Common Pregnancy Complications

August 19, 2017

Common Pregnancy Complications

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Although, common pregnancy complications range in severity and nature, however, most of them can be managed with proper treatment and guidance. A gynecologist doctor or midwife usually takes care of all these pregnancy complications throughout pregnancy with regular lab tests, physical exams, and ultrasounds. Therefore, it is quite essential for pregnant women to consult a specialist doctor by attending all needful prenatal appointments to share or reporting any of her troubling symptoms.

Here’s you’ll find five most common pregnancy complications, including their causes, consequences, and treatment.

1. Preeclampsia or Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH)
Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) or Preeclampsia is a serious pregnancy complication that affects at least 5 percent of pregnant women. In extreme conditions, it may cause high blood pressure, kidney damage, and other serious problems. It usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when a pregnant woman is reported with a high blood pressure and showing protein in her urine or suffering from liver or kidney problems. Most expectant mothers with preeclampsia appear modest symptoms near to their delivery date, but with a proper care and treatment, both mother and baby can do fine. However, in severe preeclampsia, complications can progress more quickly to affect many organs and even cause serious or life-threatening problems. Therefore, women having worst or severe preeclampsia symptoms need to deliver early.

Many experts believe that preeclampsia actually begins early in pregnancy and occurs due to a reduced blood flow to the placenta.

Other risk factors for developing preeclampsia include:

  • Past family history of preeclampsia
  • Obesity (BMI 30 or more)
  • Carrying twins or more
  • Pregnancy before 20 or after 35
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Chronic or gestational hypertension
  • Blood disorders, i.e. antiphospholipid or thrombophilia syndrome
  • Diabetes or kidney disease
  • Autoimmune or lupus diseases

Once a woman had preeclampsia, there are more chances to develop it again in later pregnancies. If a woman is at risk for preeclampsia, a doctor may schedule more frequent prenatal visits in her third trimester for close monitoring.


  • Preeclampsia treatment depends on its severity, time period and fetus condition. A patient would be hospitalized for an initial assessment and more likely for the rest of the pregnancy.
  • A patient may go through a number of blood tests along with blood pressure and urine test.
  • An ultrasound is performed to check baby’s growth along with a biophysical profile and non-stress test to access how a baby’s doing.
  • A patient having preeclampsia at 37 weeks or more can likely be induced, especially if her cervix is beginning to dilate and thin out. A c-section may be performed in case a doctor access the signs that mother or baby won’t be able to tolerate labor.
  • When a patient appears stable before 37 weeks, and her baby is also in good condition, then a patient might remain in the hospital for monitoring or she might be sent home, but she has to monitor her blood pressure regularly.
  • Most doctors may advise restricted activities of mother to avoid a rise in blood pressure. However, a complete bed rest for an extended period isn’t recommended due to the risk of blood clots.
  • A patient, either at home or in the hospital is monitored closely for the rest of pregnancy.
  • A doctor may also ask the patient for fetal kick counts (the number of times her baby moves during a specific period of time).
  • In high-risk preeclampsia, a patient will be given medication to lower her blood pressure. In extremely severe conditions intravenously magnesium sulfate may also be given to prevent seizures.
  • In any case, if the condition of a patient is getting worse, or baby isn’t thriving, she will likely need to be delivered immediately.

2. Gestational diabetes
Complication of Gestational diabetes is very common across the globe including India. Just like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, in gestational diabetes also blood sugar levels become too high. The pancreas secretes more Insulin to process excess glucose in the blood. Also, the body of a pregnant woman naturally becomes more resistant to insulin for the availability of additional glucose to nourish her baby. Sometimes in pregnancy, the pancreas can’t keep up with excessive demand for insulin. Therefore, blood sugar level in mother’s blood becomes too high and that may result in gestational diabetes. Complication of Gestational diabetes needs to be addressed and treated as soon as possible otherwise it can cause health problems to both mother and baby.

Normally, gestational diabetes doesn’t come with any symptoms. That’s why during 24 and 28 weeks pregnancy, a patient have to go for a screening test for gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes can be significantly reduced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and weight. But poorly controlled diabetes may cause serious consequences for the baby.


  • Gestational diabetes isn’t permanent like other types of diabetes. But pregnant women with gestational diabetes may have 25 to 50 percent more chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in their life.
  • A woman suffering from gestational diabetes is more likely to have preterm labor and preterm babies are more likely to have many health problems and also needed extra care after birth.
  • Gestational diabetes has a higher risk of causing high blood pressure or preeclampsia.
  • Babies born with gestational diabetes are more likely to be bigger than average size known as Macrosomia. These Macrosomia babies can get stuck in the birth canal during delivery and may suffer from shoulder dystocia, causing injury to the neck nerves and shoulder. Large babies usually need to be delivered by c-section.

Gestational diabetes can be managed by following a regular exercise plan along with balanced diet that may help to control high sugar level slowly. But in about 15 percent cases of gestational diabetes blood sugar level is controlled with anti-hyperglycemic medication. Commonly Insulin injections three times daily are prescribed for gestational diabetes.

3. Anemia
In India, at least 40 percent of maternal deaths directly or indirectly are caused due to anemia. Also, in South Asia, India contributes approximately 80 per cent of the maternal deaths just due to anemia.

Anemia is a medical condition that occurs when a person does not have sufficient healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the various tissues in the body. Therefore, an adequate supply of oxygen can affect and hamper functions of different body organs. Moreover, Anemia during pregnancy is one of the primary concerns for premature or low birth weight of fetus and maternal mortality.

