Pregnancy and Neurological Disorders
A common complaint for many pregnant women is headaches, usually beginning in the first trimester and often carrying on through the entire pregnancy. Sometimes the headaches are minor, and sometimes they are full-blown migraines. If these kinds of headaches persist, a woman may be referred to a neurologist in order to discover the cause of the headaches and to determine if there is a neurological disorder that is at the root.
What Is Neurology?
Neurology is the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system, as its name implies. The Greek words neuron, meaning nerve and logia, meaning knowledge, are combined to give us the name of this medical specialty. Neurologists are trained to diagnose and treat neurological disorders and pediatric neurologists treat neurological disorders in children.
The disorders a neurology doctor will treat are related to the body's nervous system. They are abnormalities in the structural, biochemical, or electrical components of the brain or spinal cord, or the nerves that lead to and from them. Symptoms of neurological disorders include paralysis, muscle weakness, poor coordination, loss of feeling, seizures and pain. The causes for the disorders are varied and include genetic and congenital disorders, infections; brain, spinal cord, or nerve injuries and environmental causes, like malnutrition. Neuroscience, once considered a branch of biology, is the study of the entire science of the nervous system. The results of neuroscientific research has provided new insights into the causes and treatments for the wide variety of neurological issues facing people today.
Neuropathy - Nerve Damage
When there is damage to a nerve or several nerves in the peripheral nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that is outside of the brain and spinal cord, the condition is called neuropathy. Neuropathy most frequently causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet and can be the result of exposure to toxins, metabolic disorders, trauma and, most commonly, diabetes. One condition that is common to pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, is muscle cramping, especially upon waking in the morning. While a literal pain, muscle cramping is not usually a symptom of serious neurological disorder, but it can be associated with neuropathy and should be checked out.
When Does A Woman Needs To See A Neurologist?
A woman who is pregnant, unless already under the care of a neurologist, probably won't need to see one during the course of her pregnancy. However, many women who are already in the care of a neurologist for a pre-existing condition need to maintain their relationship during the course of their pregnancy and delivery. Such neurological diseases as epilepsy, and myasthenia gravis can become more problematic during pregnancy. Myotonic dystrophy can create difficulties for a pregnant woman. A woman who is already dealing with a neurological disorder may have a new situation arise during her pregnancy. It is not uncommon for peripheral nerve and muscle diseases to crop up and treatment must be determined with the unborn baby in mind. All of this needs to be considered in the birth plan, with provision made for circumstances that may arise.
Under normal circumstances, barring a neurological problem, the average woman who is pregnant probably wouldn't see a neurologist. Theirs is a branch of medicine that is specific to problems with the nervous system. However, if there is cause for concern, the physician attending the pregnant woman will refer her to a neurology doctor for evaluation and treatment. The American Academy of Neurology publishes a list of qualified doctors in the US, so finding the right specialist is made easier.