IT'S almost like every next symptom a woman experiences while pregnant gets attributed to the changes that are occurring in your body. Many women often neglect to mention new symptoms to their doctors because they assume it's another normal pregnancy change. But obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Anna-Kay Taylor Christmas recommends that expecting mothers take note of some symptoms in pregnancy that are cause for concern.
“While many symptoms can be easily explained by the normal changes the body makes to adapt to the baby, there are some symptoms that should never be ignored as they can be a sign of serious illness which requires immediate attention,” Dr Taylor Christmas advised.
Among the symptoms Dr Taylor Christmas said that you never want to ignore are:
“Spotting or bleeding in pregnancy is usually a sign of an underlying problem and should always be taken seriously. The bleeding can be coming from the vulva, vagina, or from the uterus,” Dr Taylor Christmas pointed out. She explained that doctors are most concerned about bleeding that could be coming from the placenta, as it can be a sign of miscarriage in early pregnancy or placental abnormalities in later pregnancy. She said that all bleeding should be investigated with an ultrasound and physical exam to determine the source and decide necessary management. Depending on the location of the placenta, bleeding may require hospital admission for some or all of the pregnancy, or, in severe cases may require an emergency delivery to protect the baby's life.
Bloody or burning urination
Blood in the urine or severe burning during urination may be signs of bladder infection or kidney stones. “Bladder infection runs the risk of going up into the kidneys and causing a serious infection that can spread into the blood and put the pregnancy and mother's life at risk. These symptoms should always be investigated with a urine analysis and culture to determine if an antibiotic (tablet or intravenous drip) is required,” Dr Taylor Christmas recommends.
Decreased/no foetal movement
Mothers are encouraged to monitor the foetal movement of their babies daily. Dr Taylor Christmas reasoned that this is crucial because movements which have slowed significantly or stopped altogether for the first half of the day could be a sign of pregnancy complications. However, this should be checked by your doctor or midwife who can get a heartbeat tracing for the baby, or an ultrasound, if necessary, since the baby, who has developed a sleep pattern by this time, might just be asleep.
Leaking fluid vaginally
“Passing fluid from the vagina may be a sign of a tear or rupture of the membranes surrounding the baby,” Dr Taylor Christmas said. She pointed out that if you are near to or past your delivery date, then there is no need to panic all that you need to do is to get an examination to confirm ruptured membranes and make sure that the process of labour can progress normally. On the other hand, if you are far away from your due date, the ObGyn warns that you should head to the hospital right away, regardless of time of day.
Off-colour/bad-smelling vaginal discharge
Discharge, according to Dr Taylor Christmas, is normal; however, any discharge that is not clear, white or cream, or that has a bad smell, and comes with itching or burning can be a sign of an infection which can have serious effects for mother and baby. She recommends that if you are unsure about your discharge you should have it checked by your doctor as soon as possible so treatment can be started if necessary.
“Uncontrolled, continuous vomiting or vomiting with blood in it is a cause for concern. It can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances in the blood, and other serious effects for mother,” Dr Taylor Christmas warned. This symptom, which is a common feature of the first trimester, tends to resolve as the pregnancy hormone levels adjust; however, it may require hospital admission and intravenous medication and fluids to correct the problem. She warns that severe vomiting can also lead to a tear in the blood vessels in the oesophagus, which can cause severe bleeding which should be treated in hospital as an emergency.
“Pain in the abdomen can be due to many things in pregnancy, depending on the trimester and any pre-existing condition the mother has. As such, this should be checked by your obstetrician to rule out more serious causes, especially if it is the first instance of that type of pain,” Dr Taylor Christmas encouraged. She also cautioned expecting mothers to seek immediate medical attention if the pain is regular and increasing in severity.
A severe headache, sudden swelling of the face, hands or legs, visual disturbances, rapid weight gain
“These symptoms are all features of severe pre-eclampsia, one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in Jamaica. If left untreated, the high blood pressure of preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, manifested by seizures,” Dr Taylor Christmas warned. She reasoned that this can have serious, long-term complications for mother and baby, and as such should be immediately reported to the nearest health centre, doctor's office or hospital for investigation and treatment.
Fevers are fairly common in pregnancy; however, a prolonged fever can have a negative effect on the baby, regardless of the trimester. Dr Taylor Christmas said that having a check-up for a fever allows the doctor to rule out more serious infections and provide a prescription for Panadol to eliminate the fever. “If the fever is not resolving, then more investigations are required. Some infections (such as Zika virus, chicken pox, toxoplasmosis) may also cause foetal complications that need to be monitored by ultrasound during the pregnancy,” Dr Taylor Christmas said.