Warning Signs of a Problem in Pregnancy

If Your Baby Stops Moving or You're Having Contractions, Get Help

All pregnant women have wondered if they should call their doctor at one time or another. It’s natural to be concerned about the many different sensations and experiences that come with pregnancy, especially if you’ve had a pregnancy end in miscarriage or stillbirth. Most women have also hesitated to call because they don’t want to seem foolish or bothersome.

If you have a concern, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and call. Most of the time, your provider will be able to answer your question or ease your mind with just a phone call. Other times, you may be instructed to go to the hospital.

Below, you’ll find a list of some of the times you should definitely call your doctor. These are all cases when ignoring your concerns because you don’t want to be a bother could result in serious consequences for you or your baby.

Your Baby Has Stopped Moving

If you are less than 28 weeks pregnant, it’s likely that your baby’s movements are irregular. You may go long periods without noticing much movement, or may only notice it when you are at rest. But by 28 weeks, most babies are active enough for their mothers to notice not only frequent movement but a pattern, such as more active periods of the day.

At that point, you should be aware of major changes in your baby’s patterns and movements. If you notice that your baby is moving less than usual, or not at all, call your doctor or midwife. You may be given instructions to follow at home, or you may be advised to go to the hospital for monitoring.

You're Having Regular Contractions

Occasional contractions are expected during pregnancy, especially as you get closer to your due date. Some of these early contractions—called Braxton Hicks contractions—can even be painful. But they are not usually regular.

If you are having contractions more than six times an hour, this may be a sign of preterm labor.

Contractions can happen for other reasons, but the only way to determine if you are in labor is to be examined by your doctor or midwife. Call your practitioner for complete instructions about what to do at home and when to report to the hospital.

You're Bleeding Enough to Soak a Maxi Pad

There are many causes of bleeding during pregnancy and not all of them are dangerous. Small amounts of blood aren’t usually something to worry about, but if you are bleeding as heavily as a menstrual period, or any heavier, there could be something more serious going on.

Women whose placentas are in an abnormal place, such as a placenta previa or a vasa previa, should report any signs of bleeding during pregnancy because of the increased danger to both mother and baby with these diagnoses.

Your Blood Sugar Is Off

If you are one of the many women diagnosed with gestational diabetes or who had diabetes prior to pregnancy, you know how important it is to monitor your blood sugars and use your insulin as prescribed.

There are serious risks during pregnancy for women with all types of diabetes. If your blood sugar falls outside the expected ranges, and your regular at-home instructions aren’t helping, call your doctor for instructions. If very low or very high blood sugars go untreated, there can be serious consequences, including seizure, coma or death.

You Have Sudden Intense Abdominal Pain

Although some abdominal pains in pregnancy are normal—everything from Braxton Hicks contractions to round ligament pain, and even constipation, can make your belly hurt—a sudden, severe pain can be a sign of a uterine rupture, which is a medical emergency endangering the life of both you and your baby.

There is an increased risk of rupture if you’ve had a c-section before. If you experience severe pain that comes on suddenly, call your doctor or midwife for instructions.

You Feel a Gush of Fluid

Amniotic fluid is essential to the health of your baby. If your water breaks too soon, there are risks for both you and your baby. For moms, there is a risk of getting a dangerous infection. For babies, there is a risk of impaired growth and development, preterm birth, and death.

If you have a gush of clear fluid from your vagina, you should contact your doctor or midwife. There are simple tests to determine if you are leaking amniotic fluid and need treatment.

By Elizabeth Czukas, RN, MSN
Elizabeth Czukas is a writer who who has worked as an RN in high-risk obstetrics, antepartum care, and with women undergoing pregnancy loss.