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Pregnancy Complications

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Complications during pregnancies are preventable and treatable. This article explains the common complications during pregnancy and how to prevent them.

Written by

Dr. Asha. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sangeeta Milap

Published At May 27, 2022
Reviewed AtJanuary 20, 2023

Introduction:

Most pregnancies progress without any complications, but few women experience health issues during pregnancy. These pregnancy complications can involve the mother's health, the baby's health, or both. Pregnancy complications can occur in women who were healthy before getting pregnant. These complications may be a concern during pregnancy which make the pregnancy a high-risk. These complications are treatable through early detection, and appropriate prenatal care can reduce any additional risk to the mother and the baby.

How Do You Avoid Complications During Pregnancy?

Before getting pregnant, talk to the doctor about past and present health conditions. The doctors may change any medical treatment before getting pregnant. For example, some drugs used to treat health issues could be harmful if taken during pregnancy, and if the medicine is stopped, that could be more harmful. Additionally, discuss all the problems faced in previous pregnancy. Keeping the health issues under control with the help of prenatal care, leads to giving birth to a healthy child.

A few examples of common diseases that can cause complications during pregnancy include:

Factors that may increase the risk for complications include:

  • Smoking cigarettes and alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy at the age of 35 years or older.

  • Pregnancy at a young age.

  • An eating disorder like anorexia.

  • Using illegal drugs.

  • History of pregnancy loss or preterm birth.

  • Pregnant with multiple babies, such as twins or triplets.

What Are the Common Complications That Occur During the Pregnancy?

Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman who did not have diabetes prior to pregnancy develops diabetes during pregnancy. The body digests parts of the food into a sugar called glucose. Glucose is the body's important source of energy. After digestion, the glucose passes into the blood to give power to the body. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps glucose get out of the blood and get into the body's cells. But in gestational diabetes, hormonal changes during pregnancy cause the body to either not produce enough insulin or not use it, causing the glucose to build up in the blood, leading to diabetes.

Managing gestational diabetes is by modifying the meal plans to help control blood sugar levels. In addition, for some women there will be a need to include insulin to keep their blood sugar levels in control. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after pregnancy.

High Blood Pressure:

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the other organs and the placenta are narrowed, which leads to increased pressure in the arteries. The narrowing of blood vessels can make it hard for blood to reach the placenta, leading to nutrients and oxygen deficiency in the fetus. So the growth of the fetus is delayed and puts the mother at greater risk of preterm labor and conditions like preeclampsia.

The management of high blood pressure is by continuous monitoring and controlling it, with medications if necessary, throughout the pregnancy. Hypertension that develops in pregnancy is called gestational hypertension. Normally, gestational hypertension occurs during the second trimester of pregnancy and goes away after delivery.

Preeclampsia:

Preeclampsia is also called toxemia. This condition occurs after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and can cause high blood pressure and problems with kidneys and other organs. The treatment for preeclampsia is the delivery of the baby to prevent the disease from progressing, which may not be best for the baby. First, the doctor will take you through the risks and benefits of delivery timing. The doctor may induce labor if the condition is mild and the woman is near-term at 37 to 40 weeks of pregnancy. If it is too early for the delivery, the doctor will closely monitor the mother and baby. Then medications are given to lower the blood pressure and help the baby mature in case of preterm delivery.

Infections:

Various viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections may cause complications during pregnancy. In addition, some infections can be passed from mother to infant during pregnancy. However, many of these infections can be treated or prevented with appropriate care during pregnancy.

Some infections in pregnancy can cause or contribute to:

  • Miscarriage.

  • Ectopic pregnancy.

  • Preterm delivery.

  • Birth defects.

  • Stillbirth.

  • Low birth weight.

  • Illness in the newborn period.

  • Maternal health complications.

Before pregnancy, talk with the health care provider and get vaccine boosters for chickenpox and rubella. Early testing for STIs and other infections helps to know if the infection can be treated with drugs.

Miscarriage:

Miscarriage is used to describe a loss of pregnancy from natural causes before the first 20 weeks. Miscarriage has been reported in 20 % of pregnancies among healthy women. Sometimes, miscarriage happens before a woman is even aware of the pregnancy. In most instances, miscarriage is not preventable. Signs can include vaginal bleeding, fluid or tissue passing from the vagina, and cramping. When women notice these signs in early pregnancy, they should contact their doctors.

