Understanding Warning Signs In Pregnancy

Warning Signs pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when many women experience a range of discomforts. Most of the discomforts—nausea during the early weeks, fatigue, the need to urinate frequently—are perfectly normal. These uncomfortable symptoms are associated with changing hormone levels and the ways your body accommodates a growing child.

Sometimes a symptom that is generally considered normal during pregnancy lasts too long or may become severe enough to warrant medical attention. For example, many women experience the nausea and vomiting associated with morning sickness during the early months of pregnancy. Such symptoms usually pose no risk to mother or baby and they usually end after the first trimester, but occasionally symptoms are severe and last too long, causing an expectant mother to become malnourished and dehydrated. If nausea or vomiting cause result in weight loss or persist past the first trimester, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor.

Another example of a symptom that is not normally a cause for concern is having a fever during your pregnancy. Having a fever due to a cold or the flu is not considered serious but should that fever exceed 100.4 F,  it’s important to contact your doctor immediately.

Some symptoms may point to a serious prenatal medical condition that can have implications for your health and that of your baby.

For example, a severe headache, abdominal pain, and/or swelling may be signs of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and water retention. Because of surging hormones, it is normal to have some puffiness during pregnancy, but sudden or excessive swelling of your feet, legs and hands indicates a potential problem. Depending on the severity of your preeclampsia, a doctor may recommend bed rest and/or medication.

Sometimes a symptom that is perfectly normal later on in your pregnancy indicates a problem when it happens too early.

Contractions, bleeding, and your water breaking, naturally signal the start of the labor process, but should they appear before your due date, you may be going into preterm labor. Any bleeding during pregnancy requires immediate medical attention.

Many women experience Braxton Hicks Contractions throughout the third trimester but these warm-up contractions are different than regular contractions, as they do not increase in intensity. If contractions are regular and less than 10 minutes apart, that’s a sign to call your doctor.

The same is true about the gush of watery fluid that precedes labor. If you think your water has broken, call your doctor. Sometimes urine leakage may feel as if your water has broken, but it’s smart to be sure, especially if you are not close to your due date.

Here’s a list of warning signs you should watch out for and should alert your doctor to:

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting
  • A difference in vaginal discharge
  • Fluid leaking
  • Unusual/severe stomach pains or backaches
  • Pain during urination or the inability to urinate
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive vomiting and diarrhea
  • Fever over 100.4
  • Frequent and/or severe headaches that won’t respond to over-the-counter pain medication.
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to eat or drink
  • Sudden swelling of the hands, feet or face
  • Muscular convulsions
  • Fatigue and excessive thirst
  • Your baby’s activity level decreases

If in doubt, call your doctor. It’s better to report a symptom and have it turn out to be nothing serious, than to wait until a symptom leads to a serious complication.

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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