. 
  • It can be controlled by diet, but 10-30% of pregnant women with it need to take insulin.
  • If you’ve had it once, you’re more likely to get it again. But you can cut your risk by losing weight.

For information call Diabetes UK on 020 7424 1030.

Nikki’s advice

  • If you have gestational diabetes, it’s important to eat regularly, especially if you’re on insulin.
  • Enjoy being pregnant. I felt I missed out as I was so worried.
  • Plan your day so you don’t have to inject your insulin while you’re in the car or somewhere public.


DR LEONIE PENNA, consultant obstetrician at King’s College Hospital, London, and Prima Baby’s expert advisor, answers questions about Minal and Nikki’s conditions.

What exactly are pregnancy-related illnesses?

These are illnesses that healthy women with no underlying problems get during pregnancy and which go away once the baby’s born.

How serious are they?

Pre-eclampsia can be very serious, as it affects the mother and the baby. At worst, it can be fatal for both. If gestational diabetes is carefully managed, the mum is usually fine. Otherwise, the baby becomes very large, which can make delivery difficult.

How are they diagnosed?

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia include high blood pressure, protein in the urine and sudden swelling or oedema. Your midwife checks for these at every antenatal appointment. Many hospitals test for gestational diabetes and look out for any high-risk factors, such as if you’re overweight, you’re having a big first baby or you have high sugar level in your urine.

How are they treated?

Pre-eclampsia can be treated with drugs to bring down blood pressure, which may allow the pregnancy to be prolonged by about two weeks. If the condition is diagnosed before 36 weeks, the baby may be born early. Gestational diabetes is controlled through diet or insulin injections.

Will the mum and baby return to normal after the birth?

After pre-eclampsia, the mum’s blood pressure may stay high for a while but should return to normal by six weeks after the birth. With gestational diabetes, things should return to normal almost immediately.


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