Warning symptoms in pregnancy; pay attention to them!

In pregnancy, a common complaint, such as nausea or constipation, is not the same as medical emergencies, such as vaginal bleeding or ringing in the ears. Therefore, if you present any of these warning symptoms in any trimester, you should consult your doctor immediately to avoid complications.

The gynecologist and obstetrician Germán Palacios López, from the Star Médica Lomas Verdes Hospital, emphasizes that a pregnant woman must learn to listen to her body and, if necessary, go to the emergency room, but never ignore some symptoms or warning signs.

At any stage of pregnancy, time is a critical factor if it is an obstetric emergency. The faster a pregnant woman is treated, the fewer consequences she will have, “Because, in most cases, the complications that occur can be prevented or managed, as long as they are resolved as soon as possible”, explains Palacios López, a certified doctor by the Mexican Council of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

While most pregnancies and births are uneventful, there can be risks.

Recognizing an obstetric emergency

An obstetric emergency requires prompt attention to safeguard the life of the pregnant woman and the baby, “It is defined as that state of health that endangers the life of the woman and/or the product, and that also requires immediate medical attention and /or surgery”, states the document Obstetric emergencies in Mexico: designation of concept and use, by Guadalupe Ramírez and Graciela Freyermuth, published by the Observatory of Maternal Mortality in Mexico.

For Palacios López, in most obstetric emergencies, there will always be a certain point of margin to act, control, and prevent fatal complications. Hence, a pregnant woman must consult her doctor in the presence of any different or abnormal symptom, no matter how minimal it is.

Warning symptoms you should know

The military doctor comments that among the symptoms that should alert a pregnant woman to go to the emergency room immediately are:

  • A temperature of 38°C or higher, occurring at any time during pregnancy, requires medical attention.
  • Transvaginal fluid leakage or bleeding. Before 20 weeks, it will be considered a threatened abortion. After 20 weeks, it will be a threat of premature labor. “It is essential to differentiate between liquid and blood: the first may be due to a water break. But if there is bleeding, it may be due to a placental abruption,” says Palacios.
  • Swelling of face and fingers.
  • Severe or continuous headache.
  • Elevation of blood pressure to more than 140/90 mmHg is a sign of pre-eclampsia.
  • Pain or burning when urinating can mean an infection. In severe cases, it may require hospitalization.
  • Decreased fetal movements. After week 24, one way to know if a baby is doing well is counting his movements. Whenever a mother notices the absence or decrease in fetal movements (less than ten movements a day), she should immediately go to the emergency room, “This is a measure that helps prevent intrauterine deaths”, says the specialist..

On the other hand, the IMSS also advises a pregnant woman to go to the hospital, regardless of the day and time, when there is one or more of the symptoms mentioned above and the following:

  • See colored “lights”
  • Have ringing in the ears
  • Painful contractions before due time

Finally, among the discomforts that are NOT an obstetric emergency, but DO require that you consult your doctor, are:

  • Throwing up
  • Vaginal infection (discharge, burning, itching, bad smell)
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Flu and/or cough
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Appearance of rashes on the body

About 15 percent of all pregnant women experience some life-threatening complication that requires skilled care and, in some cases, major obstetric intervention for survival.


Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara

Spanish version