Along with everything “normal” you read about and hear about, unusual and unexpected changes also happen during pregnancy. I had a friend who joked that she told her ob/gyn that she had grown a third eye, and he said, “Oh, that’s completely normal during pregnancy.”
Crazy cravings and random hair loss aside, there are pregnancy symptoms you never want to ignore. If you experience any of these, call your healthcare provider immediately.
#1 Vaginal Bleeding
While light spotting and bleeding can be common during pregnancy, it can be a sign of serious complications or miscarriage. If you experience this symptom, here is a list of things to do:
Call your healthcare provider.
Track your activity level and how heavy or light the bleeding is.
Note the color of the blood. Is it red or brown? Bright or dark?
Avoid sex, using a tampon, or douching.
If the bleeding is heavy or accompanied by pain and cramping, go ahead to the emergency room to get checked out as soon as possible.
#2 Abdominal cramping, backache, regular contractions before 37 weeks
These can be signs of premature labor, which you want to stop, if possible, to keep the baby from being born too early. If you have any of these symptoms for more than an hour, call your healthcare provider:
Four or more contractions in one hour (a tightening in either your uterus or across your lower back)
Cramping that feels like gas pain
Pressure in the pelvis or vagina
Vaginal discharge (fluid or blood)
Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
Decreased movement of the baby
Your provider might ask you to come to the office or the hospital. Often, medication or bed rest are used to stop premature labor.
#3 Leaking fluid
Amniotic fluid cushions, protects, and supports the baby in the womb. It can be normal for some fluid to leak out, but it can also be a sign of something more serious like oligohydramnios (too much fluid leaking) or the rupturing of the amniotic sac. This fluid has no odor (unlike urine) and is usually clear or white flecked.
#4 Severe swelling, visual disturbances, or rapid weight gain
These can be signs of preeclampsia or eclampsia, which are both forms of high blood pressure in pregnancy. Certain women are at great risk, including:
You have a mother or sister who had preeclampsia or eclampsia.
You are carrying more than one baby.
You are a young mother (teenager) or over 40 years old.
You have pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure or kidney disease.
You are a smoker.
You are obese.
So if you have severe swelling, changes in your vision, or rapid weight gain, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
#5 Persistent Itchy skin
This can be the main symptom of cholestasis, which is a liver condition that presents later in pregnancy. It is an uncomfortable itch (usually on the hands and feet) with no rash and carries a high risk of complications to mother and baby.
Personal or a family history of cholestasis, a history of liver disease, or being pregnant with multiple babies can all increase the risk of developing this condition.
Complications for mothers are mild, affecting fat absorption. For babies, it can be more serious: preterm birth, lung problems, or death. For these reasons, a doctor may induce labor before the due date.
These are pretty serious issues. Be confident when calling your provider; you aren’t bothering them—they are there to serve and help YOU. We are too! From Childbirth Education classes to Labor and Post-labor support, Tennessee Family Doulas are excited to meet you and work with you!