Most pregnancies are uncomplicated and proceed smoothly with good prenatal care. However, even previously healthy women can develop complications during gestation, affecting and even threatening maternal and fetal health.
Doctors check for proper fetal growth and development – and symptoms associated with pregnancy complications – using physical exams, lab tests, and ultrasound scans. Timely, regular prenatal care enables health-care providers to manage a pregnancy before it becomes high-risk.
The following are some of the complications that can occur during pregnancy:
Anemia occurs when the count of healthy red blood cells falls below normal. Pregnant women need more iron than normal to produce increased amounts of blood. Pregnancy-related anemia causes fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and is associated with low birth weight. Iron supplements and folic acid are prescribed, and iron levels are checked throughout the pregnancy.
Diabetes is the body’s inability to naturally control blood glucose at the proper levels. Type 1 diabetics are treated with insulin. Type 2 diabetics are treated with insulin injections, oral medications, and diet/lifestyle changes. Gestational diabetes can develop in pregnant women who have not previously been diagnosed. Diet and exercise, close monitoring, and medications may be needed.
Ectopic pregnancies occur when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. They’re often called “tubal” pregnancies because they often occur in a fallopian tube. The growing embryo could rupture the fallopian tube and thereby cause internal bleeding that can be fatal to both the mother and the embryo, so it usually has to be terminated.
Edema is swelling in the ankles and feet, commonly appearing during the third trimester.
Group B strep screening occurs between the 35th and 37th week of gestation. About 25 percent of women test positive. Group B strep can cause infections of the bladder and womb, and meningitis or pneumonia in newborns. A doctor can treat this condition with antibiotics if it’s discovered on time.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is severe nausea or vomiting, or “morning sickness,” which can occur particularly during the first three months of pregnancy – but it can occur anytime, and it can last throughout the pregnancy. The cause is rapidly rising blood levels of the HCG hormone (human chorionic gonadotropin) released by the placenta. This can lead to weight loss, dehydration, reduced appetite, or faintness, often requiring intensive treatment or hospitalization.
Hypertension is chronic, uncontrolled high blood pressure. Hypertension that occurs before and during pregnancy is risky for both the mother and the baby, increasing risk for complications – including preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant death.
Infections like HIV, viral hepatitis, STDs and TB can pass from mother to baby during gestation, labor, and delivery. Screening, treatment vaccinations, and good preconception, prenatal, and postpartum follow-up care can help prevent these.
Low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios) poses danger to the fetus. Your pregnancy will be closely monitored, and labor will be induced if necessary. Your OB/GYN will explain further details to you.
Low birth weight is often synonymous with preterm babies and complications.
Mental health problems, such as depression, are commonly experienced during or after pregnancy and can make it difficult for a woman to care for herself and her unborn or newborn baby. Postpartum depression is not uncommon after giving birth.
Miscarriage is a pregnancy loss in mid-pregnancy due to natural causes. These causes can include chromosomal abnormalities that prevent the embryo from developing normally. Symptoms of miscarriage include vaginal spotting, bleeding, cramping, or fluid or tissue passing from the vagina.
Obesity and weight gain can cause pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, GDM, stillbirth, and the need for cesarean delivery. Overweight and obese women who lose weight before pregnancy tend to have healthier pregnancies.
Placenta previa occurs when the placenta lies low in the uterus, next to or covering the cervix. It can cause bleeding and other complications and may require early delivery by C-section.
Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition whose symptoms include high blood pressure, extreme weight gain, water retention, protein in the urine, or liver or kidney abnormalities after 20 weeks. These can lead to preterm delivery and death. Other symptoms include changes in vision, headache, and lower back pain.
Several things can increase a pregnant woman’s risk factors in developing preeclampsia, including the following:
- First pregnancies
- Previous preeclampsia
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Pregnancy at over 35 years of age
- Multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.)
Severe preeclampsia can affect other organs and cause serious, life-threatening problems. Early delivery may be necessary.
Preterm infants (born anytime before 37 weeks) are at increased risk for health problems, because the lungs and brain complete their development during the final weeks before full-term delivery (39 to 40 weeks). Infections, a small cervix, and previous preterm births can increase the risk for preterm labor. The more mature a child is at birth, the more likely he is to survive and be healthy.
Rh-negative blood (O-, A-, B-, or AB-) in a pregnant woman can create certain risks during pregnancy: If she’s pregnant with an Rh-positive baby, her body will produce antibodies (in subsequent pregnancies, not the current one) that attack fetal red blood cells. Rh immunoglobulin shots are administered during pregnancy and after birth to prevent this.
Stillbirth is pregnancy loss after the 20th week. Abnormal chromosomes, placental position, fetal growth, chronically ill health of the mother, and infections are some contributory factors.
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common bacterial infection in a pregnant urinary tract. Urine is tested throughout pregnancy to check for infections, and the woman is treated with antibiotics if necessary.
Skilled Gynecologist in Syracuse
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, or if you’re worried about pregnancy complications and how to treat them, call University OB/GYN Associates at (315) 464-5162 to request an appointment.
You can also fill out our easy-to-use form to request an appointment online. We look forward to serving you.