I want to talk to you about pregnancy symptoms (that is, symptoms during pregnancy) you should never, ever ignore. This topic is so important to me because of my own pregnancy and delivery. I ignored the symptoms of preeclampsia- and my own instincts- after one doctor told me it was just normal swelling. A couple of weeks later, at 32 weeks pregnant, I ended up delivering a 3lb 5oz baby via emergency c-section because my kidneys were getting ready to shut down and my son’s heart rate was dropping. Had I ignored those pregnancy symptoms another day or two, we both would have died.
I’m not telling you this to scare you. I think it’s kind of mean to use scare tactics on a pregnant woman. Pregnancy makes you hormonal enough, the last thing you need it someone scaring the pants off of you with horror stories. The truth is, the majority of pregnancies do go along just fine. Women have normal, healthy pregnancies around the globe every single day and deliver normal healthy babies without any complications. Sometimes, though, things go wrong. When they go wrong during pregnancy, the stakes are so much higher, so it’s better to be informed. Now let’s talk about those five pregnancy symptoms that should never be ignored.
Pregnancy Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Related: How to cope with a premature baby
Edema is the fancy medical term for swelling. Now, many pregnancy women experience some degree of edema. Your feet swell a bit, your ankles get a little bigger and you find that you’re retaining water all over just a little more. When that swelling leaves your feet looking like Fred Flinstone’s or your legs double in size, there could be a problem.
Pitting edema, regardless of the amount of swelling, should be checked out right away. What is pitting edema? When you can take your finger and press it into the swelling, and it leaves a dent- or a pit- that’s pitting edema. There’s actually a scale depending on how far you can go and how long it takes to bounce back.
Extreme swelling and pitting edema are both symptoms of preeclampsia. When I had it, I gained 35 pounds of water weight in one week. I couldn’t find any shoes that fit my feet and I could press my pinky into the shins down to the first joint. Check out other signs of preeclampsia here.
There’s a difference between being thirsty on a hot summer day and being extremely thirsty all the time. If you’ve been lounging by the pool all day and think “gee, I’m so thirsty,” and feel satisfied after a nice big glass of fruit-infused water, chances are you’re fine. If you find that you’re thirsty all the time and nothing can quench it, call your doctor. Extreme thirst is one of the signs of gestational diabetes. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to find out. Unfortunately, it involves drinking that nasty sugary drink and sitting around for an hour.
According to the American Diabetes Association, gestational diabetes usually pops up at about 24 weeks. It doesn’t mean you had diabetes before pregnancy or that you’ll have it after. I have a friend who gets it with every pregnancy, but it goes away shortly after delivery. It’s tough on her, though. If you do develop it, it’s so important to follow your doctor’s recommendations.
This one is tricky. Sometimes, flu symptoms simply indicate that you have the flu- or even just a really bad cold. Other times, it can indicate something much more dangerous. That’s what makes it one of the pregnancy symptoms you should never ignore. Flu-like symptoms can indicate anything from Hepatitis B to toxoplasmosis to Listeriosis.
Hep B is transmitted through bodily fluids (blood and semen, mostly). I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’re not an IV drug user sharing needles during pregnancy, BUT if you are intimate with someone who may be using heroin or other IV drugs (you would be surprised at what people can inject, I know I was), it’s important to tell your doctor. It can also be transmitted in other ways. Coming up positive for Hep B doesn’t mean your partner is using drugs or having an affair with someone who is. The CDC has a good list of transmission methods, so check that out.
Listeria bacteria is found in certain foods, including soft cheeses and deli meats. Toxoplasmosis is transmitted through cat feces, which is why you get out of litter box duty during pregnancy. If you do develop flu-like symptoms, make sure you tell your doctor if you’ve come into contact with anything that can cause the above issues.
Another tricky one, vaginal bleeding doesn’t always indicate catastrophe during pregnancy. Some women spot quite a bit throughout the first trimester. Spotting during pregnancy can even happen throughout the entire three trimesters. Kind of unfair, if you ask me. Pregnancy is supposed to at least give you a break from bleeding!
Any spotting should be brought to the attention of your doctor, but if you start bleeding heavily, especially with cramping, get to the ER asap. Heavier bleeding can be a sign of anything from miscarriage to placental abruption (a condition in which the placenta tears itself away from the uterine wall).
Lack of movement from your baby
This is the trickiest pregnancy symptom of all because it can mean so many things. When I was about 28 weeks pregnant, Jacob stopped moving for a whole day. He was super active before that, so of course I freaked out and made my mom take me to the ER. They took me right up to the maternity floor and did an ultrasound and stress tests. Turns out he was just in a weird position where I couldn’t feel him.
I felt a little silly, but my doctor told me I was right to come in. If your baby stops moving, moves a lot less or you count fewer than 10 kicks in a day, get checked out. It could be nothing or it could indicate that your baby is in distress. Better to feel a little over-reactive than to be sorry later.
These are the top five pregnancy symptoms that I feel should never be ignored. However, it’s not an all-inclusive list. Pregnancy is different for all of us. You might feel some sort of other strange symptom that isn’t even mentioned anywhere else. After my experience with Jacob, I have one very important piece of advice for all my pregnant friends now: use your instincts! Those maternal instincts are already there.
If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out. If the first doctor says “oh, it’s nothing!” and you STILL feel like it’s not right, get a second opinion. If I had done that, Jacob and I wouldn’t have been in mortal danger at 32 weeks. Bottom line: the pregnancy symptoms you shouldn’t ignore are the pregnancy symptoms that just feel off to you, even if everyone around you says they’re normal.