It can be hard to tell whether or not you need to call your doctor. Here are seven reasons pregnant women should always seek immediate medical assistance.
Light spotting when you notice a few specks of blood in your underwear or when you wipe, very often brown in color happens quite often during the early stages of pregnancy. Spotting doesn't have to end with the implantation bleeding, and is not a reason to call your doctor immediately (you may mention it during a routine prenatal appointment, though). What is the difference between light spotting and bleeding? Bleeding is heavier, perhaps much heavier, and it is fresh. If you notice a significant amount of vaginal bleeding, like the kind that you would require a pad for (or even beyond that), calling your doctor right away is the best course of action. Light bleeding may not signify a miscarriage or other serious problem, but heavy bleeding almost always does. Miscarriage and placenta previa (placenta covering the cervix) are two possible causes of pregnancy bleeding, for instance. In any case, seek medical attention immediately if this happens.
Abdominal pain and cramping
You know that feeling you get before your period starts? Well, that kind of light, nagging cramping is fairly common during the early weeks of a pregnancy as well. Disabling cramps that really disrupt your daily functioning are not as harmless, and warrant a visit to the doctor as soon as possible. The same goes for sharp pain, whether it is constant or comes and goes. Severe cramping and pain require medical attention because there are many possible causes, and a lot of them are serious. Abdominal pain can signify miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, or preeclampsia but also a urinary tract infection, a kidney infection, or even appendicitis. Women with cramping and/or pain, as well as other worrying symptoms like bleeding, a fever, or feeling dizzy should do more than call their doctor. They can skip that step and call an ambulance.
Constant or heavy headaches
Migraines and tension headaches during pregnancy are a pain (literally!), and even a worry you may wonder which pain killers are safe during pregnancy, and whether to take over the counter meds at all. Beyond that, these types of headache are not dangerous. If you are in your second or third trimester and have a headache constantly, or your intermittent headaches are severe, this could indicate a serious problem. Preeclampsia, a condition in which expectant moms have a very high blood pressure, sometimes induces this kind of headache. The only "cure" for preeclampsia is giving birth.
While we're on the topic of preeclampsia, sudden facial swelling is another sign. Swollen ankles and even hands can "just" be your ordinary pregnancy edema (fluid retention), which can be remedies by drinking more water and lying down, among other things. Heavy swelling of ankles and hands is not normal pregnancy edema, and is also a possible symptom of preeclampsia.
Dizziness and vision problems
Deciphering pregnancy symptoms is hard, isn't it? We're on the fifth symptom for which pregnant women should always call their doctor. Most of those included "this can be normal in some circumstances" disclaimers. Dizziness, too, is fairly common during the first trimester. Slight anemia is a frequent culprit and while that is not good, it is hardly life-threatening. Later in pregnancy, dizziness could indicate (you guessed it!) preeclampsia, placenta previa or a placental abruption. Blurred vision is connected to high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. If you are often dizzy and see black spots in front of your eyes, don't wait until your next appointment call now. The same goes for blurred vision.
No fetal movement
Expectant moms who have arrived at the stage they can regularly feel their baby move should pay attention to their baby's activity vs rest patterns. Those who realize they haven't felt their baby move for quite a while can try drinking a glass of very cold water, or lightly prodding their abdomen, to get baby to move. If that doesn't work, call your doctor and head to the ER or your maternity ward. A lack of fetal movement is very serious, but sometimes the baby can be saved with immediate medical attention.
You are really worried
Does your intuition tell you something is really wrong? This alone is always reason enough to take action. If you are right, your timely move may make all the difference. And if you are not, your doctor can soothe your fears. Don't be embarrassed about calling even in the absence of a clearly alarming symptom your doctor is there to care for you!