Pregnancy Warning Signs: Symptoms Not to Ignore

Most of the symptoms women experience during pregnancy are normal, even if they're not exactly comfortable. They are simply the 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 complications are rare, it's always good to know what to look out for. Read on for some pregnancy symptoms you should not ignore that are worth contacting your healthcare provider about.

Pregnancy Symptoms Not to Ignore in Early Pregnancy

  • Vaginal spotting. Early on in the pregnancy, it can be normal to experience spotting that’s known as implantation bleeding; however, in some cases there could be spotting or bleeding due to a more serious condition, like an ectopic pregnancy, a molar pregnancy, or a cervical infection. Contact your healthcare provider if the spotting is heavy and is accompanied by other symptoms like abdominal or pelvic pain, extreme lightheadedness, or shoulder pain.

  • 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 or bloody vomit), it may be a rare condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which requires medical attention. After the first trimester, if you experience vomiting, consult your healthcare provider to rule out anything serious and to treat the nausea.

  • Urge to pee or burning sensation while you urinate. If you feel an increased urge to pee, but find only a few drops come out, or if 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 fever, chills, or blood-tinged urine. Your provider 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.

  • Dizziness or faintness. Feeling lightheaded can be a normal symptom early in your second trimester. You might also feel dizzy later during pregnancy due to things like circulation problems or low blood sugar levels. However, 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; consult your healthcare provider so that a cause can be identified and treated.

Pregnancy Symptoms Not to Ignore in Mid- to Late Pregnancy

  • Lower abdominal pain. It’s natural to wonder about abdominal pain during your pregnancy. Keep in mind that discomfort associated with round ligament pain, for example, may be perfectly normal. This will feel like a dull ache or sharp pain on either side of your belly, most noticeable when you cough or sneeze. However, abdominal pain, possibly accompanied by fever or chills, may be a sign that there’s something wrong. In this case, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider.

  • Racing heart. It’s normal for your heart to beat faster during pregnancy. In fact, your heart pumps up to 30 to 50 percent more blood when you’re pregnant compared to when you’re not pregnant. This is so that your baby receives the appropriate amount of oxygen and nutrients through the placenta. However, if you feel that your heart rate is staying elevated and/or you have shortness of breath, contact your healthcare provider right away.

  • Severe headache. Headaches during pregnancy can be caused by many factors, including hormonal changes, stress, and fatigue. However, if your headache feels severe, it may be a sign of high blood pressure or the high blood pressure disorder called preeclampsia, which is a serious condition that can occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy or even after childbirth. It 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 preeclampsia.

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

  • Severe pain above the stomach, under the rib cage. Stomach pain during your pregnancy (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 preeclampsia, mentioned above. Your healthcare provider will monitor your blood pressure during prenatal visits, but if you notice any of the signs of preeclampsia, then contact your provider right away.

  • Vaginal discharge. You’ll experience more vaginal discharge than you did before you were pregnant. This is usually a sticky, clear, or white discharge caused by changes in your vagina and cervix. However, you could be experiencing a vaginal infection if the color is not clear or white; if it has a bad odor; and if it is accompanied by pain, soreness, or itching. Reach out to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Lower back pain. It’s normal to experience lower back pain in the later months of your pregnancy. After all, your body is getting closer to delivery, and the ligaments in your pelvis are loosening in order to make the passage of your baby easier. Sciatica can also cause pain in the lower back as your growing uterus puts pressure on your sciatic nerve. In this case, you may feel pain in your lower back, hip, and back of the leg. If you’re also experiencing numb feet or weakness in your leg, or you have severe pain in your calf, contact your healthcare provider.

  • Feeling your baby move less often. Women often begin to feel the baby fluttering, kicking, or turning sometime between 18 to 25 weeks of pregnancy. Once you’re well into the third trimester, your provider may ask you to monitor your baby's movements by tracking how long it takes to feel 10 kicks, rolls, or flutters. It may take only a few minutes, but if an hour passes without any movement, eat a light snack, lie back down, and try again. You can keep track of these movements in a notebook. If you notice an absence of movement or if your baby isn’t moving as much as usual over several days, call your healthcare provider to double-check everything is progressing well.

  • Vaginal bleeding. Bleeding during your third trimester can become serious, which is why it’s very important to let your healthcare provider know right away. Bleeding can be a sign of placenta previa, which is when the placenta covers the cervix, or placental abruption, which is when the placenta begins to separate from the wall of the uterus.

  • Itching all over. Intense itching that isn’t paired 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 healthcare provider 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.

  • Preterm (before the end of 37 weeks of pregnancy) uterine contractions. These sensations can be perfectly normal Braxton Hicks practice contractions; however, 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 preterm labor. In this case, it’s very important to contact your healthcare provider 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 “water breaking,” can show up as a trickle, as steady leaking, or as a gush of fluid from your vagina before your pregnancy is full term. Call your healthcare provider right away if you notice this. Once you’re full term, your water breaking is a sign that labor has started.

  • Vaginal spotting or discharge (between weeks 37 and 40 of pregnancy). You may experience light spotting or a pink or slightly bloody discharge. This may be an early sign of labor, indicating that the cervix has started to dilate and the mucus plug that sealed it off has begun to loosen. If the bleeding is very heavy, however, contact your healthcare provider right away.

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The Bottom Line

Remember, some of these symptoms may be normal symptoms of pregnancy, but they may also be signs of something more serious. Contact your healthcare provider for appropriate guidance. If you’re in any doubt or you just don’t feel right, it’s always better to consult your provider. This way, you won't worry, and if a problem does exist, it can be taken care of immediately. Use our Pregnancy Calendar to track your pregnancy week by week. You might also like to start thinking about establishing a birth plan by using our downloadable guide. To get ready for the arrival of your little one, download the Pampers Club app to start earning rewards for all the diapers and wipes you’ll be purchasing.