pregnant woman

Pregnancy is an exciting and scary time. With so many emotions and nerves, it’s tough to know whether that pain you feel or light spotting you see is normal or a sign of something more serious. And whether you’re a first-time mom-to-be or if you’ve already have children, every pregnancy is different.

Pregnancy places a large strain on your body, and sometimes complications can arise. Many are manageable, but it’s important to know the symptoms of common complications and when to visit your doctor to ensure the health and well-being of you and your baby.

Common Pregnancy Complications

  • Anemia — a condition of low red blood cells. It can make you feel tired, dizzy, or short of breath. Regularly eating foods high in iron is the best way to manage anemia.
  • Gestational diabetes — this is found in a routine screening test and can usually be controlled with diet during pregnancy. It’s important to follow a doctor’s recommendations if you get diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to preeclampsia or early delivery. The baby can also be larger than average, making delivery a challenge, or born with low blood sugar or jaundice.
  • Severe nausea — Nausea and vomiting early in pregnancy is common. In some cases, it can be severe enough to cause dehydration. In that case, you may need medication or IV fluids at a hospital. Usually, nausea gets better after the 20th week of pregnancy.
  • Vaginal spotting or bleeding — red or brown spotting or light bleeding happens in many pregnancies. If it persists, you have bleeding and/or cramping, or you see fluid or tissue in your underwear, call your doctor right away. This may be a sign of something more serious.

Possible Serious Pregnancy Complications


Miscarriage happens in about 1 in 5 pregnancies and usually before the 20th week of pregnancy. Miscarriages happen for many reasons, most of which are out of your control. Signs of miscarriage include bleeding and severe cramping.


Preeclampsia is a condition of high blood pressure in the mother. Preeclampsia causes:

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pain
  • Swelling

Delivery is the only cure. Bed rest may be needed to give the baby longer to develop.

Placenta previa

Placenta previa is a condition when the placenta covers the opening of the cervix. You may experience bleeding or no symptoms. If it happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will advise you to reduce your activity.

Placental abruption

Placental abruption is a condition where the placenta separates from the uterine wall. Symptoms of placental abruption include:

  • Bleeding
  • Cramping
  • Tenderness

For less severe cases, bed rest is the best treatment. If the separation is severe, the baby may need to be delivered early.

Preventing Pregnancy Complications

The best way to avoid complications during pregnancy is to take steps to reduce infection, eat healthy, and exercise. Also, avoid smoking, alcohol, and drugs to keep yourself and your baby healthy.

Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong with you or your baby, contact your doctor right away.

Make sure your pregnancy is a happy and healthy one. If you have questions, get in touch with an expert by visiting UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital online.

Editor's Note: This gallery was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .