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Warning signs of pregnancy problems

How to spot problems that could be serious for you and your baby.

During your prenatal visits and tests, your doctor will check for any problems. But between appointments you need to know the signs of possible complications.

Your health and your baby's may depend on getting help quickly. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Office on Women's Health, you should contact your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Pain or cramps in your lower abdomen.  
  • Pain during urination.
  • Vaginal bleeding or a discharge of fluid from the vagina.
  • Swelling or puffiness of your face or hands.
  • Very bad or frequent headaches.
  • Blurred vision, or spots before your eyes.
  • Severe or continued vomiting or diarrhea.
  • A change in your baby's movement.

These symptoms can indicate problems that should be treated right away.

Premature labor. You may be going into premature labor if you have:

  • A low, dull backache.
  • Pelvic pressure.
  • Contractions or cramps.
  • Blood-tinged discharge.
  • A gush of clear, watery fluid from the vagina.

Gestational diabetes. Around your sixth month of pregnancy your doctor will check your blood glucose level. This test can find gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes happens during pregnancy. It usually goes away afterward.

Nearly 10% of pregnant women in the U.S. get this type of diabetes, says the American Diabetes Association.

You may be at risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are obese.
  • Have a family history of diabetes.
  • Are older.

If gestational diabetes isn't kept under control, your baby can grow too big and will have an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.

You'll likely need to track your blood sugar levels at home. And you might be able to control your blood sugar through diet and exercise. But some women need insulin or other medicines too.

High blood pressure. High blood pressure occurs in 5% to 8% of pregnancies worldwide, says the March of Dimes.

Very high blood pressure during pregnancy is called pre-eclampsia. And it can be serious. Warning signs include:

  • Rapid weight gain.
  • Persistent headaches.
  • Vision problems.
  • Excessive swelling of the hands or face. (Or any swelling that doesn't go away after resting.)
  • Protein in the urine.

This is one more reason why good prenatal care is so important. Your blood pressure, weight and urine will be checked at each visit. And that can help uncover blood pressure problems as soon as they come up.

Reviewed 11/9/2023

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