Pregnancy warning signs that may need to be checked out
The way a woman’s body transforms and adapts to incubate a tiny human is nothing short of miraculous. Most of the time it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, when it’s supposed to do it, but naturally there can be complications.
Whether you’re a confident and relaxed incubator, or you’re prone to anxiety, it’s important to know what signs and symptoms need urgent medical attention. It’s also important to trust your own judgement. You know what is normal for you, and if you are concerned about any of the following symptoms, no matter how small or insignificant they seem, always check with your LMC, local maternity unit or family doctor.
🌱 Morning sickness/nausea is normal in early pregnancy but if it becomes severe you’re at risk of dehydration, weight loss and dizziness. There are ways to treat excessive nausea, so do seek help.
🌱 Vaginal bleeding. You may feel scared if you experience this, but not all vaginal bleeding is a bad sign. A small amount of spotting in your first trimester can be normal, especially if it is not your first baby, but it may also be an early warning sign of a miscarriage, so you should always contact your LMC.
🌱 Abdominal cramps or pains. It's normal to experience mild abdominal cramps as your uterus expands to fit your growing baby, particularly in the first and early second trimester. These might be a dull aching or a slight pulling feeling in your pelvis. However, if the pains are severe, contact your LMC. There are a number of causes of severe abdominal pain during pregnancy, including an ectopic pregnancy, a urinary tract infection, pre-term labour and placental abruption, all of which require urgent attention.
🌱 Reduced fetal movements. You will be able to feel your baby's movements from around 20 weeks, and these will become more regular and distinguishable as he or she grows. If these movements slow down, try a glass of cold water or a bowl of ice-cream to encourage baby to move. If this doesn't help, or if you are still concerned, contact your LMC or local maternity ward immediately, as reduced fetal movement can be a sign that your baby has become distressed.
🌱 Bleeding in later pregnancy also requires immediate medical attention as it could signal the start of premature labour, an infection or a problem with the placenta. If you are Rhesus negative, you will require an Anti-D injection within 72 hours of any episode of bleeding, so be sure to contact your LMC immediately.
🌱 Swelling/oedema. Most women experience a small degree of swelling in late pregnancy, particularly in the warmer summer months. However, swelling can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia, a potentially dangerous complication, so any incidence of swelling, particularly if it affects your hands, feet, ankles and face/neck should be promptly reported to your LMC.
🌱 Headache and/or blurred vision. These are also symptoms of pre-eclampsia, and often indicated that the condition has worsened, so seek immediate advice from your LMC, or local maternity unit.
🌱 Leaking of waters/amniotic fluid. If your waters break or begin to leak prior to 37 weeks, contact your LMC immediately. It may be a sign that you are going into preterm labour, and if you seek help early enough, in some cases doctors are able to stop the onset of labour. If your waters break after 37 weeks, it is a sign that your baby is nearly ready to be born. Contact your midwife when contractions are around five minutes apart (unless she has given you other instructions), or if your waters have been broken for more than 12 hours and labour has not started, as there is a small risk of infection.
🌱Pregnant women are more susceptible to more severe flus. Consult your doctor about a fever over 38 degrees celsius. A fever is usually a sign of a viral infection, but some common cold and flu medications are not safe to take during pregnancy, so be sure to check with your pharmacist or LMC before taking anything. If the fever persists, check with your family doctor to ensure that it isn't a bacterial infection, which requires antibiotics. Colds that last longer that a week are worth looking into, as is yellow or green mucus.
🌱Pain or burning when passing urine can indicate a urinary tract infection, which requires antibiotics. If left untreated, the infection can spread to your kidneys and may cause pre-term labour.
Pre-existing medical conditions like thyroid issues, asthma and diabetes can also be exacerbated doing pregnancy. Be sure to make your LMC aware of any of these conditions, and follow up any flare-ups.
Remember there’s no such thing as a wrong question, especially when there are two of you at stake. With an expert involved you have nothing to loose and all their knowledge and experience to gain. When you address any issues you also address your stress levels. Your maternity carers are not only interested in producing a healthy mother and baby, they also want to give you that priceless state – peace of mind.