Melissa Magstadt, South Dakota Secretary of Health
South Dakota Department of Health

Pregnancy Risks

The following information about pregnancy risks is reprinted from the web sites of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine. Specific web addresses are included. Risk is listed by alphabetical order. Any of the below mentioned risks or complications can be lessened with good medical care.

Eclampsia ( Eclampsia is the occurrence of seizures (not attributed to another cause) during pregnancy (usually after the 20th week). The cause of eclampsia is not well understood. Eclampsia may follow pre-eclampsia, if that condition cannot be brought under control. Eclampsia occurs in approximately 1 out of 2,000-3,000 pregnancies.

Ectopic Pregnancy ( Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants in tissue outside of the uterus and the placenta and fetus begin to develop there. The most common site is within a Fallopian tube. However, ectopic pregnancies can rarely occur in the ovary, the abdomen, and in the lower portion of the uterus (the cervix). Ectopic pregnancies occur from 1 in every 40 to 1 in every 100 pregnancies.

Gestational diabetes ( approximately 3 to 5 of 100 pregnant women in the United States are diagnosed as having gestational diabetes.

HELLP syndrome ( HELLP syndrome is a group of symptoms that occur in pregnant women who have:

  • H -- hemolytic anemia
  • EL -- elevated liver enzymes
  • LP -- low platelet count

It occurs in 10 out of 100 pregnant women with pre-eclampsia or eclampsia.

Hyperemesis gravidarum ( Hyperesmesis gravidarum is severe nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It can lead to loss of weight and body fluids.

Placenta abruptio ( Placenta abruptio is separation of the placenta (the organ that nourishes the fetus) from the site of uterine implantation before delivery of the fetus. The incidence of placenta abruptio is approximately 1 out of 150 deliveries.

Placenta previa ( Placenta previa is a condition that may occur during pregnancy when the placenta implants in the lower part of the uterus and obstructs the cervical opening to the vagina. The incidence of placenta previa is approximately 1 out of 200 births.

Postpartum depression ( There are three types: baby blues occurring in 70 to 85 of 100 postpartum women, postpartum depression occurring in 10 out of 100 women giving birth, and postpartum psychosis from mild to very serious. The incidence of postpartum psychosis is 1 in 1,000 women within one year of the delivery.

Preeclampsia ( Preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension occurs in approximately 8 out of 100 pregnancies. Increased risk is associated with first pregnancies, advancing maternal age, African-American women, multiple pregnancies, and women with a past history of diabetes, hypertension, or kidney disease.

Premature infant ( Premature infants are any infants born more than 3 weeks before their due date. Approximately 10 out of 100 births in the United State are premature.

Spontaneous abortion ( A threatened miscarriage or spontaneous abortion occurs in approximately 10 of 100 pregnancies between 7 and 12 weeks of gestation. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding, abdominal cramps, and low back pain.


Baby blues - A condition many woman feel in the days right after a birth of a baby. Feelings may include mood swings, crying for no reason, sadness, loneliness, impatience, irritability, restlessness, anxiety,

Fallopian tube - the tube which extends from the side of the uterus and ends near the ovary. The egg released from the ovary travels through this tube to reach the uterus.

Fetus - SDCL 34-23A-1 (2) and SDCL 34-25-1.1 (10) define fetus as "the biological offspring, including the implanted embryo or unborn child, of human parents."

Gestational diabetes - a disorder in which the body has problems using carbohydrates starting or first recognized during pregnancy.

Hypertension - High blood pressure.

Ovary - two glands on each side of the female's pelvis in which the egg develops.

Placenta - Flattened, round mass of spongy tissue that contains a lot of blood vessels. It attaches to the inside of the uterine wall and carries food and oxygen to the fetus, and carries wastes away from the fetus.

Postpartum depression - A condition a woman may feel in the weeks following the birth of a baby or even months later. The feelings may be similar to baby blues but are much stronger.

Preeclampsia - a condition occurring during pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling of the feet, ankles and lower legs.

Psychosis - A serious mental illness where the individual may lose touch with reality, hear or see things that are not there, and/or see things differently than they are.

Spontaneous abortion - Loss of the fetus during pregnancy due to natural causes.

Threatened miscarriage - Vaginal bleeding or spotting with or without cramping occurring early in the pregnancy which may lead to loss of the fetus.

Uterine implantation - Process by which the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus.

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