Prenatal care is important to the health and well-being of a pregnant woman and fetus. During regular check-ups doctors check for proper fetal growth and development, but they are also looking for symptoms that may be associated with the 10 most common pregnancy complications.
One of the major reasons that you receive prenatal care and deliver in a hospital is that you want to identify certain complications in pregnancy early on and prevent them from happening.
Here are some of the most common pregnancy complications:
- Maternal mortality
- Pulmonary embolism
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Miscarriage: 1 in 3-4 pregnancies
- GBS Group B Strep: 1 in 3-4 pregnancies
- Rh negative: 1 in 7 pregnancies
- Preterm birth: 1 in 10 pregnancies
- Low birth weight: 1 in 10 pregnancies
- Preeclampisa: 1 in 10 first pregnancies
- Diabetes: 1 in 10-50 pregnancies
- Hypertension: 1 in 10-20 pregnancies
- Ectopic pregnancy: 1 in 50 pregnancies
- Placenta previa: 1 in 100 pregnancies
Miscarriage is the most common complication of pregnancy. Pregnancy loss occurring before the 6th week after the woman’s last menstrual cycle is termed very early pregnancy loss. After the 6th week miscarriage is referred to as clinical spontaneous abortion.
Group B Strep:
Screening for group B streptococcus bacillus occurs between the 35th and 37th week gestation, in most cases. About 25% of women test positive for group B strep during pregnancy. Treatment is administered during labor to prevent passing the infection on to the infant. Group B strep can cause infections of the bladder and womb in pregnant women and meningitis or pneumonia in newborns, if left untreated.
Rh negative women have tested negative for the Rhesus factor. Less than 15% of the population is Rh negative. Pregnant women who lack Rh factor may become sensitized. If sensitized, the female body can produce antibodies during future pregnancies that attack fetal red blood cells. Rh immunoglobulin shots are administered to Rh negative pregnant women during pregnancy and after birth to prevent sensitization.
When an infant is born before the 37th week gestation, the birth is termed premature or preterm. During the 40-week gestation, the fetus develops and grows at an extraordinary rapid rate. While preterm infants can be born healthy and without medical complications, preterm infants are at increased risk of breathing, bowel, brain and liver issues, including respiratory illness and jaundice. Preterm infants typically stay longer in the hospital than term infants.
Low Birth Weight:
The term low birth weight is often synonymous with preterm, though full term infants can be born at a lower than normal birth weight. If prematurity is an issue, hospital staff will prepare for possible complications associated with preterm birth. If no complications exist, the low birth weight infant will not require advanced medical care.
Preeclampsia is a dangerous medical condition that only occurs during pregnancy. Early symptoms include extreme weight gain, high blood pressure and water retention. Other symptoms include changes in vision, headache, lower back pain and protein in urine. The best treatment for preeclampsia is birth.
Between 10 and 50 women, per 1,000 pregnancies, have type 1 or type 2 diabetes or develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetes is characterized by an inability to naturally control blood glucose levels within normal limits resulting in high or low glucose levels. Type 1 diabetics use insulin to control blood glucose. Type 2 diabetics are treated based on severity of the condition. Treatments may include insulin injections, oral medications and diet/lifestyle changes. Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have not previously been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Diet and exercise is often enough to control the condition, but medications may be needed in some pregnancies.
High blood pressure, often referred to as hypertension, is common in pregnancy and may be associated with an underlying condition like preeclampsia or develop independently of other medical conditions. Hypertension in pregnancy can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, but some women may require medications to maintain healthy blood pressure.
When the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, the pregnancy develops as an ectopic pregnancy. Only fertilized eggs implanted in the uterus are viable, so ectopic pregnancies cannot be carried to term. The most common site of implantation is the fallopian tube. As the pregnancy progresses, pain develops. In severe cases, internal bleeding can result in maternal death if the ectopic pregnancy goes undetected.
If the placenta attaches near or at the cervical mouth, the condition is termed placenta previa. There are multiple variations of the condition, including total placenta previa, partial placenta previa, marginal placenta previa and low-lying placenta previa. The condition increases risk of bleeding during pregnancy and preterm delivery.