What are the Most Common Pregnancy Risks?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

Although outcomes for mothers and babies are better than at any other time in history, there are still several pregnancy risks which should be taken into consideration by any expectant mother. Some are more prominent in women over the age of 35, such as fetal abnormalities, while others can strike at any age. The most common risks associated with pregnancy include gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, ectopic pregnancy, fetal abnormalities, and hemorrhage. These do not affect most women if proper precautions are taken, but are common enough to be taken into account.

If preeclampsia occurs in the latter months of pregnancy, labor will be induced.
If preeclampsia occurs in the latter months of pregnancy, labor will be induced.

Gestational diabetes is one of the most common pregnancy risks and one of the most serious for many mothers. Generally, it refers to diabetes which is brought on by the pregnancy and increases the mother’s risk of complications. Babies born to mothers with the condition are often large for gestational age and may have a harder time coming through the birth canal. Having gestational diabetes also puts women at greater risk for developing Type II diabetes later in life. In most cases, women who develop this condition do not remain diabetic after giving birth.

Ultrasound checkups can help anticipate complications in pregnancy.
Ultrasound checkups can help anticipate complications in pregnancy.

In most cases, gestational diabetes can be controlled with a strict diet plan used to control blood sugar. Daily testing of sugar levels is also performed with a handheld monitor. Many doctors attempt to induce labor before the due date in a diabetic mother due to the risk for an enlarged infant, but this is not generally necessary for those whose diabetes is controlled.

Genetic problems may lead to miscarriage.
Genetic problems may lead to miscarriage.

Preeclampsia is another risk of pregnancy which occurs relatively often. It is trademarked by high blood pressure, swelling of the hands and feet, and elevated protein levels present in the urine. Without treatment, this condition can escalate and become very serious for both mother and baby. A condition called eclampsia is often the result, and this may lead to seizures, coma, or death. Preeclampsia must be closely monitored, and if it cannot be successfully treated with medication, a cesarean or induction may be needed.

To ward off headaches, pregnant women need to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-packed diet.
To ward off headaches, pregnant women need to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-packed diet.

Fetal abnormalities are also considered pregnancy risks because many of them threaten the health of the unborn child. Genetic issues are more common in women over the age of 35, since their eggs are older and more likely to have abnormalities. Down syndrome is one of the most common conditions, and it is associated with mental retardation and health problems for the baby. Oftentimes, genetic problems lead to a pregnancy loss or miscarriage.

Tubal pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition for the mother.
Tubal pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition for the mother.

Ectopic or tubal pregnancy is also a risk, and can be a life-threatening condition for the mother. An ectopic pregnancy describes a situation in which a fertilized egg implants itself into the fallopian tube rather than the uterus. The tube is not able to expand and support a pregnancy beyond a few weeks, so as the baby grows, eventual tubal rupture is the end result.

Gestational diabetes often leads to early delivery of a large infant.
Gestational diabetes often leads to early delivery of a large infant.

If not caught quickly, a tubal pregnancy could be fatal for the mother due to severe internal bleeding into the abdominal cavity caused by the ruptured tube. Warning signs of a tubal pregnancy include severe stomach pain on one side, bleeding, and lower backache. If these are present, emergency care should be sought immediately.

Diabetes in pregnancy should be taken seriously.
Diabetes in pregnancy should be taken seriously.

Other pregnancy risks include hemorrhage after delivery, infection of the uterus postpartum, and in some cases loss of thyroid function. These can be successfully treated if caught early enough. Heart problems can also occasionally surface during or after pregnancy, most often in those with undiagnosed heart conditions. Symptoms may appear during pregnancy because the heart must work harder to support the growing baby.

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    • If preeclampsia occurs in the latter months of pregnancy, labor will be induced.
      If preeclampsia occurs in the latter months of pregnancy, labor will be induced.
    • Ultrasound checkups can help anticipate complications in pregnancy.
      Ultrasound checkups can help anticipate complications in pregnancy.
    • Genetic problems may lead to miscarriage.
      Genetic problems may lead to miscarriage.
    • To ward off headaches, pregnant women need to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-packed diet.
      To ward off headaches, pregnant women need to stay hydrated and eat a nutrient-packed diet.
    • Tubal pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition for the mother.
      Tubal pregnancy can be a life-threatening condition for the mother.
    • Gestational diabetes often leads to early delivery of a large infant.
      Gestational diabetes often leads to early delivery of a large infant.
    • Diabetes in pregnancy should be taken seriously.
      Diabetes in pregnancy should be taken seriously.
    • A woman in the late stages of pregnancy should select a midwife or obstetrician who can help her prepare for labor and delivery.
      A woman in the late stages of pregnancy should select a midwife or obstetrician who can help her prepare for labor and delivery.