Pregnancy Warning Signs You Should Not Ignore

Most of the symptoms women experience during pregnancy are normal, even if they're not exactly comfortable. They are simply one result of being pregnant. Still, it's easy to worry and wonder whether everything is OK and how to know if it’s not. Although true serious complications are quite rare, it's always good to know what to look out for. Read on for some pregnancy warning signs that are worth contacting your midwife or GP about.

Pregnancy Warning Signs

Remember, some of these symptoms may be normal symptoms of pregnancy, but they may also be signs of something more serious, so consult your midwife or doctor if you notice any of these:

  • Persistent abdominal pain. It’s normal to wonder: Is abdominal pain a common symptom of pregnancy? Discomfort associated with pelvic pain due to your growing womb pulling on your muscles and ligaments, for example, may be perfectly normal, but abdominal pain, may be a sign that there’s something wrong. If you feel a persistent, bad pain – especially if it’s on the right hand side of your body – and if you have any other symptoms like bleeding, lower back pain, cramping, blurred vision, severe headaches, or swollen hands, feet or face, you should contact your midwife or GP immediately.

  • Severe headache. Headaches during pregnancy can be caused by many factors, including hormonal changes, stress, and fatigue, but if your headache feels severe, it may be a sign of high blood pressure or the high blood pressure disorder called pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that requires medical treatment to protect your health and the health of your baby.

  • Changes in eyesight. Changes in vision, such as temporary loss of vision, blurred vision, or light sensitivity, may be linked to complications like gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia.

  • Fainting or dizziness. Feeling lightheaded can be a normal during the second trimester due to the action of progesterone in your blood vessels. If your brain is not getting enough blood, it can cause you to faint, like when you get up too quickly. But, if this feeling of dizziness persists, if you feel faint or actually do faint, or if your dizziness is combined with other symptoms like blurred vision, vaginal bleeding, headaches, or pain in your abdomen, contact the hospital or midwife is booked for a home birth so that a cause can be identified and treated.

  • Unusual weight gain, and swelling or puffiness. Sudden, large weight gain (not related to overeating!) is linked to the possibility of pre-eclampsia. You may notice this weight gain is combined with swelling of the face and hands (oedema). Remember, some swelling of your feet or hands may be normal, but should be monitored.

  • Urge to pee or burning sensation while you urinate. If you feel an increased urge to pee, but you have a burning sensation while you urinate, it may be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Other symptoms of a UTI can include feeling tired, pain in your lower tummy, or blood-tinged urine, and a fever. Your GP will be able to diagnose your symptoms and treat the bacterial infection to avoid complications. Keep in mind that frequent urination on its own is a common pregnancy symptom during the first trimester and later on in pregnancy, as your baby grows and presses on your bladder.

  • Persistent or severe vomiting. Vomiting, along with nausea, can be a completely normal first trimester symptom. It’s more commonly known as ‘morning sickness’, but it doesn’t necessarily appear only in the morning! If, however, your morning sickness is severe (and it’s combined with other symptoms like dizziness from low blood pressure), it may be a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which requires medical attention. After the first trimester, if you experience vomiting, consult your GP to rule out anything serious and to treat the nausea.

  • Severe pain above the stomach, under the rib cage. This pain (especially if it’s combined with other symptoms like blurred vision, severe headaches, or nausea) may be a sign of high blood pressure and an associated condition called pre-eclampsia. Your midwife will monitor your blood pressure during antenatal visits, but if you notice any of the signs of pre-eclampsia, then contact the hospital or your midwife right away, or if in doubt call an ambulance.

  • Itching all over. Intense itching that is not combined with a rash may be a condition commonly known as cholestasis of pregnancy, which is a liver condition that can occur in late pregnancy. Contact your midwife or GP right away if you notice an extreme itchy feeling. Remember, having itchy skin during pregnancy can also be completely normal. This is because as your baby grows, your skin stretches; as your skin stretches it can also become dry, causing areas like your belly, breasts, and thighs to itch.

  • Vaginal bleeding or spotting. Early on in the pregnancy, it can be normal to experience spotting that’s known as implantation, but bleeding can also be a sign of placenta praevia or a cervical infection. If in doubt, tell your midwife or doctor immediately if you notice any spotting or bleeding during your pregnancy.

  • Premature (before the end of 37 weeks of pregnancy) uterine contractions. Although these sensations can be perfectly normal Braxton Hicks practice contractions, if your contractions persist (i.e., don’t stop when you move or change positions) and become painful or regular, it may be a sign you are in premature labour. In this case, it’s very important to contact your midwife right away.

  • Gush or trickle of fluid from your vagina before the end of 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature rupture of membranes, also known as your ‘waters breaking’, can show as a trickle, steady leaking, or a gush of fluid from your vagina before your pregnancy is full-term. Call your midwife right away if you notice this. Depending on how many weeks pregnant you are, your midwife or doctor will advise on the best course of action. Once you’re full-term, your waters breaking is a sign that labour has started.

  • Feeling your baby move less often. Women typically feel the baby fluttering, kicking, or turning somewhere starting between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy and increasing until around 32 weeks. Once you’re well into the third trimester, you can try to monitor your baby's movements. At about the same time each day, lie down, and keep track of how long it takes to feel the kicks, rolls, or flutters. You can keep track of these movements in a notebook. If you think your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped, or you’ve noticed a change in the pattern of movements, then call your midwife or maternity unit immediately.

  • Signs of ectopic pregnancy. Some of the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are also normal early pregnancy symptoms. But if you notice light vaginal bleeding combined with abdominal or pelvic pain, extreme light-headedness, or shoulder pain early in your pregnancy, consult your GP immediately.

Contact Your Healthcare Provider

If you experience any of these, call your healthcare provider right away, but remember, these are pregnancy symptoms you should never ignore. If you’re in any doubt or you just don’t feel right, it’s always better to consult your midwife or doctor. This way, you won't worry, and if a problem does exist, it can be taken care of immediately.

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