Kidney disease affects millions of people worldwide. Although it can be treated, it can have serious consequences for both you and your baby when you are pregnant. If you are considering becoming pregnant or are currently pregnant, it is important to learn more about the risks of kidney disease and whether you are at risk.
What is Chronic Kidney Disease?
Chronic kidney disease occurs when your kidneys are not functioning properly due to kidney damage for three months or more. Your kidneys perform vital tasks to keep your body running smoothly; they remove waste from the body, clean and return blood, maintain water and mineral levels and produce hormones.
There are five stages of the disease with the last stage being the most serious and requiring patients to undergo kidney transplants or kidney dialysis. Kidney disease can also refer to a constellation of kidney diseases including glomerular diseases, polycystic kidney disease and nephritis. All of these diseases damage tiny kidney filters called nephrons. Damage can occur suddenly from an injury or infection, but in most cases will accumulate slowly over time.
Causes of Kidney disease
The leading causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. Diabetes and high blood pressure also attack the nephrons in the kidneys. Among other factors, high blood pressure can result from a poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, excessive drinking and smoking.
Kidney damage can also result from persistent use of painkillers and illegal drugs. If you are at risk for kidney disease your doctor may refer you to a kidney disease specialist or nephrologist. As these health problems may worsen if you are pregnant, it is important to see a nephrologist and an obstetrician for consultation.
Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Most kidney diseases have similar signs and symptoms that include:
- High blood pressure
- Swelling or numbness of hands and feet
- Blood in urine
- Protein in urine
- Loss of appetite
- Back, side or abdominal pain
- Muscle cramps
- Kidney failure
- Kidney stones
How Kidney Disease Affects Menstruation
Kidney disease causes womenï¿½s periods to become irregular as it interferes with hormone production. Due to kidney dysfunction, the body retains wastes that inhibit the production of eggs and menstruation. As a result, getting pregnant may be difficult. Treating your kidney problems first, before you get pregnant, though, will help increase your chances of conception and help ensure a healthier pregnancy.
How Kidney Disease Affects Pregnancy
Women who only have mild renal disease will likely have a successful pregnancy. The strain of pregnancy on the body coupled with severe kidney disease, however, will likely lead to pregnancy complications. Your body will have to work extra hard to provide sustenance for both you and your baby.
There are serious health risks for both mother and baby associated with kidney disease. Due to extra fluid retention, pregnant women may have higher blood pressure and more waste products in their blood. A babyï¿½s growth is adversely affected when her mother has high blood pressure since she will not receive enough blood through the placenta. If blood pressure gets very high, the mother is at risk of preeclampsia, which may result in premature delivery and brain, liver or kidney hemorrhages in the mother. Many women are advised to postpone their pregnancy until their kidney disease is under control or until after they receive a kidney transplant or kidney dialysis.
Kidney Disease and Pregnancy Risk Factors
Some of the risk factors for a pregnant woman with renal disease are:
- Premature labor
- Decreased kidney function
- Greater risk of urinary tract infections
- Acute renal failure
What You Can Expect
If you are considering becoming pregnant while suffering from kidney disease, it is vitally important that you contact a kidney specialist or nephrologist. A nephrologist will evaluate you and explain any health risks of pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, you should go to see a specialist every two weeks for the first 32 weeks of your pregnancy.
Because kidney failure can affect your immune system, potassium and mineral levels, central nervous system, your heart and your bones, the doctor will be closely monitoring your blood pressure, your creatinine levels, blood urea levels, protein levels, cholesterol and urine.
Renal Disease and Childbirth Expectations
Women suffering from anemia, high blood pressure and excess of protein in their urine face a 60% risk of infant death during their pregnancy. The further along you are in your pregnancy, the greater the progression of renal disease resulting in an increased risk of preeclampsia as well as premature delivery. Doctors may have to induce labor, resulting in a premature baby. A baby born from a woman with serious renal disease may be placed in the intensive care unit to deal with any health complications.