Pregnancy Complications: Symptoms and Treatments

Pregnant woman at hospital

Most pregnancies are uncomplicated. That said, it's helpful to know which serious medical issues are most likely to affect expecting moms. Here's a quick guide to the most common pregnancy complications.


Lower than the normal number of healthy red blood cells.


• Feel tired or weak.

• Look pale.

• Feel faint.

• Shortness of breath.


• Take iron and folic acid supplements.

• Monitor iron levels.



Extreme sadness during pregnancy or after birth (postpartum).


• Intense sadness.

• Helplessness and irritability.

• Appetite changes.

• Thoughts of harming self or baby.

Tell your doctor about any symptoms of depression. Seek medical attention right away if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.


• Therapy.

• Support groups.

• Medication.

Fetal problems

An unborn baby has a health issue, such as poor growth or heart problems.


• Baby moving less.

• Baby is smaller than normal for gestational age.

• Fewer than 10 kicks per day after 26 weeks.

• Some problems have no symptoms but are found with prenatal tests.


• Monitor baby’s health more closely until delivered.

• Special care until the baby is delivered.

• Early delivery may be required.

Gestational diabetes

Too high blood sugar levels during pregnancy


• Usually, there are no symptoms. Sometimes, extreme thirst, hunger, or fatigue

• Tests show high blood sugar levels


Control blood sugar levels through:.

• Healthy meal plan from your doctor

• Medication (if needed)

Hepatitis B

A viral infection that can be passed to the baby.


There may be no symptoms. Symptoms can include:

• Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

• Dark urine and pale bowel movements.

• Whites of eyes or skin look yellow.


Lab tests can find out if a mother is a carrier of hepatitis B.

• The first dose of hepatitis B vaccine plus HBIG shot given to the baby at birth.

• The second dose of hepatitis B vaccine given to the baby at 1–2 months old.

• The third dose of hepatitis B vaccine given to the baby at 6 months old (but not before).

High blood pressure (pregnancy-related)

High blood pressure that starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after birth.


• High blood pressure without other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia


• Closely monitor the health of mother and baby to make sure high blood pressure is not preeclampsia. (See below to learn more about preeclampsia.)

Hyperemesis gravidarum:

Severe, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy—more extreme than “morning sickness”


• Nausea that does not go away.

• Vomiting several times every day.

• Weight loss.

• Reduced appetite.

• Dehydration.

• Feeling faint or fainting.


• Dry foods and fluids if can keep down.

• Sometimes, medication to ease nausea.

• In extreme cases, hospitalization for IV fluids and medicines.


Pregnancy loss from natural causes before 20 weeks. As many as 20 percents of pregnancies end in miscarriage. Often, miscarriage occurs before a woman even knows she is pregnant.


Signs of a miscarriage can include:

• Vaginal spotting or bleeding*

• Cramping or abdominal pain.

• Fluid or tissue passing through the vagina.

NOTE: Spotting early in pregnancy doesn’t mean a miscarriage is certain. Still, contact your doctor right away if you have any bleeding.


• In most cases, miscarriage cannot be prevented.

• Sometimes, treatment is needed to remove any remaining pregnancy tissue in the uterus.

• Counseling can help with emotional healing.

Parvovirus B19 (fifth disease)

A viral infection that can harm the baby.


• Low-grade fever.

• Tiredness.

• Rash on face, trunk, and limbs.

• Painful and swollen joints.


• Rest.

• Special care, as needed.

Placental abruption:


Placenta separated from the uterine wall.


• Vaginal bleeding.

• Cramping, abdominal pain, and uterine tenderness.


• Bed rest.

• Special care.

Placenta previa

Placenta covers part or entire opening of cervix inside of the uterus.


• Painless vaginal bleeding during the second or third trimester.

• For some, no symptoms.


• Bed rest.

• May require hospital care and C-section.


A condition starting after 20 weeks of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and problems with the kidneys and other organs. Also called toxemia.


• High blood pressure.

• Swelling of hands and face.

• Too much protein in the urine.

• Stomach pain.

• Blurred vision.

• Dizziness.

• Headaches.


• Deliver baby if near term.

• If too early to deliver baby, medications and bed rest to lower blood pressure; sometimes must stay in the hospital until safe to deliver the baby.

• Monitor health of the mother and unborn baby.

• Medicine to prevent the mother from having seizures.

Preterm labor

Going into labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy.


• Increased vaginal discharge.

• Pelvic pressure and cramping.

• Back pain radiating to the abdomen.

• Contractions.


• Stopping labor with medicine.

• Bed rest.

• Early delivery (Giving birth before 37 weeks is called “preterm birth.”).

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Bacterial infection in urinary tract.


• Pain or burning when urinating.

• Frequent urination.

• Pelvis, back, stomach, or side pain.

• Shaking, chills, fever, sweats.


• Antibiotics.

Uterine fibroids

Noncancerous tumors that grow within the wall of the uterus.


Some women have no symptoms. But uterine fibroids can cause:

• Pain.

• Bleeding.

• Feeling “full” in the lower abdomen.


• Rest.

• Monitor for miscarriage and premature or breech birth.

• C-section delivery, if blocking birth canal.


ACOG. 2014. Task force report on hypertension in pregnancy. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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