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A Guide to Pregnancy Complications


A pregnancy complication is any condition or illness that threatens the mother and/or fetus during pregnancy. Common pregnancy complications include preeclampsia, premature labor, gestational diabetes and depression.

Pregnancy complications may result from a number of possible factors, including pre-existing disorders or diseases (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure) or abnormalities of the sperm or egg. Complications may also result from sexually transmitted diseases, amniotic fluid abnormalities, placental abnormalities and viral, bacterial and parasitic infections.

Many complications may cause serious problems for the mother and/or fetus. In addition, a number of complications may result in death of the mother or loss of the fetus. Women experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding or spotting, abdominal pain or any other common sign or symptom of pregnancy complications should contact their obstetrician-gynecologist (ObGyn) immediately.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 4 million American women give birth every year. Of these women, almost one-third will have some form of pregnancy complication. Although women with high-risk pregnancies are more likely to experience complications, all pregnant women have some risk.

Although many pregnancy complications cannot be prevented, there are a number of steps a woman can take to reduce her chances of developing certain complications. Women can reduce their risk of complications by not smoking, drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs. A healthy diet is another important prevention factor. Pregnant women should eat a balanced and nutritious diet and avoid certain foods (e.g., unpasteurized milk, raw eggs, processed meats). In addition, all prescribed and over-the-counter medications should be approved by a physician before they are taken by a pregnant woman.

It is also essential for women to keep all of their prenatal appointments. During these visits, certain physical signs are monitored and a variety of tests are performed that enable physicians to prevent pregnancy complications or to detect them early. Women who do not receive the proper prenatal care and fail to undergo the recommended tests and screenings risk the chance that potential complications may go undetected.
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