Pregnancy is an exciting time, full of anticipation as you await the arrival of your little one. Yet it can also be a stressful and wearisome journey - especially if you end up suffering health problems along the way.
Pregnancy complications are more common than you might think. They affect about 14 percent of pregnancies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fortunately, many of those complications are manageable if promptly caught and treated. That's one reason why consistent prenatal care is so important.
The following are among the most common complications that all pregnant women should be on the watch for:
- High blood pressure: Pregnancy-related high blood pressure ( gestational hypertension) affects about 4 percent of pregnant women in the U.S., and it becomes more prevalent in the third trimester. Left unchecked, it can restrict blood flow to the fetus, potentially resulting in low birth weight, preterm labor and a higher risk of stillbirth. It's also a precursor to more serious maternal complications such as preeclampsia.
- Gestational diabetes: Many mothers who don't suffer from diabetes nonetheless develop it during pregnancy. High blood sugar can lead to kidney problems, heart problems, preeclampsia and macrosomia (high birth weight). A treatment plan for managing blood sugar levels is essential for avoiding these complications.
- Preeclampsia/eclampsia: For some women, high blood pressure during pregnancy develops into this serious condition, which can be life-threatening. Close monitoring is critical for protecting both mom and baby. In some cases, early delivery may be necessary.
- Placenta previa happens when the placenta is situated over the cervix. During late pregnancy, it can lead to serious complications for both mother and baby. Bed rest and delivery via Cesarean section are often necessary for mothers with this condition.
- Preterm labor: Going into labor before 37 weeks can be dangerous for the baby, whose lungs and brain are not yet fully developed. A multitude of risk factors can increase your chances of preterm labor. It's important to be aware if you're at greater risk. In many cases, preterm labor can be halted through swift medical intervention.
We're fortunate to live in an era when pregnancy and childbirth no longer claim anywhere near as many lives as they once did. By being aware of potential complications, and identifying them as early as possible, pregnant women and their care providers can continue the trend toward safer deliveries.