6 Common Pregnancy Complications

3 min read

Pregnancy is an exciting, magical time – but it’s certainly not always an easy one. As your body undergoes intense physical changes, you also gain an increased risk of developing complications, illnesses, and other potential problems.

To ensure the good health of both yourself and your baby, it’s important to understand what complications can occur, along with warning signs to watch for. Plus, you’ll want to know how to take appropriate action in an emergency, such as how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) on a pregnant patient.

pregnant women

1. Urinary Tract Infections

More than half of all women will get a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in their life, and the risk increases during pregnancy. A bacterial infection of the urinary tract, UTIs have a variety of pronounced symptoms:

  • Burning pain when urinating
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • Pain or pressure in the back, sides, and under the ribs
  • Cloudy, reddish urine

Fortunately, UTIs are fairly easy to treat. Your doctor will likely give you antibiotics to kill the infection, which should work after just a day or two.

Additionally, many women have asymptomatic UTIs. During the first few months of your pregnancy, your doctor will likely test your urine for UTI-causing bacteria and may give you antibiotics to ward off potential problems.

2. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Extreme Morning Sickness)

Morning sickness is a common condition that occurs during early pregnancy. Marked by nausea and occasional vomiting, it can occur any time during the day and is typically most frequent during the first few months of pregnancy. It’s caused by the rapid increase of the hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in the bloodstream.

Morning sickness is common and typically resolves itself over time. However, you want to watch for a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It’s an extreme form of morning sickness characterized by persistent, debilitating nausea and vomiting. It can result in dehydration, weight loss, and other serious issues. You want to contact your doctor at the first sign of excessive vomiting.

3. Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It affects about three to eight percent of all pregnant women. Doctors typically screen for the condition between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Although it can occur to any woman, it’s more common in those who are overweight or who experienced GDM in a previous pregnancy.

The biggest potential problem associated with GDM is a condition called macrosomia, where your baby grows too large for a vaginal birth, requiring a cesarean section instead. In severe cases, your doctor might prescribe medications or insulin.  

Fortunately, most GDM is controllable by diet and exercise. Eating healthy foods, and walking just 30 minutes a day, can help control your blood sugar.

4. Placenta Previa

The placenta supplies oxygen and vital nutrients necessary for healthy fetus development. Normally, the placenta is found near the upper uterus. However, placenta previa is a condition where the placenta moves down to cover the cervix, which is the opening between the uterus and vagina.

Unfortunately, Previa is difficult to prevent. If you have uterine scarring from a previous pregnancy, or you’ve had uterine surgery, you’re at an increased risk of developing placenta previa. High-risk candidates should watch for any bleeding, and will likely need to deliver via C-section.  

5. Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia causes high blood pressure and swelling of the extremities. It can also cause fluid retention, stomach pain, headaches, and other issues. The main symptom is high blood pressure, which will often cause doctors to run additional tests to determine preeclampsia.

It’s most common starting at 20 weeks. With no particular cure, the only option is to monitor symptoms and give birth. After delivery, symptoms can persist for several weeks.

Risk factors included:

  • Obesity
  • Over 40
  • Teenagers
  • Pregnant with Multiples

You want to mitigate risk factors as much as possible and work with your obstetrician closely.

6. Maternal Cardiac Arrest  

Although relatively rare, maternal cardiac arrest is a potentially fatal issue that can occur during pregnancy, during birth, and up to 42 days after delivery. Common causes include hemorrhaging, amniotic fluid embolism, and sepsis.

If a pregnant woman suffers from a cardiac arrest, quick action is needed. You’ll want to call 911, perform chest compressions, and use an AED on the pregnant patient. Use chest compressions and rescue breaths.

Final Thoughts

You and your obstetrician will work together as partners to ensure your baby thrives during development, so it’s important to understand potential complications. Fortunately, in most cases, you can mitigate risk factors and take other measures to stay safe, such as learning how to use an AED on a pregnant patient.

Not everything goes according to plan during pregnancy, but you can take simple steps to help reduce the risk of complications and help ensure a happy, healthy baby.   

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