A typical pregnancy may not be a cakewalk, but most pregnant women do not experience any serious complications. That said, problems can and do occur, ranging from mere annoyances to serious medical concerns. If you experience any of the following symptoms, get in touch with your midwife or obstetrician immediately.
1. Excessive vomiting or nausea. Morning sickness is a typical pregnancy symptom experienced by most women during the first trimester. If you cannot keep anything down during the course of the entire day or your morning sickness extends past the first 12 weeks, you may have hyperemesis gravidarum. There are anti-emetic medications your doctor can prescribe. These medications can stop the vomiting so that you and your baby remain healthy and well-nourished.
2. Excessive swelling, especially when accompanied by lightheadedness or blurred vision. Many women experience some swelling of the hands and feet late in pregnancy. Swelling that begins suddenly or that doesn’t dissipate with a few hours of rest could point to preeclampsia, a severe form of pregnancy-related hypertension. Your doctor should be monitoring your blood pressure already, but if preeclampsia is suspected, you may also have to collect your urine for analysis. High levels of protein in your urine may confirm the diagnosis.
3. Bleeding. Vaginal bleeding occasionally occurs during healthy pregnancies and stops on its own. It can be a symptom of a much more serious issue, however, such as the placenta detaching from the uterine wall or blocking the opening to the cervix. Report bleeding of any type or color to your doctor immediately. If bleeding is severe, go to the emergency room.
4. Early contractions. Late in the second trimester or early in the third, it is normal to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. These are generally painless, causing the belly to feel hard to the touch as the muscles tighten. Contractions that hurt or occur more often than every 20 minutes may signal pre-term labor, however. Labor contractions will increase in frequency and intensity, whereas Braxton Hicks will generally go away after lying down and drinking some water. If you suspect that you might be in pre-term labor, go to the emergency room or the labor and delivery department. There are medications that can stop the contractions.
5. Decreased movement. After 28 weeks or so, your doctor will probably have you perform regular “kick counts,” and you will probably be used to your baby’s regular patterns of movement in the womb. If you notice a decrease in your baby’s activity or it stops altogether, try another kick count after having a bit of caffeine or a very cold drink, and contact your doctor if the movement doesn’t pick back up. Usually, they will perform an ultrasound to check on your baby. He or she may just be sleeping.
The symptoms outlined above do not necessarily point to complications or serious situations, but they can. For this reason, you should take them seriously, and contact your doctor if you suspect that something isn’t right. Attend all your prenatal appointments so that your doctor can monitor your pregnancy closely, as well.