Written by Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist Dr. Washington Hill
Did you know that pregnancy can put women at increased risk for a range of medical issues?
These potentially serious health conditions can include preterm labor, preterm birth, blood clots, pulmonary embolism, infection, stroke, hemorrhaging and depression. It’s important for pregnant women — and their loved ones — to know the warning signs for these issues.
Red Flags during Pregnancy
If experienced during pregnancy, the following symptoms may indicate a potential medical problem and should be reported immediately to a doctor, midwife, nurse or care clinic.
- Vaginal bleeding. Early in pregnancy, vaginal bleeding may be a sign of miscarriage; later in pregnancy, it may signal preterm labor or an abnormal placenta.
- Excessive nausea and vomiting. These can lead to poor nutrition for the expectant mom and baby.
- Significant abdominal pain that does not go away. This may indicate a pregnancy complication, such as an abnormal placenta, or an unrelated medical concern, such as appendicitis.
- Decreased baby movement. A good benchmark for baby’s activity level is 10 to 12 movements each day, or 4 movements within an hour after mom eats. If you’re concerned that baby isn’t moving enough in utero, have mom drink something sugary, lay down and count again. If baby still isn’t reaching the benchmark, call your doctor. It could simply mean that baby is asleep, or it could be a warning sign that baby is in distress.
- Persistent fever (100.3 or higher), persistent cough, headache, muscle pain and not feeling well. These common cold and flu symptoms can turn into something much worse for pregnant women (and children or seniors). You should always get a flu shot.
- Pre-term contractions 4 times (or more) per hour for 2 hours. Every pregnant woman has contractions (tightening of mom’s belly or abdominal muscles with or without pain) after 15 weeks, but if the number or intensity of contractions increases as gestation progresses, it may be a sign of early labor.
- Excess fluid or ruptured membranes coming from the vagina. This is a sign of labor, even if fluid is simply leaking, and warrants a visit to a care provider.
- Depression or anxiety. If mom-to-be is depressed or anxious at any time during pregnancy in any way that is out of the norm for her, be sure her care team is made aware.
Pregnant women experiencing any of these symptoms should report them immediately to a medical care provider and seek medical attention right away.
In an emergency or outside of normal office hours — or if mom-to-be does not have a care provider — pregnant women with these symptoms should go directly to the Sarasota Memorial Hospital Obstetrical Emergency Care Center (OB-ECC), which is located on the first floor of the main hospital, near the ER. The same goes for any pregnant woman who has experienced any trauma or falls, or whose living situation is not safe.
An obstetrician-gynecologist for nearly 50 years, Washington Hill, MD, is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist with Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the Florida Department of Health-Sarasota County and CenterPlace Health.