The first trimester of pregnancy is a time of excitement and anticipation. But, for some women, it can also be when they worry about whether or not something could go wrong with their baby.
You may wonder what symptoms warrant immediate medical attention during pregnancy and what symptoms can wait until your next prenatal visit.
This feeling may come up after an ultrasound or other test that shows some concern about the unborn child’s health.
Understandably, this fear can be overwhelming and lead to sleepless nights before many mothers-to-be know what exactly might be happening.
Knowing what signs to look out for can help ease these worries;
Always ask your doctor at your visits about your concerns. But keep in mind some symptoms do need swift attention.
Here are the warning signs that indicate there may be more going on than just nerves during pregnancy.
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Dangerous Symptoms To Watch For
If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is essential to call your practitioner immediately.
They can advise you on what further steps may be necessary and rule out more serious complications such as preterm labour.
While it’s important not to panic, keep in mind that delaying care can make the situation more severe than if your doctor had been alerted at the first sign of symptoms.
Pregnancy is a time of significant change for your body and in your life, as you get ready for your baby to arrive.
It also can be a time when you may be worried about some of the changes you are experiencing, and you want to know when you should seek help.
Most changes in your body are likely to be a regular part of pregnancy. Most pregnancy health issues are mild and familiar.
However, some signs indicate that things may not be going well and could point to a more serious pregnancy complication.
Some of these symptoms may appear at different stages of your pregnancy; others might occur at any time.
Even if you are not sure about your symptoms but think that something doesn’t feel right with your own or your baby’s health, it’s essential to get it checked out.
Contact your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
Any Time During Pregnancy
While some signs may only appear at certain times during your pregnancy, many can occur at any stage, including:
- prolonged or severe vomiting
- bleeding from your vagina
- a discharge from your vagina that is unusual, or a lot more than usual
- severe or long-lasting headaches
- continuing weight loss
- fever or chills
- urgency, pain or a burning feeling when urinating (weeing)
- constantly feeling out of breath, dizzy or weak or having a racing heart
- you have had a blow to your stomach (such as from a fall, crash or a family violence incident)
- you are experiencing problems with your emotional health that last longer than two weeks, such as feeling depressed, anxious or being unable to do your usual everyday tasks
Early Pregnancy (Before 20 Weeks)
Certain types of pain in the early stages of pregnancy could be a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy:
- persistent or severe pain on one side of your abdomen or pain in the tip of one shoulder
- severe pain or cramping in your lower belly (tummy)
Later Pregnancy (After 20 Weeks)
Although some discomfort is expected during the later stages of pregnancy, some signs need to be checked by a doctor immediately, including:
- changes to your vision, flashing lights or blurry eyesight, which are signs of preeclampsia
- sudden, severe swelling in your hands, feet or face
- extreme itchiness of your skin, including hands and feet
- a large amount of swelling in your legs (which is also painful)
- if your baby has stopped moving or is moving differently
Bleeding means different things throughout your pregnancy.
If you are bleeding heavily and have severe abdominal pain and menstrual-like cramps or feel like you will faint during the first trimester, it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
Ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, can be life-threatening.
Heavy bleeding with cramping could also be a sign of miscarriage in the first or early second trimester.
By contrast, bleeding with abdominal pain in the third trimester may indicate placental abruption when the placenta separates from the uterine lining.
Bleeding is always severe. Any bleeding during pregnancy needs immediate attention. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room.
Severe Nausea And Vomiting
It’s widespread to have some nausea when you’re pregnant. However, if it gets to be severe, that may be more serious.
“If you can’t eat or drink anything, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated,” Bernstein says. Being malnourished and dehydrated can harm your baby.
If you experience severe nausea, tell your healthcare provider. Your doctor may prescribe medication or advise changing your diet.
Baby’s Activity Level Significantly Declines
What does it mean if your previously active baby seems to have less energy? It may be expected. But how can you tell?
Some troubleshooting can help determine if there is a problem. For example, you first drink something cold or eat something. Then lie on your side to see if this gets the baby moving.
