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Symptoms That Mean a Pregnant Woman Should Go to the Hospital

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.
Symptoms That Mean a Pregnant Woman Should Go to the Hospital
Symptoms That Mean a Pregnant Woman Should Go to the Hospital Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Pregnancy is not a medical emergency, in most cases. Outside of well-established labor, times when a pregnant woman must go to the hospital rather than calling her obstetrician are rare. However, medical emergencies do occur in pregnancy, and when they do, time is of the essence. Pregnant women should be aware of symptoms that necessitate an immediate trip to the hospital.

Heavy Bleeding

Symptoms That Mean a Pregnant Woman Should Go to the Hospital
Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Spotting is a common complication in pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks. However, heavy bleeding, considered saturating a pad within an hour or less, at any stage of pregnancy is a symptom that needs immediate evaluation. Some possible causes of heavy bleeding include placenta previa, in which the placenta grows over the cervical opening, ruptured ectopic, in which the fetus grows in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus, or uterine rupture, in the case of previous uterine surgery. Placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus prematurely, can also cause heavy bleeding, the University of Virginia states.


Symptoms of shock include low blood pressure, light-headedness or fainting, cold, clammy skin, paleness and weakness. Shock can be caused by internal blood loss that can't be seen or by any condition that results in heavy bleeding. The first sign of 20 percent of ectopic pregnancies is shock, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Shock can also be caused by systemic infection, known as sepsis.

Severe Abdominal Pain

Severe abdominal pain is uncommon in pregnancy, unless labor is well underway. However, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, placental abruption and uterine rupture can all cause severe pain and need immediate investigation, especially if accompanied by vaginal bleeding.

Some women have fairly painless labor, especially if they've had children before. If you have an urge to push, or feel the baby's head at the entrance to the vagina, call 911 and don't try to get to the hospital on your own; it's safer to deliver at home. However, if contractions suddenly intensify and the hospital is close by, get there, as long as you can get there safely before the baby delivers.


Seizures in pregnancy may be caused by pregnancy-induced hypertension, or pre-eclampsia, that progresses to eclampsia. Eclampsia complicates around 1 in 1,600 pregnancies, the University of Virginia states. Type I diabetics may also have seizures in pregnancy. if they develop hypoglycemia.

Premature Rupture of Membranes

If the bag of waters known as the amniotic sac ruptures, call your doctor, who may tell you to go immediately to the hospital or may tell you to remain home for a short time, depending on his normal practice. However, if you're less than 36 weeks pregnant, go to the hospital immediately, because premature babies need special care, are prone to infection and may deliver quickly.

Cord Prolapse

Cord prolapse means the umbilical cord has fallen below the baby's head. Cord prolapse usually occurs after membranes rupture, and is more common in women with excess amniotic fluid, multiple pregnancies, or babies who have unusually long umbilical cords. If you feel or see a thick, twisted cord hanging out of the vagina, lie down in a trendelenburg position (with your head lower than your feet) or knee chest position and call 911. A cord prolapse can result in fetal death from compression of the cord.

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