With your body going through so many changes at once, it’s hard to know what’s normal, and some pregnancies bring unexpected symptoms that can be downright frightening. If you’ve been spooked by any of the following indicators, read on to see what’s worth worrying about.
Worry 1: Spotting or bleeding
Occasional spotting is common during pregnancy, but it’s a symptom that shouldn’t be ignored. Report any bleeding to your doctor—she’ll want to know when and how often it’s occurred. You may find that you experience light bleeding only after sex or following a probing doctor’s exam, which likely means it’s related to natural changes in your cervix and is nothing to worry about. However, keeping your doctor abreast of these patterns will help her to do her job: watching out for you and your baby.
If you’re bleeding beyond a spot now and then, or you’re experiencing abdominal pain along with spotting or bleeding, call your doc immediately, or head to the ER if she’s unavailable. These could be signs of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or problems with the placenta; in any of these scenarios, the earlier you can get medical attention, the better.
Worry 2: Extreme vomiting
A perpetually self-emptying stomach is no picnic. While many moms-to-be wave good-bye to nausea after the first trimester, others are plagued by queasiness the whole way through. Then there are those whose inability to keep anything down becomes a threatening issue.
“Hyperemesis gravidarum” is med- speak for “excessive vomiting during pregnancy.” The condition leads to dehydration, continual weight loss and malnutrition. If this sounds like you, you may need to be hospitalized briefly to help your body bounce back.
Worry 3: Cramps
Remember when you found out you were pregnant and excitedly anticipated months free from menstrual cramps? Well, for some, cramps don’t call a cease-fire when the uterus takes on a resident. Gas and constipation, both common pregnancy complaints, can bring on abdominal discomfort. Plus, sex can cause cramping that feels much like your old monthly visitor (sometimes lasting for several hours after intercourse). Many moms- to-be also endure aches and pains below the uterus during physical activity. Though lifestyle-limiting, this round ligament pain is harmless.
Pain in your middle that’s ongoing or accompanied by flu symptoms or bleeding could be a sign of something serious, so get your doctor involved.
Worry 4: Funky fluids
The increased vaginal discharge of pregnancy may be yucky, but it’s nothing to worry about. Same with slight urine leakage. However, real concerns set in if you begin to lose amniotic fluid, especially before you’re full-term. If you notice a trickle of clear fluid escaping your body, or your water breaks in a gush of the same, call your practitioner right away. Losing fluid preterm could endanger your baby and signal the onset of labor.
Worry 5: Severe headaches
During pregnancy, as at any other time, headaches can be tied to a vast number of internal and external causes. If you’re not someone who normally gets headaches, but you begin to experience them during pregnancy, or if your headaches become more frequent or severe, mention it to your doctor. Most importantly, don’t take prescription or over-the-counter pain killers for your noggin until your doctor has cleared them for use while expecting. Unfortunately, some effective pain relievers will be off-limits for now, so keep nonmedicinal solutions in mind as well. Cold showers, rest, relaxation and massage can work wonders for tension headaches.
Worry 6: Dizziness
Circulatory changes can cause light-headedness from time to time, but you can battle the sensation by favoring your left side when you lie down, making sure to get plenty of food and drink, and avoiding sudden, jerky movements. If you’re still feeling faint or dizzy often, even after taking these precautions, seek medical advice.
Worry 7: Preterm contractions
It’s important to note the differences between Braxton Hicks contractions (also known as false labor) and real contractions. True labor features contractions that come in regular intervals, with increasing frequency and severity; Braxton Hicks contractions can feel slightly uncomfortable but are not normally painful, and they pop up only sporadically.
When you do start to have regular contractions (hopefully sometime after 37 weeks of pregnancy), you’ll find that they arrive consistently, growing closer together as you clock the beginning of one contraction to the next. You’ll also feel pressure in your pelvic area as baby pushes down toward the exit. While you may not need to head to the hospital immediately (it will depend on how quickly your labor advances), do contact your healthcare provider so she knows baby is on the way!