While pregnancy can often be a very happy time spent in excited anticipation of the birth of a new bundle of joy, it can also be a scary time spent worrying about complications. Learning about some of the most common complications and how they are handled, will hopefully help you ease your fears and be aware of what to watch out for.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy is not the most common complication, but it does occur in 1 out of every 40-100 pregnancies and is more common in women who become pregnant over the age of 35. This is a condition in which the fetus begins to develop outside of the womb. The fetus cannot survive in this environment and it can be a life-threatening situation for the mother, so it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition. In most cases, the fetus begins to develop in the fallopian tubes, but it can also develop in the ovary, stomach area, or cervix (these cases are very rare). According to the Mayo Clinic, ectopic pregnancies cannot proceed normally, and the fertilized egg cannot survive. Early treatment can help preserve the chance for future healthy pregnancies.

Symptoms include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Pain in the lower belly, pelvic area and/or low back
  • Mild cramping on one side of the pelvis
  • No periods
  • Intense pressure in the rectum
  • Low blood pressure

Preterm Labor

Preterm Labor is a common complication many women experience. In this situation, the mother’s body starts to deliver the baby before she has reached the full 37 week term, generally between the 20th and 36th week of pregnancy. The major complications are that the baby’s lungs may not be mature enough to allow them to breathe on their own after birth. Advances in neonatal technology have increased the likelihood that babies born as small as 1 and a half pounds can survive preterm labor.

The two most common symptoms is a feeling similar to menstrual cramping and a subtle backache.If you think you might be experiencing preterm labor, visit your doctor. They will check your dilation and for any contractions. If they find you are having preterm labor, medications will be given to help stop the labor and they will either keep you in the hospital on bed rest or send you home on strict bed rest orders.

Post-term Labor

The exact opposite of a preterm labor is a post term labor. This is another somewhat common complication of pregnancy and is the situation in which you have not delivered by the end of the 42nd week. While this can be a very agonizing and frustrating experience, there is little health risk involved for the mother. The baby however, will be at risk of malnutrition or pneumonia, which can be very serious as the baby’s immune system has not been fully developed yet. Doctors generally decide to induce labor when the mother has not delivered two weeks past her due date. This is usually done by giving the mother oxytocin through an IV and then the labor goes on as it normally would.

Gestational Diabetes

This is a condition that develops during pregnancy if the mother’s body is not making enough insulin. This condition generally develops during the second trimester and there are several factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing it, including:

  • Being older than 25 when you become pregnant
  • Having family history of diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure and/or being overweight before pregnancy
  • Having too much amniotic fluid
  • Having had an unexplained miscarriage or stillbirth

Unfortunately, there are not many symptoms of gestational diabetes, and is generally discovered through your regularly scheduled oral glucose tolerance test which is given somewhere between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. Some symptoms you might experience include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections, including those of the bladder, vagina and skin
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite

Gestational diabetes cannot be treated by pills, most treatment is through diet or insulin. The complications for the mother include injury during birth due to the fact that most babies born to mothers with this condition are much larger than the average baby. While gestational diabetes is a temporary condition, there is a chance that the mother will develop diabetes 5 to 10 years after giving birth. The American Diabetes Association recommends you start treatment as soon as your are diagnosed so both you and your baby are happy and healthy.

Low Birth Weight

This is a common condition that can be caused by a number of factors including poor nutrition of the mother, substance abuse, smoking, STDs, various contagious diseases and lack of proper prenatal care. Babies that are born pre-maturely for other reasons, such as a preterm labor, almost always have a low birth weight. If a baby is born with a low birth weight they will have to stay in the hospital, often in the NICU, for up to four months. The complications these babies are at risk for include respiratory infections, blindness, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, and heart infections.