Pregnancy isn’t without its ups and downs. From weight gain and swelling to morning sickness, there are some unique symptoms and conditions that can occur as you prepare to welcome your little one into the world. While many pregnancies are relatively complication-free, here are five of the more common complications that could occur while you’re expecting.
During pregnancy, some women consistently experience high blood sugar levels, known as gestational diabetes. An estimated 7 percent of pregnant women experience gestational diabetes. Your doctor will likely recommend a screening test called a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks. More testing may be needed if this test shows high blood sugar values.
Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes doesn’t always cause symptoms, but it can cause complications for your baby. Some symptoms of the condition can include:
- Extreme thirst
- Overwhelming fatigue
Many women find out they have gestational diabetes due to blood testing for high blood sugar. Your doctor can then recommend appropriate treatments.
Treatments for Gestational Diabetes
Your doctor may recommend controlling gestational diabetes via a healthy diet, particularly one that’s low in simple carbohydrates like sugar and processed flours. If eating healthy doesn’t control your blood sugar levels, you may need to administer insulin injections or take oral medications to decrease your blood sugar levels.
Possible Pregnancy Complications
Complications associated with gestational diabetes include:
- breathing problems in your baby
- delivery by C-section
- high birth weight baby
- hypoglycemia in baby
- jaundice in baby
- preeclampsia (dangerous high blood pressure)
- preterm delivery
The risk for developing these complications gets lower if you can control your blood sugar.
High blood pressure (pressures greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg) can be a serious concern when you’re expecting. According to the March of Dimes, 8 out of every 100 women will experience high blood pressure in pregnancy. If your blood pressure gets too high, in rare cases you could experience seizures and organ failure.
Some women are at higher risk for high blood pressure during pregnancy. This includes if you’re overweight, have a history of high blood pressure, or a history of preeclampsia. When this is the case, your doctor may recommend taking low-dose aspirin.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia
High blood pressure by itself may not cause many symptoms. An expectant mom may experience headaches and dizziness. Preeclampsia also causes high blood pressure, plus the following symptoms:
- blurred vision
- possible protein in the urine or other changes in blood tests
- severe headaches
- stomach pain
- swelling in the hands and face
You should call your doctor right away if you experience these symptoms.
Treatments for High Blood Pressure/Preeclampsia
If you have high blood pressure, but the absence of other symptoms, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure levels frequently. Your doctor can prescribe medications, but some used to treat high blood pressure aren’t safe during pregnancy. Medications to avoid during pregnancy include ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs).
Your doctor may recommend delivering your baby if they diagnose you with preeclampsia, depending upon how far along you are. Even mild preeclampsia can quickly progress to more severe symptoms.
If your baby isn’t yet old enough to deliver, your doctor may admit you to the hospital and give medications to help your baby’s lungs develop before inducing labor. These are called corticosteroids. You may also be given magnesium sulfate via your vein to reduce the risk for seizures.
Possible Pregnancy Complications
Complications associated with high blood pressure in pregnancy include:
- cesarean delivery
- kidney failure
- low birth weight baby
- placental abruption
- preterm delivery
The severity of these complications means it’s really important to go on all prenatal checkups to test for high blood pressure.
When you’re in your first trimester of pregnancy, you’ll experience rising levels of hormones called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and estrogen. These increased levels can lead to morning sickness and, in some women, a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition is characterized by extreme nausea that is far beyond normal morning sickness experience.
Risk factors for the condition include:
- being a first-time mom
- being overweight
- having a history of hyperemesis gravidarum
- being pregnant with multiples
Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum
Hyperemesis gravidarum is much more than morning sickness. It’s very severe and can make a women feel highly lightheaded. Symptoms include:
- vomiting more than three to four times a day
- losing more than 10 pounds
- feeling dizzy and lightheaded
- becoming dehydrated as a result of the condition
Call your obstetrician if you experience these symptoms.
Treatments for Hyperemesis Gravidarum
The goals for hyperemesis gravidarum is to help you stay hydrated and nourished, whenever possible. Steps that can be taken include:
- choosing bland foods whenever possible, such as crackers, broth, gelatin, and eggs
- eating small, frequent meals instead of larger ones
- replacing lost electrolytes with either an electrolyte-containing beverage or using intravenous fluids
- taking medications to reduce nausea (such as promethazine, or Phenergan, meclizine, and droperidol, or Dridol)
If you can’t keep food or fluids down, you may require hospitalization to receive intravenous fluids and even intravenous feeding, known as total parenteral nutrition (TPN) in the most severe cases.
Possible Pregnancy Complications
Hyperemesis gravidarum usually subsides after the first trimester. It can cause you to become dehydrated and, in some instances, malnourished.
As many as 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, or pregnancy loss. Miscarriage can take place before you even realize that you’re pregnant, usually in the first trimester. Most miscarriages can’t be prevented, but they don’t mean that you can’t become pregnant again.
Symptoms of Miscarriage
Symptoms associated with miscarriage include:
- abdominal or pelvic cramping
- passing fluid or other tissue from the vagina
- vaginal bleeding or spotting
Note that some bleeding or spotting can be a normal occurrence in the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s still a good idea to get in touch with your doctor if you experience bleeding.
Treatments for Miscarriage
You may not necessarily require any treatments from a health standpoint for miscarriage. Some women may require a procedure known as a dilation and curettage (D & C) to clear any excess tissue from the uterus.
Pregnancy loss can be a time of great sadness and grief. If you experience these emotions, you should seek counseling. Many local hospitals and physician groups offer these services. The March of Dimes also offers free coping materials as support, including an informational booklet. Interested parties can email AskUs@MarchofDimes.org and include their mailing address for more information.
In a perfect world, all babies would mature in the womb until at least 37 weeks, when their lungs, hearts, and brains are largely mature. This doesn’t happen for all moms. When a woman goes into labor before 37 weeks, this is considered preterm labor. The severity of preterm labor depends on how far along you are in your pregnancy. The closer you are to 37 weeks, the better your baby’s chances are for survival and improved health outcomes.
Symptoms of Preterm Labor
Symptoms of early-onset labor include:
- back pain that extends to the abdomen
- experiencing sudden contractions
- pelvic pain and pressure that comes on suddenly
- vaginal discharge or a rush of fluid, known as your “water breaking”
Call your obstetrician if you experience these symptoms. They can tell you if going to the hospital is recommended.
Treatments for Preterm Labor
Your doctor will perform an ultrasound to determine how well-developed your baby is. If you aren’t far enough along in your pregnancy, your doctor can give you medicines to try and delay delivery as much as possible. They may also give you medications to mature your baby’s lungs.
Ultimately, the treatment for preterm labor is delivering your baby.
While there are a host of prenatal complications that can occur during pregnancy, chances are you won’t experience them. It’s always important to call your doctor if you experience any of the following that could indicate a complication:
- foul-smelling or bloody discharge from the vagina
- intense abdominal pain
- nausea that won’t go away or lessen
- sensing your baby’s movements less frequently
By being aware of these complications, you can seek medical help quickly.
Not all prenatal complications are preventable. Making and keeping all recommended prenatal appointments, keeping stress levels low, and eating a healthy diet can all help you prevent prenatal complications, whenever possible.
You may also want to talk to your doctor about any unique risks you may have given your overall health. Your doctor can help you create a wellness strategy that helps you have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.