Anemia:

Anemia occurs when there is a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells in the body. This is because pregnant women require more iron than normal for the increased blood they produce during pregnancy. The symptoms of anemia are feeling tired or faint, becoming pale, and experiencing shortness of breath. Anemia has different causes, and the doctor will treat anemia according to the underlying cause. Taking supplements of folic acid and iron during pregnancy can help treat most cases of anemia.

Ectopic Pregnancy:

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the egg is fertilized outside the uterus. Fallopian tubes are the familiar site of ectopic pregnancy. The symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal pain, and dizziness. The egg can not develop outside the uterus, only with the help of drugs or surgery, ectopic tissues are removed.

Preterm Labor:

Delivery occurring before 37 weeks of pregnancy is called preterm labor. Infants born before 37 weeks of gestation have increased risk because many organs are not yet fully developed. Progesterone, a hormone produced naturally during pregnancy, is used to prevent preterm birth in particular women. Bed rest is often advised.

Conclusion:

Most pregnancies are safe; only a few cases have complications. However, complications during pregnancies are curable with proper prenatal checkups and tests. Consult with your doctor about any health issues and medications you are with at present. If any signs of complications occur during pregnancy, immediately contact the health care provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Are the Life-Threatening Complications of Pregnancy?

The main causes of life-threatening complications during pregnancy are hypertensive disorders in pregnancy, hemorrhage during pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy, and acute renal failure. Eclampsia arising from hypertensive disorders and acute renal failure are leading causes of death.

2.

When Do Most Pregnancy Complications Happen?

Pregnancy complications can occur at any stage of pregnancy. But it is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is 13 weeks of pregnancy. It can happen due to chromosomal abnormalities that can prevent the proper development of the fetus, or physical problems with the reproductive system of the woman. It can make it difficult for the growth of a healthy baby.

3.

What Is the Percentage of Pregnancies Without Complication?

Most pregnancies proceed without incidents and complications and around 80 percent of pregnancies have no complications. And about eight percent of women have low-risk complications but if left untreated, it can cause can harm.

4.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Unhealthy Pregnancy?

The following are the common signs and symptoms of unhealthy pregnancy:
- Vaginal bleeding.
- Severe abdominal cramps and pain.
- Fits.
- Severe headaches and blurred vision.
- Severe fever.
- Difficult breathing.

5.

What Are the High-Risk Factors for Pregnancy Complications?

The high-risk factors for pregnancy include high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, obesity, heart disease, advanced maternal age, thyroid diseases, multiple pregnancies, or being HIV-positive.

6.

How to Prevent Miscarriage?

- Try taking 400 mcg of folic acid every day from at least one to two months before conception.
- Eat healthy and well-balanced meals.
- Manage stress.
- Maintain proper weight within normal limits.
- Do not smoke and drink alcohol, or caffeinated beverages like coffee.
- Avoid illicit drugs.
- Take proper immunization.

7.

What Is Not Allowed During the First Trimester?

- Do not take any self-medication; always consult a doctor before taking medication during pregnancy.
- Do not consume street foods and junk foods.
- Do not eat foods causing constipation.
- Do not consume raw papaya and pineapple.
- Smoking, alcohol, and caffeine intake should be avoided.
- Avoid foods with pesticides and preservatives.
- Avoid stress and dehydration.
- Avoid aggressive exercises.
- Do not go to the steam room or sauna.

8.

How to Prevent Pregnancy-Related Death During Pregnancy?

In most cases, pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented by getting regular healthcare checkups before, during, and after pregnancy. Also, be aware of the warning signs of health complications that may help in saving a life.

9.

Can a Baby Be Born After the Mother Passes Away?

Fetuses can surprisingly survive even after their mothers pass away, depending on the state of the body. It is called coffin birth, in which the expulsion of a fetus happens through the vaginal opening of a deceased pregnant woman due to high pressure from intra-abdominal gasses.

10.

What Are the Things to Follow and Avoid During High-Risk Pregnancies?

The following are things to follow during high-risk pregnancies:
- Get enough sleep.
- Have a good workout routine during pregnancy.
- Eat healthy food.
- Take vitamins and medicines as prescribed by doctors.
The following are things to be avoided during high-risk pregnancies:
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol.
- Do not eat raw meat or uncooked foods.
- Do not sit in hot water like a hot tub or sauna.
- Avoid stress.
Dr. Sangeeta Milap
Dr. Sangeeta Milap

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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