Danger Signs to Watch for in Pregnancy

Pregnant Woman Getting Ultrasound
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Most women will have normal pregnancies with no pregnancy complications whatsoever. It is important, however, to learn the warning signs that something is wrong. Your doctor or midwife should alert you to potential problems that may be specific to your situation, but the general warning signs apply to every pregnancy, even the low risk variety.

Your midwife or doctor will routinely screen for potential problems throughout pregnancy during your prenatal care visits.

The blood pressure and urine testing that is done, as well as other potential tests, will help you know if you are in a higher risk category for some of the more common 

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to call your practitioner immediately. They can advise you as to what further steps may be necessary or help you rule out the more serious complications. Delaying care may also make the situation more serious than if care had been begun when you first noticed the symptoms.

Danger Signs in Pregnancy

SymptomPotential ProblemOther possible causes
Vaginal BleedingMiscarriage, placental abruption, placenta previaHormonal bleeding, Implantation bleeding
Pelvic or Abdominal PainMiscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, abruptionCyst, uterine growth, round ligament pain
Persistent Back PainMiscarriage, preterm laborKidney/bladder infection, cyst, normal pregnancy pain
Gush of Fluid from VaginaPreterm labor, preterm rupture of membranes, miscarriageLeaky bladder, watery mucous
Swelling of the Hands/FacePreeclampsia, EcclampsiaSwelling
Severe Headaches, Blurry VisionPreeclampsia, EcclampsiaHeadaches caused by hormonal changes or stress
Regular Contractions prior to 37 WeeksPreterm laborGastric upset
No Fetal MovementFetal distress, Fetal DemiseSlowed movements, anterior placenta


It is important to remember, that while there may be other causes for your symptoms that are worrisome, you should not neglect to get professional advice. There are subtle things that can distinguish something from being not a big deal to something that is a major complication. This is why it is important for you to work with your doctor or midwife to get the best care possible.

During your prenatal visits, they will conduct screenings to see that you are within normal limits for the basic risks. They will also help you figure out what you might be more at risk for based on your health history and your lifestyle. They can also provide you with advice on helping to lower those risks by diet, exercise, and other measures.

When you call your practitioner be sure to give them enough information to help them determine when and where to see you. Sometimes it will wait until your next appointment. Other options include being seen in the office on the same day, a trip to the emergency room, or a trip to labor and delivery, depending on how far along you are and what symptoms you are experiencing. 

You and your practitioner will work together to have the safest outcome for you and your baby.


Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Sixth Edition.

March of Dimes. Warning Signs of Preterm Labor. http://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/signs-and-symptoms-of-preterm-labor-and-what-to-do.aspx Last Accessed July 1, 2015.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Warning Signs During Pregnancy. http://patienteducation.upmc.com/P.htm

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Indian Health Services. Medical Complications of Pregnancy and Related Postpartum/Neonatal Problems. G. Gilson, N. Murphy and T. Harris. 

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