Get exclusive member benefits & effect social change. Join Today
Most pregnancies occur without complications. However, some women who are pregnant will experience complications that can involve their health, their baby's health, or both. Sometimes, diseases or conditions the mother had before she became pregnant can lead to complications during pregnancy. Some complications occur during delivery.
Even with complications, early detection and prenatal care can reduce any further risk to you and your baby.
Some of the most common complications of pregnancy include:
If you already have a chronic condition or illness, talk to your doctor about how to minimize any complications before you get pregnant. If you’re already pregnant, your doctor may need to monitor your pregnancy.
Some examples of common diseases and conditions that can cause complications during your pregnancy include:
Other factors that may increase your risk for complications include:
The normal symptoms of pregnancy and the symptoms of complications are sometimes hard to distinguish. Although many problems are mild and don’t progress, you should always contact your doctor if you have any concerns during your pregnancy. Most pregnancy complications are manageable with prompt treatment.
These are the most common complications women experience during pregnancy:
High blood pressure occurs when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the organs and the placenta are narrowed. High blood pressure is associated with a higher risk of many other complications, like preeclampsia. It puts you at a higher risk of having a baby well before your due date. This is called preterm delivery. It also increases your risk of having a baby who’s small. It’s important to control your blood pressure with medications during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes occurs when your body cannot process sugars effectively. This leads to higher-than-normal levels of sugar in the bloodstream. Some women will need to modify their meal plans to help control blood sugar levels. Others may need to take insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in control. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is also called toxemia. It occurs after the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy and causes high blood pressure and problems with your kidneys. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivering the baby early. A doctor may induce labor if you’re 37 to 40 weeks pregnant.
If it’s too early to deliver your baby, your doctor will need to monitor you and your baby closely. They may prescribe medications or recommend bed rest at home or in the hospital for the rest of the pregnancy term.
Preterm labor occurs when you go into labor before week 37 of your pregnancy. This is before your baby’s organs, such as the lungs and the brain, have finished developing. Certain medications can stop labor. Doctors usually recommend bed rest to keep the baby from being born too early.
A miscarriage is the loss of pregnancy during the first 20 weeks. According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), up to 20 percent of pregnancies among healthy women will end in a miscarriage. Sometimes, this happens before a woman is even aware of the pregnancy. In most cases, miscarriage isn’t preventable.
A loss of pregnancy after week 20 of pregnancy is called a stillbirth. Many times the cause for this isn’t known. Issues that have been found to cause stillbirths include:
Anemia means that you have a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells in your body. If you have anemia, you may feel more tired and weak than usual, and you may have pale skin. Anemia has many causes and your doctor will need to treat the underlying cause of the anemia. Taking supplements of iron and folic acid during your pregnancy may help since most cases of anemia occur due to a deficiency.
A variety of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections may complicate a pregnancy. Infections can be harmful to both the mother and the baby, so it’s important to seek treatment right away. Some examples include:
You can prevent some infections by washing your hands often. You can prevent others, such as hepatitis B virus and influenza, by vaccination.
Complications can also occur during labor and delivery. If there’s a problem during labor, your doctor may need to change the way they proceed with the delivery.
A baby is considered in a breech position when their feet are positioned to be delivered before their head. According to the APA, this occurs in about 4 percent of full-term births.
Most babies born in this position are healthy. You doctor will recommend against a vaginal birth if your baby shows signs of distress or is too big to pass safely through the birth canal. If your doctor finds out that your baby is in the breech position a few weeks before delivery, they might try to change the position of the baby. If the baby is still in the breech position when labor starts, most doctors recommend a cesarean delivery.
Placenta previa means that the placenta is covering the cervix. Doctors will usually perform a cesarean delivery if this is the case.
Low birth weight usually occurs due to poor nutrition or the use of cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs during pregnancy. Babies who are born at a low birth weight have a higher risk of:
The baby may need to stay in the hospital for a few months after birth.
If you’re pregnant, don’t hesitate to call your doctor if there are any signs of a problem. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
You should also call your doctor if you think your baby is suddenly moving less often than usual during the third trimester.
Not all complications are preventable. The following steps may help promote a healthy pregnancy and prevent you from having a high-risk pregnancy:
Written by: Jacquelyn Cafasso
Medically reviewed on: May 26, 2016: Mike Weber, MD
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.