If you are pregnant, you will probably find that there are times when you are more critical of your health than ever before. You may find yourself searching the web for explanations for every minor ailment and worry unnecessarily. But what are the pregnancy symptoms that you should never ignore?
Vomiting more than a couple of times a day could dehydrate and weaken you, but it is unlikely to hurt your baby. Speak to your midwife or GP if your vomiting is persistent as it could be a sign of hyperemesis gravidarum (if you cannot tolerate any food or drink), which often requires anti-sickness medication or occasionally treatment in hospital.
Even from the earliest stages of pregnancy, you may experience discomfort around your abdomen. The ligaments and muscles that support your growing baby need to stretch and this can often cause the area to become quite sore. However if you have severe pain on either side of your lower belly, doctors recommend that you visit a health professional and be checked for premature labour, placental abruption or ectopic pregnancy.
Pain in your middle or upper tummy accompanied by nausea or vomiting could indicate food poisoning and is always best to get check out by a doctor. This symptom is particularly serious in the second half of pregnancy as it could indicate pre-eclampsia, which is a condition that affects some pregnant women from around 20 weeks or soon after their baby is delivered.
Early signs of pre-eclampsia include having high blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in your urine (proteinuria), which will be tested during your routine antenatal appointments.
In some cases, further symptoms can develop, including:
• swelling of the feet, ankles, face and hands caused by fluid retention (oedema)
• severe headache
• vision problems
• pain just below the ribs
If you have a fever and your temperature is above 37.5 degrees C, but with no flu or cold symptoms, it is recommended that you call your doctor the same day. It is possible that there is an infection present and you may need antibiotics and extra rest until you recover.
Spotting or very light bleeding without pain is common in early pregnancy. It may be implantation bleeding, which happens when the embryo burrows itself into the womb lining or the hormones that drive your menstrual cycle continuing strongly enough to cause light bleeding. However, if the bleeding is heavy or darker than your normal period and it’s accompanied by pain on one side of your belly, it could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage so it’s important to call your doctor or midwife.
Sudden, painless bleeding may occur if you have a low-lying placenta (placenta praevia), which should be detected at your 20 week scan. Placental abruption can also occur if the placenta starts to separate itself from the womb, which will cause symptoms of dark bleeding and is always important to contact a health care professional. Premature labour can also be detected by a heavy blood flow during your pregnancy.
If you are leaking fluid from your vagina before 37 weeks it may mean that your waters have broken early. Contact your maternity unit so that a doctor or midwife can check on your baby’s health. Infections are more likely to occur as there is less protection for the baby once your waters break, so getting you and your baby the right care in hospital if a premature delivery is suspected, is extremely important.
If you are leaking vaginal fluid and your gestation is beyond 37 weeks, it is time to prepare for labour as it is likely that your waters have broken. Call your midwife or maternity unit to tell them what’s happened and arrange a plan of action.
If you’re suddenly thirsty, and your wee is dark yellow, it could be a sign of dehydration. You need to drink more fluid when you’re pregnant. If you’re thirsty and weeing a lot more than usual it could be a sign of gestational diabetes, although this often doesn’t cause symptoms.
Gestational diabetes can increase the risk of complications for you and your baby, so tell your doctor or midwife.
A burning sensation while urinating
Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) are common during pregnancy and can be treated easily with antibiotics. Symptoms include burning while urinating, urgency or increased frequency to urinate, cold sweats and nausea and aching in your limbs.
Fainting or feeling light-headed may be a sign that you haven’t eaten enough that day or it could be a sign of low blood pressure, which occurs when the pregnancy hormone (progesterone) relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. Speak to your health care professional if you are feeling particularly unwell with it.
It’s always best to trust your instincts if you notice a change in your baby’s movements. If things have slowed or stopped after 24 weeks it may mean he’s in distress so contact your midwife or hospital
It’s important to remember that doctors and midwifes are used to dealing with pregnancy symptoms such as these and they are there to put your mind at rest or give you any medication that you need so never feel unreasonable by making a call. Often, there is nothing to worry about but as your body experiences so many changes during pregnancy, it’s always best to talk about what you’re feeling and be reassured that it is perfectly normal.