These are words all that parents wish to hear, and rightly so. For that envisioned, memorable day, those nine months does require caution and mindfulness. It is valuable to be aware of initial signs of potential complications that could occur during pregnancies, so you act early to protect yourself and your unborn baby if need be.
Some pregnancies may only involve minor issues, whereas others could suffer from severe problems that could be potentially life threatening. Most problems tend to have symptoms and these symptoms or ‘warning signs’, to put simply, are what could tell us about the issues developing during a pregnancy. All mothers should therefore keep an eye out for these signs to identify whether or not these are happening to them.
The most common warning signs that mothers can observe for themselves during their pregnancy include:
Generally, pregnant women should take notice of how much their baby is moving around throughout the pregnancy. Some babies will move around a lot during the night, while others will move more in the mornings. However, if your little one moves noticeably less than usual, or is not moving around at all, you should proceed to your regular hospital immediately. This is because there have been unfortunate incidences and the best way to prevent it is to observe how much movement is occurring inside the womb or by counting the movements. Usually, babies will move more than 10 times within 2 hours with each movement letting the mother know that they are in good health. Babies tend to move around the most immediately after the mother has eaten.
You can start counting your child’s movement’s from the 32nd week of the pregnancy onwards. You should count their rolls, kicks and flutters particularly after breakfast, lunch and dinner. The method should consist of counting a series of movements as one session, for example kick, kick, rest would be considered one session followed by kick, kick and kick as another. The observation period should cover the couple hours after eating and if there are less than 3 sessions or 10 movements in 2 hours, you should wait a few hours and count again. In the case that the movement is still less, you should seek medical attention immediately in order to identify any irregularities that may be present, which could affect the pregnancy thereafter.
A common cause of vaginal bleeding during a pregnancy is premature separation of the placenta, a process that usually occurs once the infant has already been born. However, if the placenta does separate from the wall of the womb due to fetal toxicity or a strong impact to the pregnant mother’s abdomen, this could lead to bleeding from the uterus which could cause oxygen deficiency for the infant, and potentially lead to a loss of life. Thus, if mothers experience vaginal bleeding, severe abdominal pain, extreme tightness of the abdomen, abdominal pain that is sensitive to the touch, or a womb that suddenly increases in size due to a buildup of blood inside it, medical attention should be sought immediately.
Another cause of vaginal bleeding is placenta previa, a condition whereby some or all of the placenta becomes stuck to the lower region of the womb instead of taking up its usual position at the top of the womb. The signs of this condition also include vaginal bleeding. If this is experienced, it necessitates a visit to the hospital as soon as possible. This bleeding is not painful, but if profuse bleeding occurs, doctors may be required to remove both infant and placenta as quickly as possible to stem the bleeding.
Water breaking or a clear liquid similar in appearance to urine (but which is not urine) emanating from the vagina is a sign that the amniotic sac has ruptured. This is not a mucus or leucorrhoea, so when waters break, mothers-to-be should quickly make their way to hospital. If the condition is left untreated, bacteria could enter the uterus and cause an infection that has the potential to be deadly for both mother and baby.
Mothers should be on the lookout and if there is any amount of amniotic fluid, no matter how small, leaking down the front of the legs, a sanitary pad should be worn and checked every 2–3 hours. During this time, the mother-to-be should cease from walking too much, and if the amniotic fluid has not stopped leaking, a visit to hospital is required instead of leaving the condition to potentially harm the infant.
Inflammation is caused by eclampsia, and usually affects women who have a family history of high blood pressure, mothers with diabetes and mothers pregnant with twins. Pregnant women who experience inflammation of the feet, hands or fingers in conjunction with headaches, particularly those affecting the forehead and the occipital region, as well as blurred vision, should seek medical attention straight away. Some may even experience inflammation of the face and arms, and these symptoms also necessitate a visit to the hospital to receive treatment that could help reduce the chances of any subsequent dangers occurring.
This refers to the type of abdominal pain which affects the central area of the abdomen, womb or pubis. With regard to abdominal tightness, this refers to a constriction in the womb causing a circular lump to form and which, if left untreated for an extended period of time, could cause the uterus to close up and may lead to a premature birth. Urinary tract infections are a common cause of this condition so pregnant women should be especially careful not to “hold it in” when feeling the urge to urinate.
Also, abdominal pain or abdominal tightness could also be a result of overly physical sexual intercourse, overwork or not getting enough rest, all of which could potentially lead to a constriction of the womb, a miscarriage or a premature birth. That being said, even pregnant women going through a regular pregnancy may experience some abdominal tightness, for example when turning over or when the infant is moving around within the womb. However, if you feel that the tightness is happening with greater frequency than usual, be sure to get plenty of rest. If the symptoms persist, with the tightness occurring at consecutive hourly intervals for around 2–3 hours, a visit to the hospital should be made immediately. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Don’t wait for the symptoms to start happening in conjunction with one another as this could eventually cause premature birth.
M.D., Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University, 1996.