Nowadays, most pregnancies take place without significant worries. However, in rare cases, complications that may affect both mother and child’s life can arise. This article reviews nine pregnancy complications.

1. Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is a severe pregnancy complication in which the fertilized egg settles outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies usually occur in the fallopian tubes, transporting the eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. In rare cases, the egg can lodge in the ovary, abdomen, or cervix. Because there is not enough space outside the uterus, as the fetus grows, it can burst the organ where it settles. It can cause major internal bleeding, which is life-threatening for the mother.
Ectopic pregnancy frequency is about 2% of all pregnancies in North America. It is also the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester.
The most common symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include :

  • sharp shoulder pain
  • severe pain on one side of the abdomen
  • vaginal bleeding
  • dizziness or fainting

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should go to the emergency room.

2. Miscarriage

A miscarriage is when there is a loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation. Miscarriages are sadly common. According to studies, about 10-20% of pregnancy will end in miscarriage. (1)
Most miscarriages happen in the first few days or weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman realizes that she is pregnant. Unfortunately, when the miscarriage process begins, it can not be stopped.

Almost half of the miscarriages happen because the fetus has genetic problems. The mother’s health conditions may increase the risk of miscarriage. These health conditions include the cervix’s weakness, problems with the uterus, polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, etc.
The mother’s age also plays a role in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage increase with age and can go around 50% for women in their early 40’s.
The miscarriage symptoms include spotting that can progress to heavy bleeding, back pain, abdominal pain, and crampings.

3.Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Many women experience mild morning sickness in the first trimester of pregnancy. For a few women, the morning can be severe. This condition is called Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Women with hyperemesis gravidarum have excessive nausea, vomiting which tend to start earlier and last longer. They are not able to keep any foods or fluids in their stomach.

While morning sickness is generally harmless, HG can have serious consequences. The mother might be subject to weight loss, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance. Left untreated, it can also affect the kidneys, muscles and lead to extreme fatigue. In some cases, HG may require hospitalizations to restore hydration and nutrients.

4. Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is one of the most concerning pregnancy complications. Yet many pregnant women don’t know about it. It can be potentially dangerous for both the mother and the baby. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to the liver and kidneys. It usually begins after 20 weeks of gestation in women who have never suffered from high blood pressure. Preeclampsia can continue after the delivery. In rare cases, the condition starts after the baby is born. The most common signs of preeclampsia are:

  • high blood pressure
  • swelling of the legs, the hands, or the entire body
  • blurred vision
  • headache
  • weight gain

Every case of preeclampsia is an emergency because it can lead to life-threatening complications such as seizure(eclampsia), blood clots, stroke, and brain damage.

5. Gestational Diabetes

Diabetes is when the body cannot correctly process the sugar from foods, leading to a high blood sugar level. Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes diagnosed for the first time in pregnant women who have never had diabetes before pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is very common. Nearly 10 percent of pregnancies in the US are affected by gestational diabetes every year. (2) Gestational diabetes usually starts later in the pregnancy. It is the reason why most women have diabetes screening between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy.

The warning signs of gestational diabetes include frequent urination, increased thirst, dry mouth, blurred vision, extreme fatigue, sweet foods cravings. Gestational diabetes is usually controlled by diet change and regular exercise. Sometimes gestational diabetes may require insulin treatment.

If the blood sugar is not well controlled, gestational diabetes can lead to severe health problems for the mother and the baby. The baby’s complications include preterm birth, excessive birth weight, difficulty breathing, obesity, diabetes later in life. Women with gestational diabetes are likely to deliver by c-section. They are also at risk of having preeclampsia.
The good news is that gestational diabetes usually resolves after pregnancy. In case it doesn’t, it means that you probably have diabetes before pregnancy.

6. Anemia

Anemia is a medical condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. The most common type of anemia is iron-deficiency anemia. The body uses iron to produce hemoglobin, the part of the red cells that transport oxygen to the tissues. Iron deficiency anemia occurs when your body lacks iron. This type of anemia is common during pregnancy. When you are pregnant, your body needs double the amount of iron it usually uses to produce more blood to supply your baby’s oxygen. If you don’t have sufficient iron stores or don’t get enough during your pregnancy, you might develop iron deficiency anemia. Anemia can also be caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12 and acid folic, which are needed as well to make red blood cells.

Anemia in pregnancy is often mild, but in some cases, it can be severe. This increases the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and anemia later in life. Studies show that anemia in pregnancy also plays a role in postpartum depression.
The most common warning signs of anemia during pregnancy include fatigue, dizziness, headache, pale skin, rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, trouble concentrating.

7.Placenta Previa

The placenta is a temporary organ formed inside the uterus wall during pregnancy. It is attached to the fetus through the umbilical cord. The placenta’s role is to provide oxygen, nutrients, water to the baby and remove the wastes. The placenta usually changes its position during pregnancy. In the early stage of pregnancy, the placenta appears typically low in the uterus. As the pregnancy continues, the placenta migrates to the top or side of the uterus. However, if the placenta stays low and covers partially or entirely the cervix and block the baby’s ways out, this condition is called placenta previa.

Placenta previa can lead to major vaginal bleeding during labor and delivery; this can be life-threatening for the mother and the baby. Most women with placenta previa will be assigned to bed rest or recommended to avoid any activity that might cause contractions. Placenta previa requires c-section delivery. It also increases the risk of premature birth and stillbirth.

8. Placental Abruption

Placental abruption is a rare but severe pregnancy complication. The placenta is typically attached to the uterus. In rare cases, the placenta can separate partially or totally from the uterine wall before birth. This condition is called placental abruption. It usually happens in the third trimester. When the placenta detaches, it breaks the blood vessels within the uterus and leads to heavy bleeding. Placental abruption can result in a decrease or suppression of the baby’s oxygen supply and nutrients. It is an emergency that requires early delivery.

The main signs of placental abruption are dark red vaginal bleeding and painful contraction. There may be other signs such as sudden stomach or back pain, a change in the baby’s heart rate. The complication of placenta abruption may include:

  • shock due to the excessive bleeding
  • blood clots
  • failure of the kidneys

It can also affect the baby’s growth. Severe placental abruption can lead lead to premature birth or stillbirth in the worst cases.

9. Preterm Labor

Preterm labor is when women experience regular contractions that open the cervix after 20 weeks and before 37 weeks of pregnancy. When the labor starts earlier than it should, doctors usually do their best to delay the process. When it is impossible to delay, preterm labor may result in premature birth. About 10% of the baby born in the US are premature babies (3).

Premature babies, also known as preemies, are more likely to have health problems such as mental and physical disabilities, breathing problems, delays in development. Many preemies will need special care in the neonatal intensive care unit for a while, depending on how soon they are born. Preterm birth complications are one of the leading causes of death among children under the age of 5. (4)

References

1-https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/miscarriage-a-to-z
2-https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/gestational-diabetes
3- https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pretermbirth.htm
4-https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/infantmortality.htm

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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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