Pregnancy can be an exciting time in any woman’s life — but it can also be one that induces anxiety, especially if you are worried about your health and your baby’s health during this journey. After the emotions of discovering you’re pregnant wear off, you may start thinking about what pregnancy really means — what it will be like, what precautions you have to take, and what pregnancy problems are possible along the way.
Fortunately, with good care and preventative steps, many of the problems that can happen during pregnancy can be avoided. However, some cannot. It’s important for every expectant mother to be aware of the potential maternity problems she may encounter to ensure the healthiest pregnancy possible over the next nine months.
Remember: Your best source of information on the problems associated with pregnancy (including which you may be predisposed to) will always be your personal obstetrician. While we’ve done our best to present helpful information below, know that it is not intended to be and should not be taken as medical advice.
What are Some Problems Associated with Pregnancy?
Unfortunately, there are many pregnancy health problems that can arise in a woman’s pregnancy. Your risks of developing certain medical problems during pregnancy are dependent upon your own situation and medical background. For example, if you have an existing health condition (such as asthma or diabetes), being pregnant can exacerbate those conditions and symptoms. However, for the sake of this article, we will not consider those preexisting conditions as “maternity problems.” Instead, we’ll focus on the complications that arise specifically from the condition of being pregnant.
A problematic pregnancy can include many different conditions, but some of the most common are:
1. Antepartum Depression
Many women know about postpartum depression, but did you know that you can develop pregnancy-related depression while you are carrying your unborn baby? Antepartum depression is more common than you might think and can seriously affect your pregnancy experience.
Anemia is the condition of having a lower-than-normal number of healthy blood cells. Anemia can make you feel weak, tired or faint, and can cause shortness of breath and other symptoms. A problematic pregnancy with anemia means that neither you nor your unborn baby is receiving enough iron and oxygen to be strong.
3. Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops specifically during pregnancy. This condition means that your blood sugar levels are too high and your body cannot process the sugar as quickly as it could when you were not pregnant. In most cases, gestational diabetes can be managed through a healthy diet and exercise plan but, left untreated, it can increase the risk of other problems during pregnancy and labor.
Preeclampsia is one of the pregnancy health problems that develop later on, typically after 20 weeks. It causes high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. There is no cure for preeclampsia, but your doctor will monitor your pregnancy carefully and prescribe medications to manage the more dangerous side effects.
5. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)
More than just morning sickness, hyperemesis gravidarum involves severe, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It leads to weight loss, reduced appetite and dehydration, and can be one of the more serious problems that occur during pregnancy, if left untreated. Some women feel better around their 20th week of pregnancy, while others experience the symptoms of HG throughout their entire pregnancy.
6. Hypertension, or High Blood Pressure
Expectant mothers can develop high blood pressure due to their pregnancy. Usually, this complication starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after birth. Your doctor will determine whether you are suffering from high blood pressure on its own or as a symptom of preeclampsia to determine the best treatment for a healthy pregnancy.
7. Placenta Previa
With this condition, the placenta covers part of or the entire opening of the cervix inside of the uterus. This can make vaginal delivery incredibly difficult. For some women, there are no symptoms; for others, they experience painless vaginal bleeding during their second or third trimesters.
8. Placental Abruption
With placental abruption, the placenta separates entirely from the uterine wall before delivery, meaning the fetus doesn’t get the oxygen needed for its rapid rate of development. For minor separations, bed rest can stop the bleeding. For severe cases, immediate medical attention and/or the delivery of the baby is necessary.
Unfortunately, miscarriage is a much more common situation than many women realize. As many as 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, which is defined as the spontaneous loss of pregnancy from natural causes before 20 weeks. Many miscarriages occur before a woman even knows she is pregnant. In most cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented.
10. Preterm Labor
When a woman goes into labor earlier than the 37-week mark, she experiences preterm labor. Sometimes, preterm birth is necessary for the health of the baby and the mother but, in most cases, doctors will prescribe medication and bed rest to reduce the risks that can develop in preterm babies.
What are the Signs of Complications During Pregnancy?
Every one of the problems that can happen during pregnancy has its own side effects and symptoms to look out for. Only a doctor can accurately diagnose any maternity problems.
That said, there are a few common signs of pregnancy complications that should not be ignored. If you are experiencing any of these pregnancy illness symptoms, please see your doctor right away:
- Bleeding, especially heavy bleeding accompanied by adnominal pain
- Severe nausea and vomiting that does not go away
- A significant decline in your baby’s activity levels
- Contractions early on in the third trimester
- Rupture of your uterine membrane (a.k.a. when “your water breaks”)
- Persistent headache, abdominal pain or swelling
- Flu-like symptoms
- Extreme swelling of the hands and face
- Blurry vision
Most dangers of pregnancy present as obvious symptoms, but not all do. A doctor will always be the best professional to evaluate your risks during pregnancy and determine whether you have any of the more serious problems that can occur during pregnancy. This is why prenatal visits are so important — seeing a doctor gives you a better chance of a healthy pregnancy.
How Can I Prevent a Problematic Pregnancy?
As mentioned, regular prenatal care is a big part of managing the health risks of pregnancy and ensuring that you and your unborn baby are as healthy as possible. Every pregnancy comes with certain risks and potential complications; a doctor can provide the medical advice you need to alleviate your concerns and be as stress-free as possible.
Leading a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can play a great role in reducing the dangers of pregnancy. When you discover that you’re pregnant, it’s important that you make sure to start eating a healthy diet and incorporating safe, low-impact exercise to keep yourself as healthy as possible and prepare yourself for the upcoming challenges of pregnancy and childbirth. Again, your doctor can give you the best recommended regimen for keeping yourself safe and lessening the risks during pregnancy in your situation.
If you develop a problematic pregnancy, you may be overwhelmed at the medical steps ahead of you — especially if, like most of the readers on this site, you became pregnant unexpectedly. Remember, your doctor will walk you through any problems that occur during pregnancy to keep you as safe as possible. If you or your baby develop medical problems that make you rethink your pregnancy options, or you are worried about the medical costs of your pregnancy and/or raising a child with special needs, remember that adoption is always an option for you. In choosing to place your child for adoption, you can receive your medical treatment for free and make sure that your child grows up with parents who are able to care for their special needs.
Regardless of your personal situation, it’s always important to be aware of the potential problems associated with pregnancy so you can have as healthy an experience as possible. When in doubt, always contact your local obstetrician.