Pregnant women are at the higher risk of developing anemia because the excessive amount of blood produced by the body is consumed as nutrients for the baby. Anemia during pregnancy, if caught early or in a mild condition can be easily treated. However, if Anemia goes untreated, it can cause serious complications to both the mother and the baby.

Various types of anemia that occur during pregnancy include:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia: when the body doesn’t have enough iron to produce sufficient amounts of hemoglobin. It is the most common cause of anemia in pregnancy.
  • Folate-deficiency anemia: It is caused due to Folate- vitamin deficiency which is naturally found in certain leafy vegetables having A and B type vitamin. Folate is essential to produce new healthy red blood cells. It can directly contribute to various types of birth defects, i.e. neural tube abnormalities (spina bifida) and low birth weight (LBW).
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 is also essential to form healthy red blood cells. Women who don’t eat meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products are likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiency, which also contribute to various birth defects, i.e. neural tube defects, and may lead to preterm labor.
  • Excessive blood loss during and after delivery can also raise the chances of anemia.


  • Pale lips, skin, and nails
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Fast heart rate


  • Untreated severe iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy can enhance risk of:
  • A low-birth-weight or preterm child
  • Blood transfusion due to excessive blood loss during delivery
  • Anemic Child
  • Postpartum depression
  • Slow fetal development


  • Not eating sufficient iron-rich foods or inability of body to absorb the consumed iron. Learn more about how to get iron naturally.
  • In pregnancy related surplus iron is needed to feed the blood supply of the growing fetus.
  • Bleeding due to menstruation, polyp, ulcers causes faster RBCs destruction than they can be replenished.


  • Anemia can be easily treated just by adding iron or vitamin supplements in daily routine.
  • Rare severe anemia cases may require a blood transfusion.

You should consult with your Gynecologist to know about which supplements might be essential for successful and healthy pregnancy.

4. Maternal Obesity
Overweight pregnancy or Maternal Obesity can be a challenging condition for a pregnant woman because she is more prone to have pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies of obese women also have a higher risk of causing certain birth defects or premature birth. Now, latest reports confirm that obese women can safely perform routine exercise and take balanced diet to lose weight without any harmful effect on their baby’s health.

A woman is generally considered obese if she has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

BMI can be easily calculated using height and weight with an online calculator. World over having Maternal Obesity is a serious issue. In the United States, 1 in every 3 adult women is obese.

Obesity can raise the maternal complications during pregnancy as listed below:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Miscarriage
  • Preeclampsia or High blood pressure
  • blood clots
  • Excessive bleeding after delivery

Although above problems can happen to any pregnant woman, whether obese or not. But the risk increases, due to a higher BMI.

Complication of baby may include:

  • Early birth (before 37 weeks)
  • High birth weight and body fat
  • Still-birth
  • Birth defects such as spina-bifida
  • Enhanced risk of chronic heart disease or diabetes later in life

But do not fear, if you are obese! You can still have a healthy pregnancy.

The best way for losing weight is to burn-up or consume excessive calories. This can be either done by doing regular exercise or eating balanced and healthy foods. A patient may be referred to a nutritionist to plan a healthy diet. Also, indulging in enhanced physical activity for at least for 60 minutes on the most days of the week is important for a woman to lose her weight. Weight-loss medications or surgery is prohibited in pregnancy to avoid complications.

Remember, maternal obesity requires a careful weight management with attention to exercise and diet, monitoring for complications with regular prenatal care, and finally special considerations for labor and delivery.

5. Prenatal depression
Although pregnancy is considered as one of the happiest times of a woman’s life, sometimes it can become a time of confusion, stress, fear, and even depression in many women. The world over, at least 14 to 23 percent of women struggle with various symptoms of anxiety or depression during pregnancy.

Depression is usually a mood disorder that can affect approx 1 in 4 women at some point during their lifetime. So, there is no surprise that this illness can also affect a pregnant woman. Commonly, during pregnancy, depression is not properly diagnosed because people presume it as just another type of hormonal imbalance. So, this assumption may prove dangerous for both the mother and the unborn child. Therefore, it is very important for a woman to seek out proper help and support during a depression in pregnancy.

Prenatal depression or depression during pregnancy is a mood disorder that involves alteration in brain chemistry. Also, hormonal change during pregnancy can directly related to anxiety and depression which can be exacerbated by difficult life situations.


  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Excessive or less sleep
  • Persistent sadness
  • Lack of interest in routine activities
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide, hopelessness, or death
  • guilt or worthlessness feelings
  • Alteration in eating habits

If prenatal depression is not treated well, it can causes potentially serious risks to the mother and baby due to poor nutrition, excessive drinking, smoking, and suicidal behavior, which can further leads to low birth weight, premature birth, and fetal development problems.

Babies born to depressed mothers are usually less active, more easily agitated, and show less attention.

The most important and best step is to seek help by consulting with a specialist health care provider. Various treatment options are:

  • Private psychotherapy
  • Support groups
  • Medication
  • Light therapy

We hope, all above useful information would definitely educate you to understand Common Pregnancy Complications and also help in choosing an ideal treatment option to fulfill your dreams of being a happy and blessed mother.

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This is a study on ‘Neglected symptoms of heart failure presented as peripartum cardiomyopathy: a case of maternal near-miss’.