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Early Prenatal Care Reduces Your Risk of Complications

From the moment you receive a positive pregnancy test to arriving at the hospital for your baby’s birth, the road to motherhood is a long one — and you may encounter unexpected bumps along the way. Most pregnancies occur without problems, but occasionally an issue may arise. Most complications can be managed or treated, which is why prenatal care is so important. 

About 8 percent of pregnancies involve complications. For women who are overweight or obese, studies show the risks of developing complications during pregnancy are considerably greater. Even before you get pregnant, talk with your doctor about any health problems you have and ways to reduce your risks. 

Potential Pregnancy Complications

Common complications of pregnancy that can lead to serious maternal and fetal outcomes include: 

  • Hyperemesis gravidarum – severe nausea/weight loss requiring hospitalization

  • Severe preeclampsia – which causes dangerously high blood pressure

  • Gestational diabetes 

  • Preterm labor 

  • Premature rupture of membranes

  • Placental abruption – the placenta detaches from the womb

  • Placenta previa – the placenta partly or completely covers the cervix

  • Anemia – iron deficiency that can cause low birth weight

  • Stillbirth

Although some of these would have obvious symptoms — in the case of hyperemesis gravidarum, for example, the relentless nausea, vomiting and weight loss would prompt a patient to seek care fairly quickly — others can go unnoticed. For instance, gestational diabetes does not show outward signs, but poses a significant risk to mother and baby.  And placental abnormalities can lead to serious complications if not diagnosed before labor. Women with placenta previa, for example, must have their babies delivered via C-section.

Women should begin getting prenatal care as soon as they know they’re pregnant. The sooner an expectant mother gets check-ups and screenings, the easier it is for her care team to quickly control any issues — and often prevent them from happening in future pregnancies.

Prevention and Wellness

Beyond early prenatal care and throughout pregnancy, moms-to-be should: 

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • Stay hydrated. 

  • Eat a nutritious diet with plenty of fresh foods (and know which foods to avoid).

  • Take prenatal vitamins.

  • Exercise for at least 150 minutes a week. 

  • Take medications as prescribed. 

  • Keep detailed logs (blood glucose, blood pressure) as instructed by your physician. 

  • Know symptoms of common pregnancy discomforts that may indicate a complication. Get in touch with your doctor right away if you think something is wrong. 

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