HCA Midwest Health - January 17, 2019

You’re elated, you’re terrified. You’re starving, uh-oh, you’re going to be sick. You’re spilling out of your bra and your hair is so thick. (Sweet.) Your pants won’t button. (Yuk.) Welcome to pregnancy.

With changes to your body from head to foot, there aren’t many women who go through pregnancy without worrying over one symptom or another. Women carrying multiples or those with underlying health conditions – gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic conditions – need to pay extra attention to symptoms, but in other cases, even the strangest symptoms can be perfectly normal.

But how do you know? Let’s decode seven pregnancy symptoms.

Who really knows what to expect when you’re expecting?

Every pregnancy is its own “snowflake,” says board-certified ObGyn, Zachary Shanitkvich, MD, “even in the same woman. I tell repeat moms to not be surprised by different symptoms in their different pregnancies.”

Although you may be hesitant to call with every little worry, listen up: You are NOT bothering the doctor. A call can help alleviate questions or concerns, or alert the doctor if you need to be seen.

“I’d rather talk to a patient every day, than have her sit home worrying,” says Dr. Shanitkvich. “That’s why we’re here.”

Morning Sickness: In the middle of the day?

The myth of morning sickness is that it happens, well, in the morning. For about 70 to 80 percent of moms-to-be, first trimester nausea and vomiting are common, and can hit any time of the day. Morning sickness generally starts around weeks 6 to 8, going through weeks 12 to 16. However, be warned. It can last longer.

When to call:

If you feel totally miserable or the morning sickness gets worse throughout the day, call your doctor as he or she may be able to prescribe something to help. If you’re so sick you can’t keep anything – even liquids/water – down, you need to be seen as you risk becoming dehydrated and preventing baby from getting necessary nutrients.

Bleeding: Am I having a miscarriage?

One of the most common symptoms prompting anxious calls to the doctor is spotting and/or bleeding. Although not “normal,” spotting or light bleeding is fairly common in the first trimester; anywhere from 20 to 40 percent women experience it. While bleeding can be a sign of miscarriage – every newly expectant mom’s fear – even heavy bleeding can be due to other non-alarming causes.

When to call:

Call your doctor any time you have spotting or bleeding. Be prepared to talk about other symptoms such as cramping, fever or pain in a specific spot. Women with heavy period-like bleeding, bright red or clot-like discharge should be seen as that could signal a miscarriage, or even if not, could lead to anemia. If it’s after hours, the doctor may suggest a trip to the ER depending on the severity of your symptoms.

HCA Midwest Health has two OB emergency rooms with access to board-certified ObGyns 24/7.

Cramping: I feel like I’m back on my period

The period-like cramps and back pain many women feel during early pregnancy are generally normal as your body reacts to pregnancy.

When to call:

If the cramping and back pain are severe, or accompanied by a fever or bleeding, you need to call. In early pregnancy, cramps or contractions (a tightening feeling across your uterus) happening every five to 20 minutes need to be evaluated to rule out miscarriage. Pain isolated on one side may signal an ectopic pregnancy. In later pregnancy, “heavy” pelvic pressure or abdominal cramps could be a sign of premature labor.

Swelling: Are those my feet?

Retaining water and some swelling are part and parcel of expecting. Can anyone say cankles?

When to call:

If you begin to swell abruptly in your second and third trimester, if your hands and face are super swollen, or you’re swollen with a persistent and severe headache, particularly after week 20, call the doctor. These symptoms could signal a condition called preeclampsia, dangerous pregnancy-induced high blood pressure that requires immediate attention.

Headache: Maybe just a change of habit

When we get pregnant, we cut back or eliminate caffeine, we change our diets and we are stressed. Any of those is enough to give us a headache, so it’s a common complaint during pregnancy.

When to call:

If the headache won’t go away or if it is accompanied by blurred vision, call the doctor. Severe and persistent headache can be another sign of preeclampsia.

A Gush of Water: What just happened?

Among the many happy side effects of pregnancy is a thick, milky discharge, which is normal as your cervix changes. And alas, bladder control is also sometimes a casualty. Bottom line, you may often find yourself a bit more damp down below than you’d like.

When to call:

If the discharge has an odor, or is itchy, call the doctor as it may mean an infection. If you feel a gush of water or dampness in your underwear, Dr. Shanitkvich recommends laying on your side for 20 minutes with towel between your legs. If the towel is wet or fairly damp, you should be seen as soon as possible.

Baby movement: What are you doing in there?

Just like you, baby needs sleep, so don’t expect him or her to move all the time. As your pregnancy progresses, the movements will be less strenuous, but you should be able to still feel movement. After about 28 weeks, you should feel the baby move at least 10 times every two hours.

When to call:

If you don’t think you’ve felt the baby move in awhile, or have noticed a drastic slowdown in movement, call the doctor. Dr. Shanitkvich suggests going to a quiet room and focus on feeling movement. If you don’t feel any movement after an hour, call the doctor. He or she will likely have you come in for an ultrasound to make sure everything is okay.

Great Expectations

At the maternity hospitals of HCA Midwest Health, we deliver more babies than any other healthcare system in the KC area. We offer the maternity care you need from conception to taking home your new addition.

Find an ObGyn

tags: maternity , t4b