How do you know whether that sudden ache is normal or warrants a 2 a.m. call to your doctor or midwife? Here's a rundown of symptoms that should set off your warning bells. But even if you don't see your symptom on this list, it's better to err on the side of caution and make that call than to agonize for hours, wondering whether you've pulled a ligament or gone into preterm labor.
Note that some of these symptoms may be more or less urgent depending on your particular situation or health history and on how far along you are in your pregnancy. Ask your practitioner to review with you which signs warrant an urgent call at various points in your pregnancy.
- Your baby is moving or kicking less than usual (once he begins moving regularly). Ask your doctor if you should monitor your baby's activity by doing daily "kick counts." She can give you specific instructions on how to count and when to call.
- An increase in vaginal discharge or a change in the type of discharge -- that is, if it becomes watery, mucousy, or bloody (even if it's only pink or blood-tinged). Note: After 37 weeks, an increase in mucus discharge is normal and may indicate that you'll be going into labor soon.
- Abdominal pain or pelvic pressure (a feeling that your baby is pushing down), lower back pain (especially if it's a new problem for you), menstrual-like cramping or abdominal pain, or more than four contractions in an hour (even if they don't hurt) before 37 weeks.
- Painful or burning urination, or little or no urination.
- Severe or persistent vomiting, or any vomiting accompanied by pain or fever.
- Chills or fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Visual disturbances such as double vision, blurring, dimming, flashing lights, or "floaters" (spots in your field of vision) or persistent or severe headache, or any headache accompanied by blurred vision, slurred speech, or numbness.
- A persistent or severe cramp of the leg or calf that doesn't ease up when you flex your ankle and point your toes toward your nose or when you walk around, or one leg being significantly more swollen than the other.
- Fainting, frequent dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, heart palpitations or difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or chest pain.
- Persistent intense itching of your torso, arms, legs, palms, or soles, or a feeling of itchiness all over your body.
- Any health problem that you'd ordinarily call your doctor about even if it's not pregnancy related (like worsening asthma or a cold that gets worse rather than better).
- Finally, if you're near your due date, check out the signs of labor so you'll know what to look for and when to call your doctor.