Counting kicks can also help. There is no optimal or critical number of movements, but generally, you should establish a baseline and have a subjective perception of whether your baby is moving more or less.
As a general rule, you should have ten or more kicks in two hours. Anything less should prompt a phone call to your doctor.
Call your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor has monitoring equipment that can be used to determine if the baby is moving and growing appropriately.
Contractions Early In The Third Trimester
Contractions could be a sign of preterm labour. But a lot of first-time moms may confuse actual labour and false labour.
False labour contractions are called Braxton-Hicks contractions. They’re unpredictable, non-rhythmic, and do not increase in intensity.
They will subside in an hour or with hydration. But regular contractions are about 10 minutes apart or less and increase in intensity.
Call your doctor right away if you’re in your third trimester and think you’re having contractions. If it is too early for the baby to be born, your doctor may be able to stop labour.
Your Water Breaks
You walk into the kitchen for a drink and feel a flood of water rush down your legs. Your water could have broken, but during pregnancy, the enlarged uterus can cause pressure on your bladder too.
So it could be urine leakage. Sometimes water breaking is a dramatic gush of fluid, but other times it is more subtle.
If you are unsure if it is urine versus an actual membrane rupture, go to the bathroom and empty your bladder.
If the fluid continues, then you have broken your water.” Call your doctor or go to the hospital.
Persistent Severe Headache, Abdominal Pain, Visual Disturbances, And Swelling During Your Third Trimester
These symptoms could be a sign of preeclampsia. That’s a serious condition that develops during pregnancy and is potentially fatal.
The disorder is marked by high blood pressure and excess protein in your urine that typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Call your doctor right away and get your blood pressure tested,” Bernstein says. “Good prenatal care can help catch preeclampsia early.”
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Some aches and pains are to be expected during pregnancy. After all, the baby’s getting bigger by the day, and your muscles and ligaments are doing a whole lot of stretching.
The pulling or sharp, stabbing sensations that you might feel on one or both of your sides or over your pubic bone caused by round ligament pain isn’t worrisome.
You should report immediately severe pelvic or abdominal pain that’s not relieved by a heating pad, soaking in a warm tub or Tylenol.
If it’s accompanied by nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, it could indicate something that needs treatment, like a GI virus, kidney infection or UTI—so pick up the phone.
And if it’s accompanied by bleeding or other symptoms, it could be a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or a cyst.
Swollen Hands Or Face
Yup, everything’s getting bigger, and a little bit of swelling is to be expected. But pay close attention to your hands and face.
By itself, a minor puffiness in your face isn’t abnormal.
But accompanied with other symptoms—such as headaches that aren’t resolved with Tylenol, gastric pain, dizziness or changes in vision—swelling in your hands or face could be a sign of preeclampsia, which is a complication that requires close monitoring and possible intervention.
Early detection is essential with preeclampsia, so let your doctor know if you experience any signs.
For many moms-to-be, headaches that come and go are par for the course during pregnancy (you can thank those hormones coursing through your body).
But if your headache doesn’t go away after some Tylenol, rest and hydration, “we want to hear about them. They’re a significant symptom of preeclampsia.
Persistent Back Pain
Back pain is pretty joint in your third trimester (you’re sporting a big baby bump, after all).
But if that pain just doesn’t quit, call your doctor. They can check to make sure it’s just normal pregnancy pain and not a sign of kidney or bladder infection, cyst, miscarriage or preterm labour.
Report it immediately when back pain is associated with fever or chills or urinary frequency/pain with urination.
Maybe you got up too fast, and you’re experiencing some normal pregnancy dizziness.
But the blurry vision that’s persistent or comes with other symptoms, such as swelling, abdominal pain, headache or rapid weight gain, could be a sign of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, both of which require medical treatment.
Report it immediately, Stamps says.
Rapid Weight Gain
No, don’t stress about gaining weight during pregnancy—after all, you’re supposed to!
But, if you put on more than five pounds in one week, call your healthcare provider immediately to rule out preeclampsia.
Here’s another (downright annoying) pregnancy symptom that could mean nothing at all, or it could indicate a risk to you and your baby.
