A pregnancy complication is any disease or condition that affects a person’s pregnancy. Getting regular prenatal care, attending all your appointments and tests and sharing your symptoms with your provider is the best thing you can do during pregnancy. Early detection and prompt treatment can help most pregnancy complications.
Pregnancy complications are medical conditions that may affect you or the fetus’s health during pregnancy. Your pregnancy care provider watches for complications during pregnancy. You can help them detect potential problems by attending all your prenatal appointments. Early detection and prompt treatment can help reduce the chance of serious complications.
Complications during pregnancy can happen for many reasons. Preexisting medical conditions or new ones (caused by being pregnant) can cause pregnancy complications.
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Some common early pregnancy complications are:
Some of the common complications in the last half of pregnancy include:
These are some of the more common complications of pregnancy, but there are many others. Talk to your pregnancy care provider about how you’re feeling at your prenatal appointments. Having honest conversations about your symptoms helps them detect potential problems. If you do experience a complication of pregnancy, your pregnancy care provider may recommend a maternal-fetal medicine specialist.
Anyone can be at risk for a complication during their pregnancy. Your risk is higher if you have a chronic medical condition or illness before pregnancy.
Some examples of health conditions or diseases that may cause complications during pregnancy are:
Many medications used to treat chronic health conditions can safely be used in pregnancy. Some medications may need more frequent monitoring during pregnancy or changes in the dose. Please check with your healthcare provider before you stop or change any of your current medications.
Other factors that may increase your risk for pregnancy complications include:
Uterine fibroids don’t usually cause problems during pregnancy. However, they can cause early labor or for the fetus to be in a breech position. A C-section may be safer if a fibroid is blocking your baby’s exit from your vagina during delivery.
There isn’t solid evidence that taking birth control pills during early pregnancy causes harm to the fetus. However, you should stop using all hormonal contraception as soon as you know you’re pregnant. If you suspect you’re pregnant, you should take a pregnancy test right away.
The reason data on this topic is limited is that medical researchers don’t typically conduct testing on pregnant people or fetuses. Testing how a pregnant person reacts to using hormonal birth control throughout the pregnancy puts the fetus at risk.
While some pregnancy complications are out of your control, there are some things you can do to lower your risk for pregnancy complications. These include:
Most people don’t experience pregnancy complications. Studies suggest about 8% of pregnancies have complications that, if untreated, could harm you or the fetus.
Some conditions are more common in people who are pregnant before age 15. These include:
Research also suggests that infant mortality (death) is higher in teenage parents.
About 700 people die each year in the United States from complications of pregnancy. Many of these deaths are considered preventable if the complications are recognized and treated early.
The most common causes of pregnancy-related death are:
Studies show that an increasing number of pregnant people in the U.S. have a chronic health condition like hypertension and diabetes before pregnancy. These conditions put you at higher risk of complications during pregnancy and in the first year postpartum. If you have a chronic health condition and are considering pregnancy, please schedule a pre-pregnancy visit to determine what steps you should take before conception.
It’s important to discuss all your symptoms with your provider during pregnancy. This is the only way they can diagnose and treat potential complications. Call your pregnancy care provider right away if you:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hearing you have a pregnancy complication can be scary. It’s normal to feel worried for the fetus’s health and your own health. Most pregnancy complications are treatable, especially when your pregnancy care provider detects them early. The best thing you can do is to attend all your prenatal appointments, ultrasounds and tests. Don’t be afraid to ask your provider questions about your diagnosis; they can put your mind at ease. Share your symptoms with them so they can give you the right care as soon as possible.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/14/2022.
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