Common Pregnancy Complications in All Trimesters

by Shannon Bartlett

Big Pregnant BellyHealth problems that occur during pregnancy can affect the mother's health, the baby's health or both. The good news is that many of these complications can be successfully treated or prevented.

A safe and healthy pregnancy begins before your positive pregnancy test. Improving your diet, getting control of any chronic conditions and making lifestyle changes help prevent pregnancy complications.

Even when you're in good health, unexpected health problems can crop up during pregnancy. Here's what you can do if you encounter on of these common complications.

Early Pregnancy Complications

Bleeding During the Early Pregnancy

If you're bleeding heavily, have severe cramps and feel like you're going to faint, you could have an ectopic pregnancy. Heavy bleeding of cramping might signal a miscarriage. Other types of bleeding resolve on their own. Almost half of the women who experience bleeding during early pregnancy go on to have full-term babies.

If you start bleeding, call your doctor or midwife or go the the emergency room as soon as possible.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy implants outside the uterus. It can be life-threatening.

Women who have had a sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia, or an infection, such as pelvic inflammatory disease are at an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.


Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. ACOG known as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, estimates that up to 25 percent of diagnosed pregnancies end in miscarriages. Most miscarriages are thought to be caused by chromosomal abnormalities and not by something that the mother happened to do.

Nausea and Vomiting During Pregnancy

Severe nausea and vomiting can endanger both you and your baby. If you can't eat or drink anything, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated and malnourished. Your midwife or doctor can prescribe medication to help counter the nausea.

Second And Third Trimester Complications

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes affects up to 10 percent of pregnancy in the United States. It can lead to additional complications for you and your baby. You'll be offered a screening test during your second trimester. Most women can control their blood sugar levels by following a healthy meal plan and moderate exercise.


High blood pressure, swelling of the hands and face, protein in the urine, headaches and blurred vision signal preeclampsia. If you're near term, your provider might suggest induction. If it's too early to deliver, your doctor will monitor you and your baby's health closely. Recent research could improve treatment within a few years.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Severe and persistent nausea and vomiting can result in low pregnancy weight gain and associated complications for you and your baby. Nutritional counseling, medication and home monitoring help some women. Others require hospitalization for fluids and nutrients. Often hyperemesis eases up around 20 weeks, but some women vomit and feel nauseated all three trimesters (our sympathies!).

Bleeding in the Last Half of Pregnancy

Bleeding in the third trimester with abdominal pain can indicate placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine lining. Other causes for bleeding include sex. If you have any concerns, scares, or doubts, don't hesitate to contact your healthcare provider right away.

Placenta Problems

Placental problems include placental abruptia and placenta previa, where the placenta covers part or the entire opening of the cervix. If the placenta still covers the cervix at birth, your baby will need to arrive via a cesarean.

Twins and Higher Orders of Multiples

Pregnancy complications occur more often when you're carrying multiples. Your doctor will watch your pregnancy more closely than if you just had one baby growing. When you have twins or more, it automatically puts your pregnancy in the high-risk bucket.

Preterm Labor

Contractions in the second and third trimester could be a sign of preterm labor. First-time moms might confuse Braxton-Hicks contractions with the real thing. If your contractions remain regular or increase in intensity, call your doctor, it could be that time!

Rh Factor

At the beginning of your pregnancy, your blood will be tested for Rh factor. If your blood type is Rh negative and your baby's blood type is Rh positive, you start to build up antibodies against the next Rh positive baby. RhoGAM is a medication given around 28 weeks to prevent the build-up of these antibodies. It's given again at birth if the baby is Rh positive. RhoGAM is also given following a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

Group B Strep Infection

The bacteria, Group B strep (GBS), is often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women. It's usually not harmful to you, but GBS can be deadly to your baby if passed during childbirth. You can prevent your baby's exposure by getting tested at 35 to 37 weeks. If you carry GBS, you'll receive an antibiotic during labor to protect your baby.

Now that you're familiar with these common complications, see how you're baby is developing week-by-week or create your own pregnancy calendar!