Your skin could be itchy simply because it’s dry and stretched or because you have a rash called PUPPP, which is aggravating but not harmful at all.
But if you have all-over itching or your itchiness is severe, talk to your OB.
They may have to do a particular test to rule out cholestasis of pregnancy, a rare liver disorder that can cause serious issues, such as preterm labour and stillbirth.
According to Gordon, before you panic, take a deep breath and know that cholestasis impacts only about 0.3 to 5 per cent of pregnancies.
You’re more vulnerable to cold and flu germs while you’re pregnant, so a fever is pretty likely to happen sometime while you’re pregnant.
Still, let your doctor know if you have any fever of 100.4 or more significant.
Several viruses and conditions can cause fever, and it’s important to get yours diagnosed and treated.
Our experts say it’s essential for pregnant women to get the flu vaccine since pregnant women are more likely to get sick and have severe complications from the flu than other women during flu season.
But if you do get the flu, don’t rush into a hospital or doctor’s office where you can spread it to other pregnant women. Call your doctor first.
Baby Moving Less Often
Are you feeling baby kicks? Make a mental note to start to develop a sense of a baby’s habits and patterns.
Babies have sleep and wake cycles. So if you’re concerned that the baby is moving less than usual, try drinking something cold or having a sweet snack and then lay on your side.
That may help entice them to get moving again. Then, while you’re relaxed, start doing fetal kick counts every time the baby moves.
During two hours, you should be able to track at least ten movements, says Gordon. If you don’t, call your doctor for a professional check-in on the baby.
Gush Of Fluid
This isn’t your average pregnancy discharge. Feeling constantly wet down there or having a trickle (or gush!) fluid can mean your water has broken.
If that’s the case and you’re not in labour yet, you’re likely to be within 24 hours. Either way, your doctor must know ASAP.
Most women will have normal pregnancies with no complications whatsoever. It is essential, however, to learn the warning signs of a potential problem.
Your doctor or midwife should alert you to issues that may be specific to your situation, but the general warning signs apply to every pregnancy.
Your healthcare provider will routinely screen for potential problems during your prenatal care visits.
Blood and urine tests, ultrasounds, and other screening tests will help your doctor monitor your pregnancy and decide if you are in a higher risk category for any specific issues.
Remember that while there may be other causes for your symptoms, you should not get professional advice.
There can be subtle differences between minor problems and major complications in pregnancy.
When you call your practitioner, be sure to give them enough information to help them determine when and where to see you. Sometimes it can wait until your next appointment.
In other cases, your doctor may want to see you in their office on the same day, ask you to go to the emergency room, or head to labour and delivery, depending on how far along you are and what symptoms you are experiencing.
Don’t let worries about bothering your doctor or midwife keep you from calling about any symptoms you feel unsure of.
Your provider and their staff are used to answering questions from pregnant patients every day. After all, their entire focus is ensuring a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.
During your prenatal visits, your provider will conduct screenings to see that your essential health markers—and those of your baby—are within normal limits. They will also help you figure out what you might be more at risk for based on your health history and lifestyle.
In addition, your doctor or midwife can provide you with advice on helping to lower any pregnancy risks with diet, exercise, and other measures.
It’s a better choice to call about a symptom you’re unsure of rather than allowing it to continue.
The adage “better safe than sorry” definitely rings true here. Even if your symptom is entirely typical, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have nothing to worry about after discussing it with your doctor.
What Happens Next?
When you see your healthcare professional, they may perform some tests to check or maintain the health of you and your baby. These tests may include:
- a health assessment and investigation
- an ultrasound or blood test
You may also receive a referral to another doctor or specialist, and you can also get emotional support.
How Can I Avoid Pregnancy Complications?
It’s often not possible to avoid a complication in pregnancy.
You may have a higher chance of developing one if you have a health problem before conception or had one during a previous pregnancy.
There may also be a higher chance if you have a family history of pregnancy complications.
It may be possible to lessen the chance of developing a problem or reduce the event of a complication worsening by making sure you go to all of your antenatal appointments.
If a potential health issue is found, you may need additional antenatal appointments to more closely monitor the health of you and your baby.
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