When to Call the Doctor During Your First Trimester

call doctor pregnancy

The first trimester of pregnancy is associated with several common symptoms, including nausea, spotting and a more frequent need to urinate. These symptoms generally don’t prompt concern, but they can in certain cases indicate a serious problem that your doctor should know about.

For example, nausea is so common during the first trimester it’s often the first sign of pregnancy. Yet nausea that prevents you from eating enough may require medical attention. Any symptom that is intense or accompanied by pain should prompt a call to your doctor.

The following guidelines can help you decide when to make that call:

1. Vaginal bleeding

Some spotting during the first trimester is normal but heavier bleeding could indicate an  ectopic pregnancy, which happens when an egg is implanted outside the uterus. If you experience consistent or heavy bleeding, or bleeding accompanied by cramps, call your doctor immediately. See more about spotting here.

2. Nausea and vomiting

At least three quarters of women experience nausea and/or vomiting during the first trimester and, for a small percentage, it lasts longer. Nausea may be limited to a certain time of the day or be provoked by certain foods, but most women can manage to eat some food and/or drink liquids. Occasionally, a woman has such extreme nausea that it’s impossible to keep food or water down. This can lead to dehydration, dizziness and an electrolyte imbalance. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a common cause for hospitalization in early pregnancy.

3. Frequent urination with pain

It is normal to urinate more often when you are pregnant, but if you experience any pain or discomfort while urinating, tell your doctor. Pain and frequent urination are symptoms of urinary tract infections, which are common between the 6th and 22nd week of pregnancy. Left untreated, a urinary tract infection is not only painful but can raise the odds of a preterm delivery.

4. Vaginal discharge

Some vaginal discharge is normal but if it seems excessive or is accompanied by itching, let your healthcare provider know. Those symptoms could indicate a vaginal infection or sexually transmitted disease. Treatment can make you more comfortable and protect your baby.

5. Fever

Fever is not a normal symptom of pregnancy. A high temperature could indicate an infection that can potentially affect your developing child. A 2012 Danish study linked the risk of contracting the flu or a fever during pregnancy with a higher incidence of autism in children. To minimize the risk of getting the flu—and developing a fever—doctors recommend that expectant mothers get the the flu vaccine during pregnancy (read more about it here). If your fever rises above 101•F or 38•C or if it is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.

6. Flare-ups

The physical changes that take place during pregnancy can prompt flare ups of chronic but previously controlled conditions, such as asthma, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, IBD, diabetes and lupus. That’s why it’s important for expectant mothers with chronic conditions to eat well, minimize stress and get plenty of rest. Be sure to notify your healthcare provider if you experience unusual symptoms or a flare up of a chronic condition. You may need to alter your regular medication regimen during pregnancy.

Knowing what symptoms to call your doctor about can help you cope with potential problems during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Joan MacDonald
Joan Vos MacDonald has written about health and fitness for newspapers, magazines and websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers and the author of two books on health-related topics, "Tobacco and Nicotine Dangers," for young adults, and "High Fit Home," a design book about fitness and architecture. She lives in upstate New York near her children and grandchildren.

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