Symptom Watch: 12 Pregnancy Red Flags You Shouldn't Ignore
If you experience any of these 12 warning signs during pregnancy, call your doctor right away.
Most women can expect to have a healthy pregnancy. But knowing that might not stop you from fretting about every twinge and discomfort you have. While most symptoms are usually nothing to worry about, some signal a problem that needs attention.
"Red flags" are symptoms that may signal a problem with you or your unborn baby. Some deserve an immediate call to your doctor. Learn what these warning signs are so you know when to act.
"Better safe than sorry"
Some symptoms, such as a backache or headache, may or may not be serious. When in doubt, call your doctor. He or she will likely examine you to check for problems. It's better to be safe and call your doctor too much, than to be sorry you didn't contact him or her soon enough.
Prompt medical care is crucial in some situations. If you experience any of these 12 symptoms during your pregnancy, call your doctor right away:
1. Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking from your vagina. One out of every four women may have vaginal bleeding at some point during pregnancy. It may not be serious. Or, it could be a sign of a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or a problem with the placenta. Call your doctor right away to find out the cause. Call 9-1-1 if you have vaginal bleeding with any of the following:
- Very heavy bleeding
- Severe abdominal pain
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Your baby is moving much less or has sudden violent movements
Leaking clear fluid could mean your "water broke" and labor is imminent.
2. Changes in vision. Blurry vision during pregnancy could be a sign of gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or preeclampsia. This is a serious condition marked by high blood pressure and protein in your urine. Let your doctor know at once about any changes in vision. Call 9-1-1 if you have double vision or suddenly have trouble seeing.
3. Severe abdominal or back pain could mean you have an ectopic pregnancy, a problem with the placenta or preterm labor. Seek emergency medical help.
4. Frequent, painful headaches can be a symptom of preeclampsia. They may also be due to the change in hormones, increased blood circulation or other causes. Let your doctor know if you are having frequent headaches. Go to the emergency room (after notifying your doctor) if you have a severe headache along with nausea or vomiting.
5. Contractions may signal labor. Follow the guidelines that your doctor or midwife has given you if you are at full term. The following are signs that delivery may be very imminent, or that there is a serious life-threatening problem. Call 9-1-1 if:
- The contractions are intense
- You feel like you have to push or have a bowel movement
- You have heavy vaginal bleeding
- Your water has broken and you see the umbilical cord protruding from the vagina or it feels like there is something in the vagina
- Your water has broken and it is thick, yellow, green or brown
- Your baby has stopped moving or has violent movements
- If you feel like you may pass out
Get to the hospital if your water has broken or if your contractions are intense and three minutes apart (five minutes if you have delivered before). Call your doctor right away if you are having any contractions and are not full term.
6. Decrease or sharp increase in the baby's movements. If your unborn baby usually moves around and you notice less action, it could be a sign of fetal distress. Sudden violent movements of the baby can also be a sign that he is in distress. Seek immediate medical help.
7. Vomiting and diarrhea. If you have these symptoms, you may have an infection. An infection can harm your unborn baby if left untreated. If you can't keep foods and liquids down, your baby will not be getting the nourishment he or she needs to grow. And you could become dehydrated, which is also dangerous. Seek prompt medical help if you have diabetes, are dehydrated, or if you have a fever, severe abdominal pain or a severe headache along with the vomiting and nausea.
8. Fever or chills could be a sign of infection. These are also symptoms of the flu. During pregnancy, you are more likely to have complications from the flu and other infections, so it's important to seek care right away.
9. Pain or burning when urinating may mean you have a urinary tract infection. Get prompt treatment because some vaginal infections are linked to preterm birth and low birth-weight babies.
10. Swelling of your hands, face or feet could signal preeclampsia.
11. Dizziness or convulsions are other symptoms of preeclampsia. They could also be symptoms of the more dangerous condition, eclampsia, which can lead to organ damage. Call 9-1-1 if you are dizzy, pass out or have a seizure.
12. Have thoughts of harming yourself or your unborn baby. Call 9-1-1 at once if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your unborn baby. If you have symptoms of depression, let your doctor know. Many treatment options, including some medications, are safe for pregnant women.