Pregnancy Complications: Symptoms and Treatments


Pregnant woman at hospital
Most pregnancies are uncomplicated. That said, it's helpful to know which serious medical issues are most likely to affect expecting moms. Here's a quick guide to the most common pregnancy complications.


Anemia:


Lower than the normal number of healthy red blood cells.


Symptoms


• Feel tired or weak.
• Look pale.
• Feel faint.
• Shortness of breath.


Treatments


• Take iron and folic acid supplements.
• Monitor iron levels.

Depression:

 

Extreme sadness during pregnancy or after birth (postpartum).


Symptoms


• Intense sadness.
• Helplessness and irritability.
• Appetite changes.
• Thoughts of harming self or baby.

Tell your doctor about any symptoms of depression. Seek medical attention right away if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.


Treatments


• Therapy.
• Support groups.
• Medication.

Fetal problems


An unborn baby has a health issue, such as poor growth or heart problems.


Symptoms


• Baby moving less.
• Baby is smaller than normal for gestational age.
• Fewer than 10 kicks per day after 26 weeks.
• Some problems have no symptoms but are found with prenatal tests.


Treatments


• Monitor baby’s health more closely until delivered.
• Special care until the baby is delivered.
• Early delivery may be required.

Gestational diabetes


Too high blood sugar levels during pregnancy


Symptoms


• Usually, there are no symptoms. Sometimes, extreme thirst, hunger, or fatigue
• Tests show high blood sugar levels


Treatments


Control blood sugar levels through:.

• Healthy meal plan from your doctor
• Medication (if needed)


Hepatitis B


A viral infection that can be passed to the baby.


Symptoms


There may be no symptoms. Symptoms can include:
• Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
• Dark urine and pale bowel movements.
• Whites of eyes or skin look yellow.


Treatments


Lab tests can find out if a mother is a carrier of hepatitis B.
• The first dose of hepatitis B vaccine plus HBIG shot given to the baby at birth.
• The second dose of hepatitis B vaccine given to the baby at 1–2 months old.
• The third dose of hepatitis B vaccine given to the baby at 6 months old (but not before).


High blood pressure (pregnancy-related)


High blood pressure that starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after birth.


Symptoms


• High blood pressure without other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia


Treatments


• Closely monitor the health of mother and baby to make sure high blood pressure is not preeclampsia. (See below to learn more about preeclampsia.)

Hyperemesis gravidarum:


Severe, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy—more extreme than “morning sickness”


Symptoms


• Nausea that does not go away.
• Vomiting several times every day.
• Weight loss.
• Reduced appetite.
• Dehydration.
• Feeling faint or fainting.


Treatments


• Dry foods and fluids if can keep down.
• Sometimes, medication to ease nausea.
• In extreme cases, hospitalization for IV fluids and medicines.


Miscarriage


Pregnancy loss from natural causes before 20 weeks. As many as 20 percents of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Often, miscarriage occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant.


Symptoms


Signs of a miscarriage can include:
• Vaginal spotting or bleeding*
• Cramping or abdominal pain.
• Fluid or tissue passing through the vagina.

NOTE: Spotting early in pregnancy doesn’t mean a miscarriage is certain. Still, contact your doctor right away if you have any bleeding.


Treatments


• In most cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented.
• Sometimes, treatment is needed to remove any remaining pregnancy tissue in the uterus.
• Counseling can help with emotional healing.

Parvovirus B19 (fifth disease)


A viral infection that can harm the baby.


Symptoms


• Low-grade fever.
• Tiredness.
• Rash on face, trunk, and limbs.
• Painful and swollen joints.


Treatments


• Rest.
• Special care, as needed.

Placental abruption:

 

Placenta separated from the uterine wall.


Symptoms


• Vaginal bleeding.
• Cramping, abdominal pain, and uterine tenderness.


Treatments


• Bed rest.
• Special care.

Placenta previa


Placenta covers part or entire opening of cervix inside of the uterus.


Symptoms


• Painless vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester.
• For some, no symptoms.


Treatments


• Bed rest.
• May require hospital care and C-section.

Preeclampsia


A condition starting after 20 weeks of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. Also called toxemia.


Symptoms


• High blood pressure.
• Swelling of hands and face.
• Too much protein in the urine.
• Stomach pain.
• Blurred vision.
• Dizziness.
• Headaches.


Treatments


• Deliver baby if near term.
• If too early to deliver baby, medications and bed rest to lower blood pressure; sometimes must stay in the hospital until safe to deliver the baby.
• Monitor health of the mother and unborn baby.
• Medicine to prevent the mother from having seizures.


Preterm labor


Going into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy.


Symptoms


• Increased vaginal discharge.
• Pelvic pressure and cramping.
• Back pain radiating to the abdomen.
• Contractions.


Treatments


• Stopping labor with medicine.
• Bed rest.
• Early delivery (Giving birth before 37 weeks is called “preterm birth.”).


Urinary tract infection (UTI)


Bacterial infection in urinary tract.


Symptoms


• Pain or burning when urinating.
• Frequent urination.
• Pelvis, back, stomach, or side pain.
• Shaking, chills, fever, sweats.


Treatments


• Antibiotics.

Uterine fibroids


Noncancerous tumors that grow within the wall of the uterus.


Symptoms


Some women have no symptoms. But uterine fibroids can cause:
• Pain.
• Bleeding.
• Feeling “full” in the lower abdomen.


Treatments


• Rest.
• Monitor for miscarriage and premature or breech birth.
• C-section delivery, if blocking birth canal.


Reference
ACOG. 2014. Task force report on hypertension in pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Task_Force_and_Work_Group_Reports/Hypertension_in_Pregnancy
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