Are you pregnant and you’d like to know more about some of the most common risks of pregnancy? Well, for some women, pregnancy is often characterized by good mental and physical health, as well as excitement. However, some women tend to experience psychological and physical complications throughout their pregnancy.
In this article, you are going to gain insights into the most common pregnancy complications, which include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, hypertension, hyperemesis, among others. Please keep reading.
What are the most common complications during pregnancy?
Are you pregnant, or looking to get pregnant, and you’re interested in knowing pregnancy-related risks? Below are some of the most common complications affecting some pregnant women.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetes that affects some women, particularly during pregnancy. It is a disease whereby you have too much glucose or sugar in your blood. If left untreated, Gestational Diabetes Mellitus can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Macrosomia (Having a large baby)
- Stillbirth: This is when your baby dies in your womb after approximately 20 weeks into your pregnancy
- Shoulder dystocia, whereby your baby’s shoulders get stuck in your pelvis during birth.
Therefore, it is important that you keep your blood sugar under control during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is a hypertensive pregnancy complication that affects at least 3% to 9% of pregnant women (Duley, 2009). It occurs only during pregnancy, and it is characterized by symptoms such as swollen face, hands, and feet, seizures, high blood pressure, considerable amounts of protein in the urine, and neurological complications such as blindness, altered mental status, stroke, vomiting, severe headaches, and eclampsia (Gifford et al, 2000).
Apart from gestational diabetes, other risk factors for preeclampsia include a history of preeclampsia in the family, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, chronic hypertension, obesity, use of assisted reproductive technologies, multifetal pregnancy, advanced maternal age (40 years and above), chronic kidney disease, among others (Wallis et al. 2008).
Hypertension affects at least 10% of pregnant women (ACOG, 2013). According to the National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group Report (NHBPEP, 2000), hypertension in pregnancy is often marked by systolic blood pressure (SBP) ≥ 140mmHg and/ or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) ≥ 90mmHg. The readings must be taken 15 minutes apart, and on the same arm.
Severe hypertension is characterized by a blood pressure of ≥ 160/110 mmHg
Mental health disorders
Affective disorders or mood disorders are common among pregnant women. Mood disorders affect at least 6 to 13% of pregnant women. Some of the mental health disorders that are common during pregnancy include anxiety, major depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, sleep disorders, and stress (Altshuler, 2000).
If you have bipolar disorder during pregnancy, you are more likely to manifest a mood disorder during the postpartum period. Sleep disorders, which are common during pregnancy, can also lead to mood disorders.
If left untreated, psychiatric disorders can lead to various complications including suicidal ideations, and the inability to take care of yourself. They can also lead to m alcoholism, which can lead to birth defects in the unborn child.
Vaginal bleeding is a common occurrence during pregnancy. It affects at least 25% of pregnant women, particularly during the first trimester (David et al,. 2010. However, vaginal bleeding can occur at any stage of your pregnancy, and during the post-partum period (Sheiner, 2011). The most common causes of nontraumatic bleeding during early pregnancy include miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, implantation, cervical pathology, and uterine structural anomalies.
If you experience bleeding during pregnancy, it is critical that you go through physical and pelvic examination as soon as possible so that the condition can be managed early enough.
Pregnancy tends to suppress the immune system, which in turn may increase your risk of contracting respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 (Poon et al., 2020; Mor & Cardenas, 2010). However, that does not make you and your unborn baby more prone to COVID-19 more than other people (Rasmussen et al., 2020).
However, if you have a high-risk pregnancy, you are likely to become sicker if you get COVID-19. There is no conclusive evidence on whether you can transmit coronavirus to your unborn baby. However, Pregnancy complications that appeared after the onset of COVID‐19 infection included fetal distress in two of nine patients and premature rupture of the membranes in two of nine patients (Poon et al., 2020).
COVID 19 can be classified as a pregnancy complication because it tends to lead to hyperthermia (Berghella et al., 2019). Hyperthermia during pregnancy can contribute to congenital malformations. That said, to protect yourself during this COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that you observe all the necessary safety guidelines such as washing hands frequently, social distancing, and wearing a mask.
Also referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum, severe vomiting is another common complication during pregnancy (Goodwin, 2008). When pregnant, it is normal for you to feel nauseated and vomit frequently, particularly during the first trimester.
Hyperemesis is more severe than morning sickness. Therefore, it is important that you contact your gynecologist if you can’t keep food in your stomach more so if you are between the 5th and 10th week of your pregnancy.
Symptoms of hyperemesis include anxiety, decreased concentration, mood changes, excessive nausea and vomiting, dehydration, fainting, jaundice, high blood pressure, ketosis, and weight loss (Mullin et al., 2012)
There are many maternal pregnancy complications, but hypertension, preeclampsia, hyperemesis, gestational diabetes are some of the most common pregnancy risks. If you’re suffering from any of them, it is important that you seek medical advice as soon as possible.
ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 202: Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia, Obstetrics & Gynecology: January 2019 – Volume 133 – Issue 1 – p e1-e25 doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000003018.
Altshuler, L. L., Hendrick, V., & Cohen, L. S. (2000). An Update on Mood and Anxiety Disorders During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period. Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry, 2(6), 217–222. https://doi.org/10.4088/pcc.v02n0604.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Task Force on Hypertension in Pregnancy. Hypertension in pregnancy. Report of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Task Force on Hypertension in Pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol 2013; 122: 1122–1131.
Aslih, et al. (2011). Clinical Approach to Pregnancy-Related Bleeding. 10.1007/978-1-4419-9810-1_1.
Bajaj, K., Gross, S. J. (2015). The genetics of diabetic pregnancy. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol, 29(1):102-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2014.08.008.
Bartsch, E., Medcalf, K.E, Park, A.L, Ray, J.G. (2016). High Risk of Pre-eclampsia Identification Group. Clinical risk factors for pre-eclampsia determined in early pregnancy: systematic review and meta-analysis of large cohort studies.BMJ, 353:i1753. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i1753.
Berghella, V., Lockwood, C.J., & Barss, V.A., (2019). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Pregnancy issues.Retrieved April 28, 2020, from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19-pregnancy-issues#references.
Catalano, P.M (2010). The impact of gestational diabetes and maternal obesity on the mother and her offspring. J Dev Orig Health Dis, 1(4):208-15. doi: 10.1017/S2040174410000115.
Chen P, Wang S, Ji J, Ge A, Chen C, Zhu Y, Xie N, Wang Y. Risk factors and management of gestational diabetes. Cell Biochem Biophys. 2015 Mar;71(2):689-94. doi: 10.1007/s12013-014-0248-2. Review.
David N. Hackney and J. Christopher Glantz, Vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy and preterm birth: systemic review and analysis of heterogeneity, The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 10.3109/14767058.2010.530707, 24, 6, (778-786), (2010).
Duley L. (2009). The Global Impact of Pre-eclampsia and Eclampsia. Semin Perinatol; 33(3):130–137.
Evrenos, A., Güngör, A., Gülerman, C., Cosar, E., (2014). Obstetric outcomes of patients with abortus imminens in the first trimester. Arch Gynecol Obstet,289(3):499- 504. doi:10.1007/s00404-013-2979-5. 2.
Facchinetti, F., Allais, G., Nappi R.E., D’Amico R, Marozio L, Bertozzi L, et al. Migraine is a risk factor for hypertensive disorders in pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. Cephalalgia. 2009 Mar. 29(3):286-92.
Gifford, R.W, August, P.A., Cunningham, F.G, et al. (2000). Report of the National High Blood Pressure Working Group on Research on Hypertension in Pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol.,183:S1–S22.
Goodwin, T.M. (2008). Hyperemesis gravidarum. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am, 35(3):401-17, viii.
Lykke, J.A, Diderikse, K.L, Lidegaard, O, Langhoff-Roos, J. (2010). First trimester vaginal bleeding and complications later in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol, 115(5):935- 944. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181da8d38. 3.
Mor, G., & Cardenas, I. (2010). The immune system in pregnancy: a unique complexity. American journal of reproductive immunology, 63(6), 425–433. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0897.2010.00836.x
Mullin, P.M et al. (2012). Risk factors, treatments, and outcomes associated with prolonged hyperemesis gravidarum. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 25: 632-636.
National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group Report on High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1990;163(5 Pt 1):1691–712.
Norwitz, E., Shin Park J., Lockwood C., Barss, V. Overview of the etiology and evaluation of vaginal bleeding in pregnant women. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-the-etiology-and-evaluation-of-vaginal-bleeding-inpregnant-women.
Poon, L.C., Yang, H., Lee, J. C. S., Copel, J. A., Leung, T. Y., Zhang, Y., Chen,D., & Prefum, F. (2020). ISUOG Interim Guidance on 2019 novel coronavirus infection during pregnancy and puerperium: information for healthcare professionals, Ultrasound in Obstetrics & Gynecology.
Rasmussen, S. A., Smulian, J. C., Lednicky, J. A., Wen, T. S., & Jamieson, D. J. (2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and pregnancy: what obstetricians need to know. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, S0002-9378(20)30197-6. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2020.02.017
Report of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program Working Group on High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2000 Jul. 183(1):S1-S22.
Schwartz, D. (2020). An Analysis of 38 Pregnant Women with COVID-19, Their Newborn Infants, and Maternal-Fetal Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: Maternal Coronavirus Infections and Pregnancy Outcomes. Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine. Accessed: 24 April 2020.
Sheiner, E. (2011). Bleeding During Pregnancy: A Comprehensive Guide. 10.1007/978-1-4419-9810-1.
Wallis, A.B, Saftlas AF, Hsia J, Atrash HK. Secular Trends in the Rates of Preeclampsia, Eclampsia, and Gestational Hypertension, United States, 1987-2004. Am J Hypertens. 2008;21(5):521–526.