Pregnancy complications are any health issues that arise during pregnancy that affect the health of the mother and/or baby. Pregnancy complications can range from routine problems to serious, even potentially fatal conditions. Your healthcare provider will watch for signs of complications throughout your pregnancy, using regular physical exams, lab tests and ultrasounds to help prevent complications or spot them early for proper management.
What are some examples of pregnancy complications?
Some of the most common pregnancy complications include:
Chorioamnionitis. Amniotic fluid and the membranes surrounding the fetus are infected by bacteria.
Ectopic pregnancy. When a fertilized egg becomes implanted outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tubes. The egg must be removed surgically, ending the pregnancy.
Excess or low amniotic fluid.
Gestational diabetes. When a woman's blood sugar levels are too high during pregnancy.
Group B streptococcus. A leading cause of infections in newborns.
Iron deficiency anemia. Lack of red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your tissues.
Low birth weight. Puts the baby at risk of a variety of serious health problems.
Miscarriage. Loss of the fetus before the 20th week of gestation, typically by the 10th week.
Placental abruption. Placenta separates from the uterine wall before delivery, preventing the fetus from getting enough oxygen.
Placenta previa. Placenta is unusually low in the uterus, covering part or all of the cervix.
Preeclampsia. High blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs.
Preterm labor. When the mother's body is trying to deliver the baby before full term (37 weeks).
Rh disease. Destroys fetal red blood cells.
Toxoplasmosis. An infection caused by a parasite that can threaten the health of an unborn child.
Umbilical cord prolapse. When the umbilical cord drops (prolapses) through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby, where it can then become trapped against the baby's body during delivery.
What are the symptoms of pregnancy complications?
Some complications might have no symptoms at all. For others, the symptoms will vary depending on the complication. Call your healthcare provider immediately if you have any physical changes that seem unusual.
Possible symptoms may include:
- Bleeding or leaking fluid from the vagina
- Sudden or severe swelling in the face, hands, or fingers
- Severe or long-lasting headaches
- Discomfort, pain, or cramping in the lower abdomen
- Fever or chills
- Persistent vomiting or nausea
- Discomfort, pain, or burning with urination
- Blurred vision or problems seeing
- Less than normal movement by your baby after 28 weeks of pregnancy
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
How are pregnancy complications diagnosed?
Diagnosis will depend on the symptoms and suspected complication. In addition to a thorough physical exam and pelvic exam, diagnostic tools may include:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
- Stress tests
Your OB/GYN will provide you with a schedule of visits, tests and screenings to help prevent complications or spot them early for proper management. It is vital to your and your babies' health that you keep all prenatal appointments.
How are pregnancy complications treated?
Treatment will depend on the type of pregnancy complication. Treatment strategies may include:
- Close monitoring
- Bed rest
- Dietary changes
- C-section delivery
What can I do to prevent pregnancy complications?
Simple steps for lowering your risk of pregnancy complications include:
- Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any unusual symptoms
- Keep all prenatal appointments
- Follow the doctor's advice about treatment
- Practice a healthy lifestyle
- Wash your hands frequently
- Practice safe sex
- Avoid certain foods