A Crib Sheet To Common Pregnancy Complications (And How You Can Avoid Them)

Pregnancy is risky business. While any mother understands those needle pricks, pelvic exams, and pregnancy aches and pains are part and parcel of the experience, the ever-present possibility of more serious pregnancy complications can keep any expecting mom up at night (that, as well as the challenge to find a good sleeping position).

While complications definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly, pregnant mamas need to understand that with the right awareness and information, and a good open line of communication with your doctor or midwife, there’s no reason why you can’t safely deliver a healthy baby. Now is not the time to be afraid of medical intervention, or to stress over negative outcomes.

Here is a list of common pregnancy complications and how you can try to avoid them. While a lot of factors during pregnancy are beyond our control, many complications can be sidestepped with good old prevention–meaning, providing yourself the best prenatal care possible.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

  • Complication Situation:HG presents as extreme nausea and vomiting. This isn’t your run of the mill morning sickness–hyperemesis gravidarum often leads to severe dehydration and weight loss you can’t afford while gestating, which could prove dangerous to your baby. Hospitalization and bed rest is par for the course. Some women suffer HG for a few weeks, others have to wait until D-day to be free of it.
  • How To Avoid It:Unfortunately, the jury is still out on the causes and treatment of HG. There is also no data to support theories of what type of person is more predisposed to it.
  • How It Is Treated:You’re welcome to try the same remedies catering to morning sickness–bland food, ginger, sea bands, and the like–but don’t be too surprised if it doesn’t help much. What’s key here is you continue to receive the right nutrition and hydration despite the constant upchucking and loss of appetite. Some doctors might recommend anti-nausea medication, while others might order IV fluids to stay on top of your flagging hydration levels.

Placenta Previa

  • Complication Situation:The placenta (your baby’s oxygen and food delivery system) usually attaches itself to the upper part of the uterine wall. However, in placenta previa, it attaches itself near the cervix, partly or even fully covering the opening to the birth canal. This can cause vaginal bleeding (but not often pain) that needs immediate attention. In some cases, placenta previa doesn’t present any symptoms at all, and only a doctor can spot it via a routine ultrasound.
  • How To Avoid It:Again, there is no direct cause–but making sure you have an ironclad prenatal health plan in place doesn’t hurt in avoiding it. You might be at higher risk for it if you have scarring in your uterus from past pregnancies, or you have fibroids. Make sure to discuss this with your doctor.
  • How It Is Treated:Vaginal bleeding might require a few days’ stay in the hospital. While it might not give you pain or discomfort while pregnant, your doctor might still deem you high-risk and will want to give you special attention throughout your pregnancy. You will also be a candidate for a scheduled C-section, as women with placenta previa are unable to deliver a baby normally.


  • Complication Situation:A sharp and dangerous rise in blood pressure, often during the second and third trimester, puts both you and your baby at risk. Your kidney and liver functions might also be compromised with this condition. If undiagnosed and untreated, complications during birth can include organ failure, hemorrhage, and even death. This is why women with preeclampsia are closely monitored and are often made to deliver their babies as early as healthily possible.
  • How To Avoid It: Since those at high risk for preeclampsia include women with previous experience with high blood pressure, it would do you well to work on maintaining a healthy BP through doctor-approved diet, exercise, and self-care. Older mothers and those carrying twins or triplets are also at risk, as well as women with a high BMI. Maintaining a healthy weight is a must to lessen your chances of preeclampsia.
  • How It Is Treated: Delivering your baby is the only way to resolve this condition, so your doctor will constantly monitor your upcoming D-day. Some opt for earlier scheduled C-sections to reduce risk of complications during birth, while others successfully deliver normally and spontaneously given the right guidance of medical professionals.

Gestational Diabetesa

  • Complication Situation:Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is the condition that arises when a pregnant woman suddenly becomes insulin resistant. Hormones secreted during pregnancy can prevent the body from breaking down sugar. One of the biggest factors to consider is GDM often results in very big babies that are often difficult to deliver, thus requiring a C-section to ensure a safe birth. You and your baby are also at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in later years.
  • How To Avoid It:Women with a higher BMI are at greater risk of developing GDM. If you’re already tipping the scales, it’s best to lose a few pounds before conceiving. Already pregnant? Manage your eating habits–you’ll find the temporary joy of “eating for two” to be cold comfort when you realize you’re carrying (and have to somehow birth) a ten-pounder.
  • How It Is Treated: Most cases of GDM are managed with a good diet and a controlled weight gain throughout the trimesters. It resolves upon birth, so the goal is to get you to delivery day as safely as possible. Some cases require insulin to manage blood sugar levels.

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