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Complications of pregnancy and what to expect

Pregnancy complications can encompass various issues that may arise during gestation, affecting the health of both the mother and the baby. While many pregnancies progress smoothly, complications can emerge, leading to concerns that require attention.

If complications arise, medical intervention and careful monitoring become crucial. Treatments may involve medication, lifestyle adjustments, or, in severe cases, surgical procedures. Regular prenatal care, healthy habits, and prompt consultation with a St. Luke’s Health OB/GYN are vital for mitigating risks and ensuring a safer pregnancy journey.

Pregnancy can bring various complications, including:

  • Gestational diabetes: High blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

  • Preeclampsia: High blood pressure and signs of organ damage.

  • Preterm labor: Onset of labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Miscarriage: Loss of pregnancy before the 20th week.

  • Ectopic pregnancy: Implantation of the embryo outside the uterus.

  • Placenta previa: Placenta partially or wholly covers the cervix.

  • Placental abruption: Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus.

  • Hyperemesis gravidarum: Severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.

  • Infections: Such as urinary tract infections or sexually transmitted infections.

  • Anemia: Reduced red blood cell count causing fatigue and weakness.


Signs of pregnancy complications

Recognizing pregnancy complications involves paying attention to various signs and symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Severe headaches

  • Abdominal pain

  • Reduced fetal movement

  • Severe vomiting

  • Swelling

  • Vision changes

  • High fever

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Signs of preterm labor


Always consult a St. Luke’s Health OB/GYN if any concerning symptoms or changes occur during pregnancy to determine the best form of treatment.

What are the risk factors for pregnancy complications?

  • Maternal age: Younger than 17 or older than 35.

  • Pre-existing health conditions: Diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.

  • Multiple pregnancies: Twins, triplets, or more.

  • Previous pregnancy complications: History of preterm birth, miscarriage, etc.

  • Lifestyle factors: Smoking, alcohol, drug use, obesity, etc.

  • Infections during pregnancy: Rubella, cytomegalovirus, etc.

  • Certain medications: Harmful effects on pregnancy.

  • Genetic factors: Family history of genetic conditions or birth defects.

  • Environmental factors: Exposure to toxins or pollutants.

  • Poor prenatal care: Inadequate medical supervision during pregnancy.


Preexisting conditions that affect pregnancy

  • Diabetes: Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to complications.

  • High blood pressure: Increases the risk of preeclampsia and other issues.

  • Obesity: Raises the risk of gestational diabetes and other complications.

  • Thyroid disorders: Hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism can affect pregnancy.

  • Autoimmune disorders: Conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Kidney disease: Can impact kidney function during pregnancy.

  • Heart conditions: Such as congenital heart defects or arrhythmias.

  • Infections: HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, etc.

  • Mental health disorders: Depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc.

  • Cancer: Previous or ongoing cancer treatment can complicate pregnancy.


Steps to prevent pregnancy complications

  • Regular prenatal care: Attend all scheduled check-ups.

  • Healthy lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly.

  • Manage pre-existing conditions: Control diabetes, hypertension, etc.

  • Avoid harmful substances: Quit smoking, limit alcohol, and avoid drugs.

  • Stay active: Engage in safe physical activities as recommended.

  • Monitor weight gain: Maintain a healthy weight during pregnancy.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

  • Reduce stress: Practice relaxation techniques or seek support.

  • Follow medical advice: Take prescribed prenatal vitamins or medications.

  • Educate yourself: Learn about warning signs and seek prompt medical attention if any concerns arise.

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U.S. News & World Report

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