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Pregnancy Complications

Symptoms, Problems, Diagnosis, Treatment

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Updated July 17, 2009

If you have any of the symptoms in this article, contact your health care provider right away to lower your risk of complications. There are various specific tests done during the first trimester of pregnancy, and a few screenings later in pregnancy to help prevent these problems, or spot them early. Your health care provider will give you a schedule for visits, tests, and screenings. It is important to follow your health care provider's advice about treatment so you have a safe delivery and a strong, healthy baby.

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Symptoms: Slight, irregular vaginal bleeding that often is brownish; pain in the lower abdomen, often on one side, and can be followed by severe pelvic pain; shoulder pain; faintness or dizziness; nausea or vomiting.

Potential Problem: Ectopic pregnancy (the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube).

Diagnosis: Blood tests; vaginal or abdominal ultrasound exam. An ultrasound is a screening tool that uses high-frequency sound waves to form pictures of the fetus on a computer screen; laparoscopy (surgery to view the abdominal organs directly with a viewing instrument).

Treatment: Because the embryo of an ectopic pregnancy cannot survive, it is removed surgically; or the woman is treated with a cancer drug, methotrexate, which dissolves the pregnancy.

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Symptoms: Extreme thirst, hunger, or fatigue (but usually no symptoms). Also, a blood sugar value of 140 mg/DL or greater on a diabetes test.

Potential Problem: Gestational diabetes (a form of diabetes that usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy).

Diagnosis: Blood test one hour after drinking a glucose (form of sugar) drink. Most women can control their blood sugar levels with diet and exercise.

Treatment: Some women with gestational diabetes or women who had diabetes before pregnancy need shots of insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control.

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Symptoms: Flu-like symptoms like mild fever, headache, muscle aches and tiredness; loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements; stomach pain; skin and whites of eyes turning yellow or jaundice; liver problems. Also often no symptoms.

Potential Problem: Hepatitis B (can be passed on to the baby).

Diagnosis: Blood test.

Treatment: Within 12 hours of birth, your baby will need a shot called HBIG, along with the first Hepatitis B shot.

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Symptoms: Often no symptoms, but can include: small blisters or warts in the genital area; fever; fatigue; aches and pains; vaginal discharge especially if it is yellowish, bloody, green, gray, or thick and white like cottage cheese, or with a strong odor; burning or pain when urinating; itching around genital area; itching or burning in vagina; pain in legs or buttocks; pain during sex; frequent yeast infections; skin rash

Potential Problem: HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (can be passed on to the baby).

Diagnosis: Blood test. Physical exam to look for symptoms in the throat, anus, or genital area. Visual exam to inspect skin for rashes, growths or sores, especially the area around the genitals. Pelvic exam to look at the inside of the vagina (birth canal) and cervix (opening to the uterus, or womb) and to feel internal organs for any inflammation or growths. Taking a sample of fluid or tissue from the vaginal, anal or genital area to look for the presence of virus.

Treatment: Antiviral drugs; possible cesarean delivery.

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Symptoms:Flu-like illness with fever, muscle aches, chills, and sometimes diarrhea or nausea that can progress to severe headache and stiff neck.

Potential Problem: Listeriosis (infection from the bacterium listeria monocytogenes, which can be found in soft cheeses and ready-to-eat deli meats).

Diagnosis: Blood test.

Treatment: Antibiotics (often prevent infection in the baby).

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Symptoms: Mild flu-like symptoms, or possibly no symptoms.

Potential Problem: Toxoplasmosis (parasitic infection that can be passed on to the baby, which can be contracted from cat feces or soil, or from eating raw or undercooked meat that contains the parasite).

Diagnosis: Blood test. If the mother is infected, the fetus can be tested through amniocentesis (a test on the fluid around the baby, to diagnose certain birth defects) and ultrasound.

Treatment: If fetus not yet infected, mother can be given an antibiotic, spiramycin (to help reduce severity of symptoms in the newborn). If the fetus is suspected of being infected, the mother can be given two medications, pyrimethamine and sulfadiazine. Infected babies are treated at birth and through the first year of life with these medications.

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