Common Pregnancy Complications


Melanie has never had to deal with any sort of medical condition in her life. So the expectant mom became wildly surprised when she was informed that she had diabetes. How could she have diabetes when she has been very careful with her diet? Gestational diabetes is one of the common complications of pregnancy, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the US Department of Health and Human Services. NICHD's vision, among others, is to facilitate research on important events that occur during pregnancy.

If you're an expectant mom though, don't get carried away by anxiety. Majority of women go through pregnancy and childbirth without nary a complication. Just mark this story for reference.

Here, some of the common complications of pregnancy as explained by the NICHD along with their signs, symptoms, and treatment as listed down in the book, What to Expect When You're Expecting, authored by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway, BSN.


A woman who didn't have diabetes before pregnancy may develop the condition. This may primarily be attributed to the hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy causing her body to either not produce enough insulin or not use it normally. It is insulin that gets the glucose out of your blood and into the cells of your body. If and when glucose does build up in your blood, it may cause heart disease, vision problems, and kidney disease.

Signs and symptoms

  • Sugar in the urine
  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent and very copious urination
  • Fatigue


  • Controlling blood sugar levels maybe achieved through good medical and self care
  • Follow doctor's instructions faithfully
  • Stick to the proper diet
  • Manage weight gain
  • Get adequate rest and exercise
  • Regulate medication
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels


This is a serious medical condition which may lead to premature delivery. Women who are at risk for preeclampsia include those who are pregnant for the first time, those who have previously had preeclampsia, those with existing conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease, those who are 35 years and up as well as those who are suffering from obesity.

Signs and symptoms

  • Swelling of hands and face with sudden excessive weight gain
  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine

In the severe stage, the signs and symptoms may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased quantities of protein in the urine
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • All-over itching
  • Irritability
  • Scanty urine output
  • Confusion
  • Severe gastric pain
  • Abnormal liver or kidney function and blood platelet test results


  • Go to your doctor immediately when you experience any of these symptoms for immediate treatment. “Treatment will vary according to the severity of the disease, the condition of both mother and baby, the length of pregnancy, and the doctor's judgement,” according to Eisenberg, Murkoff, and Hathaway.


This is labor which begins before 37 weeks. Babies born before 37 weeks are more likely to experience any number of health problems as the development of their organs such as the lungs and brain is still incomplete.

Signs and symptoms

  • Menstrual-like cramps
  • Nausea or indigestion
  • Lower back pain or pressure
  • Ache or pressure in the pelvis, thighs or groin
  • Watery or pinkish or brownish discharge possibly preceded by the passage of thick, gelatinous mucus plug
  • Trickle or flow of amniotic fluid from the vagina


  • Immediate medical attention is needed as soon as the above symptoms are experienced. The objective is to stop or postpone premature labor. The longer the baby stays in the womb, the better.
  • Limitations on sexual intercourse and other physical activities along with bed rest may be necessary
  • In most cases, hospitalized bed rest without medication is effective in stopping premature labor for women who experienced strong contractions but no bleeding
  • Medication may be prescribed

Photograph by Stanley Ong