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5 Symptoms That Should Never Be Ignored During Pregnancy

author image Sharon Perkins
A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.
5 Symptoms That Should Never Be Ignored During Pregnancy
Never ignore a mother's intuition that something just isn't right. Photo Credit Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

When you're pregnant, many of the normal symptoms of pregnancy are new to you. This makes it difficult to tell whether what you're experiencing is just part of a normal pregnancy or something to take more seriously. There are 5 symptoms that warrant prompt medical attention, as they could complicate a pregnancy. Learning what they might signify and when to call your doctor can help you and your baby avoid potentially dangerous problems.

Vaginal Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding occurs frequently in pregnancy; between 10 and 15 percent of women experience some in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. According to a 2003 research analysis published in "Human Reproduction," 14 percent of women with early bleeding miscarried, compared to 9 percent who miscarried without bleeding. Early bleeding can also indicate ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening complication in which the embryo implants outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Early evaluation can prevent rupture of the tube and maternal hemorrhage. Vaginal bleeding later in pregnancy could indicate placenta previa, in which the placenta grows over the opening of the cervix. Around 66 percent of women with placenta previa experience bleeding during pregnancy, the medical textbook "Maternal-Fetal Evidence-Based Guidelines" reports.

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Abdominal Pain

Severe abdominal pain is never normal in pregnancy. In early pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy can cause severe lower abdominal pain and tenderness. In later pregnancy, abdominal pain can signal placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall during pregnancy, causing bleeding inside the uterus that can make it feel rock hard. The occurrence of placental abruption is between 1 in 75 to 226 pregnancies, the "Maternal Child Nursing Care" nursing textbook reports. A placental abruption separates the fetus from its blood supply and oxygen; seek immediate medical attention for this symptom. Abdominal pain or tightening that occurs 4 to 6 times an hour before 37 weeks could be a sign of preterm labor, according to a 2004 "Journal of Perinatology" study.

Amniotic Fluid Leakage

Any leakage of clear fluid from the vagina could mean that your amniotic sac, which protects the fetus from outside bacteria, has ruptured, increasing his risk of infection. Call your doctor immediately if this occurs before 37 weeks. After 37 weeks, follow your doctor's instructions on when to call when your water breaks.

Decreased Fetal Movement

It's normal for the fetus to move less in the last few weeks of pregnancy, as her living quarters become more cramped. However, you should still feel regular fetal movement and you should report decreased fetal movement, as it could indicate a lack of oxygen or other problem for your unborn baby. There are 2 established methods of counting fetal movements. In the Cardiff technique, count how long it takes to record 10 movements while sitting or lying down. If you don't feel 10 movements in an hour, call your doctor. With the Sadovsky method, lie on your left side an hour after eating and count fetal movements. If you don't feel at least 4 movements within an hour, call your doctor.

Severe Headache

Severe headache in pregnancy can be a warning sign of preeclampsia, a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that causes seizures and can lead to maternal and fetal complications such as stroke or death. Blurred vision, abdominal gastric pain and fluid retention can occur along with headache. Contact your doctor immediately if these symptoms occur.

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