Complications in the Prenatal (Pregnancy) Period

Overview

Pregnancy is not without its ups and downs. From weight gain and bloating 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 free of complications, here are five of the more common complications that can occur while you expect them.

gestational diabetes

During pregnancy, some women consistently experience high blood sugar levels, known as gestational diabetes. About 7 percent of pregnant women have gestational diabetes. Your doctor will most likely recommend a screening test called a glucose tolerance test at 24 to 28 weeks. If this test shows high blood sugar values, further testing may be needed.

Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes doesn’t always cause symptoms, but it can cause complications for your baby. Some symptoms of the condition may include:

  • extreme thirst
  • Hunger
  • overwhelming fatigue

Many women find out that they have gestational diabetes due to blood tests for high blood sugar. Your doctor can then recommend appropriate treatments.

Gestational Diabetes Treatments

Your doctor may recommend controlling gestational diabetes by eating a healthy diet, especially low in sugar and simple carbohydrates such as processed flours. If a healthy diet does not control your blood sugar levels, you may need to administer insulin injections or take oral medications to lower your blood sugar levels.

Possible Pregnancy Complications

Complications associated with gestational diabetes include:

  • breathing problems in your baby
  • Delivery from section C
  • high birth weight baby
  • hypoglycemia in the baby
  • jaundice in baby
  • preeclampsia (dangerous high blood pressure)
  • early birth

The risk of developing these complications is reduced if you can control your blood sugar.

High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia

High blood pressure (pressures greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg) can be a serious problem while you wait. According to the March of Dimes, 8 out of every 100 women will experience high blood pressure during pregnancy. If your blood pressure gets too high, you may experience seizures and organ failure in rare cases.

Some women are at risk for high blood pressure during pregnancy. This includes being overweight, a history of high blood pressure, or a history of preeclampsia. In this case, your doctor may recommend taking low-dose aspirin.

High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia Symptoms

High blood pressure by itself may not cause many symptoms. A pregnant mother may experience headaches and dizziness. Preeclampsia also causes high blood pressure as well as the following symptoms:

  • blurred vision
  • possible protein in the urine or other changes in blood tests
  • severe headache
  • stomach ache
  • swelling of the hands and face

If you experience these symptoms, you should call your doctor immediately.

High Blood Pressure / Preeclampsia Treatments

If you have high blood pressure but no other symptoms, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure frequently. Your doctor may prescribe medication, but some are not safe during pregnancy, used to treat high blood pressure. Medications to avoid during pregnancy include ACE inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs).

Depending on how long you’ve had your doctor may suggest that you deliver your baby if he or she diagnoses you with preeclampsia. Even mild preeclampsia can quickly progress to more serious symptoms.

If your baby is not yet old enough to give birth, your doctor may admit you to the hospital and give you medications to help your baby’s lungs develop before giving birth. These are called corticosteroids. You may also be given magnesium sulfate through your vein to reduce the risk of seizures.

Possible Pregnancy Complications

Complications associated with high blood pressure in pregnancy include:

  • cesarean delivery
  • kidney failure
  • low birth weight baby
  • placental abruption
  • early birth
  • seizures

The severity of these complications means it’s really important to attend all prenatal checkups for high blood pressure testing.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

During the first trimester of your pregnancy, you raise levels of hormones called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and estrogen. These increased levels can cause morning sickness and a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum in some women. This condition is characterized by extreme nausea that is far beyond the normal experience of morning sickness.

Risk factors for the condition include:

  • being a mother for the first time
  • be overweight
  • with a history of hyperemesis gravidarum
  • being pregnant with multiples

Symptoms of Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis gravidarum is much more than morning sickness. It is very severe and can make a woman feel more open. Symptoms include:

  • vomiting more than three to four times a day
  • lose more than 10 pounds
  • my head is spinning and my head is spinning
  • become dehydrated as a result of the condition

If you experience these symptoms, call your obstetrician.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum Treatments

The goal of hyperemesis gravidarum is to help you stay as hydrated and nourished as possible. The steps that can be taken are:

  • choosing soft foods whenever possible, such as crackers, broth, gelatin, and eggs
  • eating small, frequent meals instead of larger ones
  • replacing lost electrolytes with a drink containing electrolytes or using intravenous fluids
  • taking medications to reduce nausea (for example, promethazine or Phenergan, meclizine and droperidol, or Dridol)

If you are unable to keep food or fluids low, you may need to be hospitalized to receive intravenous fluids or 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 cases, malnourished.

Low

Up to 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage or pregnancy loss. Miscarriage can happen before you even realize you’re pregnant, often in the first trimester. Most miscarriages can’t be prevented, but they don’t mean you can’t get pregnant again.

Miscarriage symptoms

Symptoms associated with miscarriage include:

  • abdominal or pelvic cramping
  • passing fluid or other tissue through the vagina
  • vaginal bleeding or spotting

Note that some bleeding or spotting may be a normal occurrence in the first trimester of pregnancy. It’s still a good idea to contact your doctor if you experience bleeding.

treatments for miscarriage

You may not need any medical treatment for miscarriage. Some women may require a procedure known as a dilation and curettage (D&C) to remove excess tissue from the uterus.

Pregnancy loss can be a time of great sadness and grief. If you experience these feelings, you should seek counseling. Many local hospitals and doctor groups offer these services.

preterm Birth

In a perfect world, all babies would mature in the womb until at least 37 weeks, until their lungs, hearts, and brains have matured greatly. This is not for all mothers. When a woman goes into labor before 37 weeks, this is considered preterm delivery. The severity of preterm labor depends on how much time you have had during your pregnancy. The closer you are to 37 weeks, the better your baby’s chances of survival and better health outcomes.

Premature Birth Symptoms

Early onset signs of labor include:

  • lower back pain extending to the abdomen
  • experiencing sudden contractions
  • pelvic pain and sudden pressure
  • vaginal discharge or discharge known as “water breaking”

If you experience these symptoms, call your obstetrician. They can tell you if going to the hospital is recommended.

Preterm Birth Treatments

To determine how advanced your baby is, your doctor will perform an ultrasound. If you’re not far enough away during your pregnancy, your doctor may give you medication to delay the delivery as long as possible. He may also give you medicines to mature your baby’s lungs.

Ultimately, the cure for preterm labor is to deliver your baby.

Outlook for Prenatal Complications

Although there are a number of prenatal complications that can occur during pregnancy, chances are you won’t experience them. It is always important to call your doctor if you have an experience that may indicate a complication of any of the following:

  • fire
  • foul-smelling or bleeding from the vagina
  • intense abdominal pain
  • nausea that won’t go away or lessen
  • Perceiving less of your baby’s movements

By being aware of these complications, you can seek medical attention quickly.

Preventing Prenatal Complications

Not all prenatal complications are preventable. Making and keeping recommended prenatal appointments, keeping stress levels low, and eating a healthy diet can help you prevent prenatal complications whenever possible.

You may also want to talk to your doctor about any unique risks you pose to your overall health. Your doctor can help you create a wellness strategy that will help you have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.

Resources:

Gestational diabetes. (2015, August)

High blood pressure during pregnancy. (2015, July)

Hyperemesis gravidarum. (2012, August 20)

Pregnancy complications. (2015, September 29)

Pregnancy complications. (2010, September 27)

What are some common complications of pregnancy? (2013, 12 July)

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