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    This article was last updated on February 16, 2015

    A pregnancy is a wonderful time in a woman’s life. A lot of rapid changes take place, both physically and emotionally, so it’s hard to determine whether what you’re experiencing is “normal.” In most cases, the whole nine months go by smoothly, but occasionally, things can go wrong. Thus, there is a need to be informed on the danger signals during pregnancy.

    Your response to the problem, be it to schedule a visit, call your doctor, or rush to the E.R. will depend on your particular situation, your medical history, and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Ann Nuñez-Roces, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist, lists the symptoms and suggested actions moms can take when confronted with these situations.

    1. Preterm labor
    Signs of a preterm labor include period-like cramping or abdominal pain, pelvic pressure (a feeling that your baby is pushing down), lower back pain (especially if it’s a new problem for you), and contractions before 37 weeks. But a lot of first-time moms may confuse true labor and false labor. False labor contractions are called Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are unpredictable, non-rhythmic, do not increase in intensity, and usually subside. On the other hand, regular or true contractions occur about 10 minutes apart or less, with increasing intensity and frequency.

    What you should do: The important thing is to not take a chance with your or your baby’s safety. If you think you are having contractions especially before your due date, call your doctor right away.



    2. Vaginal discharge
    An increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of discharge (if it becomes watery, mucoid, or bloody—even if it’s only pink or blood-tinged) may indicate a vaginal infection, leaking water bag, or preterm labor. These should not be ignored. After 37 weeks however, an increase in mucus discharge is normal and may indicate that you’ll be going into labor soon.

    What you should do: Inform your doctor if you notice these changes, especially for watery or bloody discharge. He will tell you if you need to be seen at the E.R.

    3. Leaking fluid

    Any fluid leaking from your vagina can mean that your water bag broke, but during pregnancy, the enlarged uterus can also cause pressure on your bladder so it could be urine leakage, too. It is important to distinguish between these two. Water breaking may come in the form of a dramatic gush of fluid, but other times it is subtler.

    What you should do: Call your doctor.

    4. Bleeding

    Bleeding means different things throughout your pregnancy. Bleeding with abdominal pain during the first trimester could mean an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus; this can be life-threatening). Heavy bleeding with cramping could be a sign of miscarriage in the first or early second trimester. During the  second or third trimester, bleeding may indicate placenta previa (low placental implantation) or placental abruption (placenta separates from the uterine lining). It may come in the form of spotting (pink, red or brown in color) or heavy bleeding (with or without clumps).

    What you should do: Any bleeding during pregnancy needs immediate attention. If you start bleeding, don’t wait. Go straight to the emergency room and call your doctor on the way.

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    5. Baby is not moving
    If your baby is not moving as much as he was, it could be that he is not getting enough oxygen and nutrients from the placenta. When you notice decreased or no movements, drink something cold or eat something sweet, then lie on your side to see if this gets the baby moving. As a general rule, the baby should have 10 or more kicks in two hours. Anything less should prompt a phone call to your doctor.

    What you should do: Schedule a clinic visit. Ask your doc whether you should monitor your baby’s activity by doing daily “kick counts.” He can give you specific instructions on how to count and when to call.

    6. Bladder or yeast infection

    Painful or burning urination, or little or no urination can indicate that you have developed a bladder or a yeast infection. Bladder infections are the most common pregnancy complication, and it is important that your doctor confirms the prognosis and treats it appropriately.

    What you should do: Schedule a clinic visit. Inform your doctor if you experience these symptoms and he’d let you know if you have to be seen immediately.

    7. Severe nausea and vomiting
    Severe nausea and vomiting to the point that you can’t keep anything down is a dangerous situation. If you can’t eat or drink anything, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated and malnourished (because of the lack of necessary nutrients). These can cause serious complications ranging from birth defects to premature labor.

    What you should do: Set an appointment with your doctor so you can discuss this problem. There are safe medications your doctor can prescribe to control the nausea and prevent vomiting. Your doctor may also advise some dietary changes to help you find food you can keep down.


    8. Pre-eclampsia
    Persistent severe headache, abdominal pain, visual disturbances, and swelling especially during the second or third trimester could be signs of preeclampsia, a serious condition that develops during pregnancy and is potentially fatal to both mom and baby. Preeclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure and excess protein in your urine, typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.

    What you should do: Call your doctor right away and get your blood pressure tested. Good prenatal care can help catch and identify preeclampsia early to prevent its serious complications.

    9. Disturbances in vision

    Visual disturbances such as double vision, blurring, dimming, flashing lights, or “floaters” (spots in your field of vision) are usually signs of more serious complications. It is important that your doctor finds the source of the problem quickly to ensure the safety of you and your baby.

    What you should do: Schedule a clinic visit.

    10. Swelling

    Any swelling in your face or puffiness around your eyes, anything more than a little swelling in your hands, severe and sudden swelling of your feet or ankles, or a rapid weight gain (more than four pounds in a week) is usually a sign that you may be suffering from edema, which may be caused by a deeper condition like preeclampsia.

    What you should do: Schedule a clinic visit.

    11. Trauma to the abdominal area

    One of the functions of the amniotic fluid is to act as a cushion to protect the baby from unnecessary trauma. However, sudden or any grave trauma to your abdominal area can harm your baby or cause the placenta to detach from the uterus wall.

    What you should do: Should anything happen to you around the stomach area, contact your health care provider ASAP.



    12. Fainting, nausea, palpitations
    Fainting, frequent dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, or heart palpitations are all warning signs you should not ignore. Although in most cases, it could be caused by hunger or dehydration, it could also be a sign that you may have anemia, hypotension or any other related issue. It is best to have your health care provider check you over.

    What you should do: Schedule a clinic visit.

    13. Flu

    In light of the epidemic of AH1N1 a few years back which proved to be very risky for pregnant women, let your caregiver know right away if you’ve been in close contact with someone who has the flu or if you have any flu-like symptoms, which may include fever, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, body aches and chills. Symptoms may occasionally include vomiting or diarrhea. Pregnant women are more likely to get sick than non-pregnant women during flu season because pregnancy puts added stress on the immune system. You’re at higher risk for more serious complications from the flu if you get it.

    What you should do: Inform your doctor right away if you experience any of the symptoms.

    Dr. Nuñez-Roces states, “Remember, just because a symptom is not on the list doesn’t mean it’s a normal occurrence in pregnancy and should be ignored. Every pregnancy is different. If you feel that something is not right, it is still better to be safe than sorry. Trust your instincts and make the call. Your obstetrician-gynecologist expects such calls."

    Do not assume that a symptom you are experiencing is minor until your doctor tells you so. Some of these symptoms may be more or less urgent depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy and on your particular situation or health history. Ask your doctor to review with you which signs warrant an urgent call or immediate emergency medical care as your pregnancy progresses. If you’re near your due date, check out the signs of labor so you’ll know what to look for and when to call.”

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