8 Common pregnancy complications

8 Common pregnancy complications
Most women have healthy and straightforward pregnancies that occur without any complications. However, some women may experience complications during the pregnancy that could affect their health and or their baby's health. For some women, health problems arise during pregnancy, whereas others have health problems before becoming pregnant, leading to complications. It's essential to receive proper health care both before and during pregnancy to decrease the risk of pregnancy complications. Early detection and prenatal care are critical for reducing the risk of complications.
Written by Orchid Team 
Medically reviewed by Cristina Vidal, RN
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.

Complications when planning a pregnancy

If you want to start trying for a baby but have previous health problems, discuss your plans with your OB/GYN doctor. They will review your medical history to review the list of medications you’re taking and advise you on preventative measures to take to prepare for a healthy pregnancy.

Your doctor might want to change the way your health problems are being managed if you're going to become pregnant. For example, various medicines used to treat common health problems could be harmful to the baby if taken during pregnancy but stopping them could be detrimental too. Your doctor can discuss any alternative medications depending on your specific medical condition and concerns. Some of the health problems that need to be managed and assessed before pregnancy include anemia, asthma, depression, diabetes, eating disorders, epilepsy or seizure disorders, high blood pressure, kidney problems, migraine, overweight and obesity, and thyroid disease, among others. It's also important to discuss any issues you may have had with any previous pregnancies at this point.

Complications during pregnancy

Pregnancy complications can range from mild discomfort to severe, sometimes life-threatening conditions. It can often be difficult for women to determine which symptoms are normal and which aren't.

Complications during pregnancy may include both physical and mental conditions that affect the health of the mother, that of the baby, or both of them. Some problems are caused by being pregnant, whereas others can be made worse during the pregnancy. Keep in mind that you should always contact your OB/GYN if you have any concerns during pregnancy.

Some of the most common health conditions that women may experience during pregnancy include the following:


If you have anemia, the number of red blood cells in your body is lower than normal, and you may feel more tired and weak than usual. There are multiple causes for anemia, so your doctor needs to look at the underlying cause and prescribe you supplements of iron and folic acid to take during your pregnancy. Checking your blood levels during pregnancy is important for prevention.


Multiple bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections may cause complications in pregnancy. These infections can be harmful not only to the mother but also to the baby, so you shouldn't delay seeking treatment.

Common examples of infections include urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, toxoplasmosis, yeast infections, Zika virus, group B Streptococcus, and hepatitis B virus, which can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy or at birth. Some infection exposures can also impact the development of the baby causing pregnancy loss, preterm labor and delivery, and certain birth defects.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Nausea and vomiting are common in pregnancy, with around 8 in 10 women experiencing being sick during pregnancy. This is often thought to be due to the increase of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). For most women, these symptoms go away around weeks 16 to 20, but they may last longer for others.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is when these symptoms persist for a prolonged time. Symptoms include severe and prolonged nausea and vomiting, weight loss, low blood pressure when standing and being dehydrated. Severe cases may result in hospitalization to provide intravenous nutrients for the baby and mother. Hyperemesis gravidarum may not go away completely until the baby is born, but some women may notice an improvement in the symptoms at around 20 weeks.


It's important to keep an eye on your blood pressure during pregnancy, particularly if you have a history of high blood pressure. Poorly controlled hypertension can make it more difficult for the blood to reach the placenta to provide oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby, which can slow the growth of the baby and increase the risk of preterm labor and preeclampsia. It can also be associated with other complications such as placenta issues or gestational diabetes.

Talk to your doctor or cardiologist first before getting pregnant about managing existing hypertension including appropriate medications and monitoring protocols.


This is a serious condition related to the placenta that affects some pregnant women, typically after 20 weeks. It can cause high blood pressure and can affect the kidneys. If you had preeclampsia before or someone close in your family, like your mother or sister had it, it's important to have your blood pressure monitored closely during pregnancy. In some cases, doctors may recommend inducing pregnancy delivery earlier to prevent the progression of preeclampsia.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs when a woman who did not have diabetes develops it during pregnancy. It typically occurs in the middle of the pregnancy and may cause various problems such as an extra-large baby and high blood pressure. Women who have gestational diabetes also have a higher chance of needing a C-section. Gestational diabetes can be usually controlled through regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Preterm labor

Preterm labor occurs before week 37 and may result in premature birth. The specific cause isn't always clear, and your doctor will recommend bed rest and sometimes prescribe medications to stop labor. Hospitalization may be necessary in some cases.

Some of the signs and symptoms of preterm labor include constant, dull backache, contractions, mild abdominal cramps, vaginal spotting, light bleeding, and a sensation of lower abdominal pressure. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your doctor straight away.


A miscarriage refers to the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 weeks. Approximately 10 to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The main sign of a miscarriage is vaginal bleeding. The cause of a miscarriage is not always identified, but there are many reasons it could happen. We cover more about experiencing recurrent miscarriages in this article.

It's impossible to prevent all complications during pregnancy, but many of the symptoms can be alleviated with proper care. If you're planning on getting pregnant or you're already pregnant, it's essential to consult with your doctor, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions.

If you are planning on starting or growing your family, check out our expert guides on all things genetics and fertility. Today, advanced genetic screening is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.
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