Complications of pregnancy include physical and mental conditions that affect the health of the pregnant or postpartum person, their baby, or both. Physical and mental conditions that can lead to complications may start before, during, or after pregnancy. It’s very important for anyone who may become pregnant to get health care before, during, and after pregnancy to lower the risk of pregnancy complications.
If you are pregnant or gave birth within the last year, talk to your health care provider about anything that doesn’t feel right. If you have an urgent maternal warning sign during or after pregnancy, get medical care immediately.
Living a healthy lifestyle and getting health care before, during, and after pregnancy can lower your risk of pregnancy complications.
- Before you get pregnant, eat healthy, stay at a healthy weight, take care of your mental health, avoid tobacco products, and limit or avoid alcohol. Preconception health care can also help you be as healthy as possible before you become pregnant.
- Once you’re pregnant, start prenatal care early and talk to your health care provider about health conditions you have now or had in the past. If you are being treated for a health condition or taking certain medicines, your provider might recommend changing the way your health condition is managed. Be sure to also discuss problems you had in any previous pregnancies.
- After pregnancy, see your health care provider for postpartum care. Be sure to discuss anything that doesn’t feel right, including not just physical symptoms, but also feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that make it hard to take care of yourself, your baby, or others. You may need to see multiple different health care providers to be as healthy as possible after pregnancy.
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Anemia is having lower than the normal number of healthy red blood cells. People with anemia may feel tired and weak. You are more likely to get iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy because your body needs more iron than normal. Your health care provider will check your number of red blood cells during your pregnancy. Treating the underlying cause of the anemia, if possible, can help restore the number of healthy red blood cells. Your provider may also recommend you take iron and/or folic acid supplements to help prevent and manage anemia.
Anxiety disorders are common before, during, and after pregnancy. If you have an anxiety disorder, you may struggle with uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, nervousness, fear, worry, and/or panic. These feelings can be intense and may last a long time. They can also interfere with relationships and daily activities, such as work or school. Anxiety disorders often occur with depression. Getting treatment for anxiety before, during, and after pregnancy is important. Talk to your health care provider as soon as possible if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Everyone feels sad sometimes, but these feelings usually pass in a few days. Depression interferes with daily life and may last for weeks or months at a time. Some people have depression before, during, or after pregnancy. Symptoms of depression include:
- Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Loss of energy.
- Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much.
- Overeating or loss of appetite.
- Feelings of irritability or restlessness.
- Problems concentrating, recalling details, and making decisions.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
If you have many of these symptoms together, and they last more than 2 weeks, you may have depression. Depression during pregnancy can make it hard for you to care for yourself and your pregnancy. Having depression before or during pregnancy is also a risk factor for postpartum depression, which is depression that occurs after pregnancy. Getting treatment is important for both mother and baby. Talk to your health care provider as soon as possible if you think you have depression. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek medical care immediately. More information is available at Depression During and After Pregnancy.
Diabetes is a disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. For pregnant people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar around the time of conception increases the risk of birth defects, stillbirth, and preterm birth. Among people with any type of diabetes, high blood sugar throughout pregnancy can also increase the risk of preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, and the baby being born too large. To manage your diabetes, see your doctor as recommended, monitor your blood sugar levels, follow a good nutrition plan developed with your provider or dietician, be physically active, and take insulin, if directed. Managing diabetes can help you have a healthy pregnancy. If you have diabetes before pregnancy or develop it during pregnancy, it’s important to continue seeing your health care provider after pregnancy to monitor your blood sugar and overall health.
Heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, and congenital heart defects, impact the heart and blood vessels. Making healthy food choices, limiting your alcohol intake, quitting smoking if you smoke, and managing any other chronic conditions can help reduce your risk for many heart conditions. Not everyone has symptoms, but you may feel neck, jaw, chest, belly, or back pain if you have a heart condition. Many people with heart conditions have healthy, uneventful pregnancies, but pregnancy can put stress on the heart of people with some types of heart conditions. Having a heart condition may increase the risk of severe illness and death during and after pregnancy.
If you have a heart condition, it’s important to see your health care provider, ideally before pregnancy or as soon as possible after becoming pregnant. During your first prenatal care visit, let your provider know if you have a heart condition. If you are diagnosed with a heart condition during pregnancy, you may also need to be monitored by your provider earlier or more often after pregnancy. More information can be found at Heart Health and Pregnancy.
You may be at increased risk for other heart conditions in the future if you have some heart conditions, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes during or shortly after pregnancy. Work with your health care provider to monitor your risk or manage your heart condition before, during, and after pregnancy.
High blood pressure is a common heart condition occurring when your blood pressure is higher than normal. Chronic hypertension means having high blood pressure before you get pregnant or before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that first occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Preeclampsia happens if you previously had normal blood pressure and suddenly develop high blood pressure and protein in your urine or other problems after 20 weeks of pregnancy. If you have chronic hypertension, you can also get preeclampsia.
High blood pressure increases the risk of preterm delivery, and low birth weight, plus more serious issues such as eclampsia, stroke, and placental abruption (the placenta separating from the wall of the uterus). High blood pressure may be prevented and is treatable. These 7 strategies to live a heart-healthy lifestyle, plus at-home self-measured blood pressure monitoring with support from your health care provider, can help you manage your high blood pressure. If you are at high risk for preeclampsia, your provider may recommend low-dose aspirin after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Learn more about High Blood Pressure and Pregnancy.
Many pregnant people have some nausea or vomiting, or “morning sickness,” especially in the first 3 months of pregnancy. Hyperemesis gravidarum, however, is more extreme than “morning sickness.” It refers to persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This can lead to weight loss and dehydration and may require intensive treatment. If you are concerned about your symptoms, call your health care provider. If you have severe nausea (e.g., you are unable to drink for more than 8 hours or eat for more than 24 hours), seek medical care immediately.
Infections can complicate pregnancy and may have serious consequences. Being screened and treated for infections, such as HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and getting recommended vaccines can prevent many bad outcomes. Easy steps, including hand washing and avoiding certain foods, can also help protect you from some infections. Your health care provider can help you stay up to date with your vaccines. To learn more about different infections and how to protect your health, visit the following CDC pages:
One common bacterial infection during pregnancy is a urinary tract infection (UTI). Your health care provider will likely test your urine early in pregnancy to see if you have a UTI and treat you with antibiotics, if necessary. Treatment will make it better, often in 1 or 2 days. Although not everyone with a UTI has symptoms, you may have a UTI if you have:
- Pain or burning when you pee.
- Fever, tiredness, or shakiness.
- An urge to pee often.
- Pressure in your lower belly.
- Pee that smells bad or looks cloudy or reddish.
- Nausea or back pain.
Starting pregnancy at a healthy weight can help reduce the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, and cesarean delivery. If you are underweight [PDF – 1 MB] or overweight, talk to your health care provider about ways to reach and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant. Gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy is also important for your health during and after pregnancy. Learn about pregnancy weight gain recommendations and steps to help you meet your pregnancy weight gain goal.
- CDC Pregnancy
Learn about tips to get ready for pregnancy, giving your baby a healthy start in life, and keeping yourself and the baby healthy after birth.
- Pregnancy Complications
Learn more about conditions that may complicate pregnancy from the March of Dimes.
- Pregnancy Complications
Learn more about pregnancy complications from Womenshealth.gov.
- Severe Maternal Morbidity
Health care professionals and researchers interested in learning more about severe pregnancy complications may visit the CDC Severe Maternal Morbidity page.