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Common Pregnancy Complications

Common Pregnancy Complications

Table of Contents

Pregnancy complications are health problems that occur during pregnancy. Some pregnant women experience health complications during pregnancy. These health problems can involve health of mother, fetus, or both. Even women who were healthy before pregnancy can experience these health problems. These complications may make the pregnancy a high-risk pregnancy.

Regular prenatal care helps decrease the risk for these complications by enabling your doctor to diagnose, treat, or manage health problems before they become serious. Early detection and treatment will boost your chances of having a safe delivery and a healthy baby.


Anemia is when you have lower than normal number of healthy red blood cells. This condition is fairly common in pregnant women. Anemia in pregnant women is mostly caused by iron deficiency. Symptoms of anemia include feeling tired, looking pale, feeling faint or weak, and shortness of breath.

Finding and treating the underlying cause of the anemia will help increase the number of healthy red blood cells. Women with pregnancy related anemia are helped by taking iron and folic acid supplements. Your doctor will check your iron levels throughout the pregnancy to make sure anemia does not come back.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. With ectopic pregnancy, the egg cannot develop. Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include abdominal pain, shoulder pain, vaginal bleeding, and feeling dizzy or faint.

Doctors use drugs or surgery to remove the ectopic tissue.

Fetal Problems

Fetal problems refer to health issues, such as poor growth or heart problems, of the developing baby. Symptoms of fetal problems include baby moving less than normal and baby is smaller than normal for gestational age. Some problems have no symptoms, but are found during prenatal tests.

Treatment depends on results of tests to monitor baby’s health. If a test suggests a problem, this does not always mean the baby is in trouble. It may only mean that the mother needs special care until the baby is delivered. Sometimes, the baby has to be delivered early.

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes refers to high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, which normalizes after giving birth. Usually, there are no symptoms. Sometimes symptoms, such as extreme thirst, hunger, or fatigue may occur. The condition is usually detected when a screening test shows high blood sugar levels.

Poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of preeclampsia, early delivery, cesarean birth, having a big baby, which can complicate delivery, baby born with low blood sugar, breathing problems, and jaundice.

Most women with gestational diabetes can control their blood sugar levels by a following a healthy meal plan from their doctor. Some women also need insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control.

High Blood Pressure (pregnancy related)

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when arteries carrying blood from the heart to the body organs are narrowed. This causes pressure to increase in the arteries. In pregnancy, this can make it hard for blood to reach the placenta, which provides nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. Pregnancy-related high blood pressure starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after birth

Pregnant women who have high blood pressure before pregnancy will be closely monitored by doctors throughout pregnancy. It will be controlled with medications if necessary.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)

Hyperemesis gravidarum is severe and persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This condition is more extreme than morning sickness. Symptoms include nausea that does not go away, vomiting several times a day, weight loss, reduced appetite, dehydration, and feeling faint or fainting.

This condition is initially treated by giving dry, bland foods and fluids together. In needed, medicines are prescribed to help nausea. Many women with HG have to be hospitalized so they can be fed fluids and nutrients through a tube in their veins. Usually, women with HG begin to feel better by the 20th week of pregnancy. But some women vomit and feel nauseated throughout all three trimesters.


Depression is feelings of anxiety and extreme sadness. Many pregnant women experience depression during and after pregnancy. Symptoms include intense sadness, feelings of helplessness, irritability, appetite changes, and thoughts of harming self or baby.

Pregnant women with depression are generally treated with medicines, therapy, or both. They also have the option of joining a support a group for help. Getting timely treatment is very important because the depression can affect the baby’s development.


Miscarriage is when pregnancy is lost due to natural causes before 20 weeks of pregnancy. About 20 percent pregnancies end in miscarriage. Often, miscarriage occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant. Signs and symptoms include vaginal spotting or bleeding, cramping or abdominal pain, and fluid or tissue passing from the vagina.

In most cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented. Sometimes, a woman must undergo treatment to remove pregnancy tissue in the uterus. Doctors normally recommend counseling to help cope with the loss.

Placenta Previa

Placenta refers to a condition characterized by placenta covering part or entire opening of cervix inside of the uterus. Symptoms include painless vaginal bleeding during second or third trimester. Sometimes, there are no symptoms.

If placenta previa is diagnosed after the 20th week of pregnancy, but with no bleeding, doctors recommend cutting back on the activity level and increased bed rest. If bleeding is heavy, the woman will be admitted to a hospital until she and the baby are stable. If the bleeding stops or is light, continued bed rest is recommended until baby is ready for delivery. If bleeding doesn’t stop or if preterm labor starts, baby will be delivered by a cesarean section.

Placental Abruption

Placenta abruption occurs when placenta separates from uterine wall before delivery. When this happens, the fetus doesn’t get enough oxygen. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding, cramping, abdominal pain, and uterine tenderness.

When the separation is minor, bed rest for a few days can stop the bleeding. When the separation is moderate, complete bed rest is recommended. Severe cases (when more than half of the placenta separates) need immediate medical attention and early delivery of the baby.


Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other organs. This condition usually starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure, swelling of hands and face, excess amount of protein in urine, stomach pain, blurred vision, dizziness, and headaches.

The best cure for preeclampsia is delivery, but it may not be best for the baby if the pregnancy is less than 37 weeks. Labor will probably be induced if condition is mild and the woman is near term (37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy). If it is too early to deliver, the doctor will watch health of the mother and her baby very closely. She may need medicines and bed rest at home or in the hospital to lower her blood pressure. Medicines also might be used to prevent the mother from having seizures.

Preterm Labor

Preterm labor happens if you go into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Signs and symptoms include increased vaginal discharge, pelvic pressure and cramping, back pain radiating to the abdomen, and contractions.

Medicines can stop labor from progressing. Bed rest is often advised. Sometimes, a woman must deliver early. Giving birth before 37 weeks is called “preterm birth.” Preterm birth is a major risk factor for future preterm births.


A stillbirth is death or loss of baby before or during delivery, after the 20th week of pregnancy. In approximately half of all reported cases, doctors could not find the cause for the loss. However, doctors believe that health conditions, such as chromosomal abnormalities, placental problems, poor fetal growth, chronic health issues of the mother, and infection, can contribute to stillbirth.