5 SIGNS YOU SHOULD NEVER IGNORE
IT’S HARD NOT TO WORRY about every new twinge, even when wellmeaning friends and relatives tell you not to. It’s also hard to stay calm if your over-anxious partner keeps spotting a calamity every time you frown. Life is short, and pregnancy is hard enough, so remember just this gynae-vetted list of five situations that need urgent action – and get on with living your best pregnant life in the meantime.
1 SEVERE HEADACHE
Some women report fewer to no headaches while they’re with child, others unfortunately keep getting them, or get headaches when they never used to. A mild headache is nothing to worry about, but if you suddenly get a severe headache, this could be very serious. Dr Yershini Moodley, a gynaecologist and obstetrician in private practice in Johannesburg, says, “Severe headache may be a symptom of imminent eclampsia.” A pregnant woman with very high blood pressure can start fitting and even become comatose and die. Dr Moodley says, “Pre-eclampsia is the leading cause of obstetric morbidity and mortality,” so it is vital you monitor yourself. Other symptoms are blurred vision and dizziness, as well as pain on the right side of your stomach.
2 SEVERE ABDOMINAL PAIN
Smallanyana pains, such as an abdominal muscle spasm or Braxton Hicks contraction, are not a cause for concern. “But severe abdominal pain is usually a symptom of a serious underlying pathology, which can be from a gynaecological, obstetric, or other source,” explains Dr Moodley. What does that mean? If it’s a gynaecological issue, it could indicate a miscarriage in progress, or a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies (in which the foetus fails to move into the uterus) are not viable and inevitably end in miscarriage. So those are the worstcase scenarios. Another possibility is a large, complicated ovarian cyst, says Dr Moodley, which may have to be surgically removed if it is causing pain. Severe abdominal pain could also have an obstetric cause, meaning it could indicate preterm labour, or abruptio placentae (bleeding behind the placenta). In each case, getting to a hospital quickly is critical so that labour can be stopped if possible, or the baby be prepared for premature birth with lifesaving interventions. In the case of placental abruption, the placenta is threatening to come away from the walls of the uterus, and depending on the specific conditions, bed rest and other medical interventions may be needed to save the life of your baby. “Other causes of pain could be disorders involving other organ systems, e.g. appendicitis, cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), pancreatitis or a complicated peptic ulcer,” says Dr Moodley. These conditions are not medical emergencies but are complicated by your pregnancy and need to be treated by a doctor.
3 DRAINAGE OF LIQUID FROM THE VAGINA
If your membranes have ruptured before 37 weeks of pregnancy, that is considered premature, and obviously, the earlier along in your pregnancy this happens, the more serious the condition. “Infection of the placenta, chorion and amnion can cause a severe inflammatory response in the foetus, leading to neurological or cardiorespiratory complications,” cautions Dr Moodley. You need to get to hospital to check if your membranes have indeed ruptured. If they have, you will have to stay in hospital to try to delay labour for as long as possible, or go home on bed rest. Infection is now a risk and you will be treated with antibiotics. Your baby will most likely be given steroids to prepare his lungs for a possible premature birth. If this has happened to you, you obviously need to be extra vigilant for the rest of your pregnancy.
4 VAGINAL BLEEDING
Another serious symptom, vaginal bleeding early in pregnancy can indicate an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage, according to Dr Moodley. Vaginal bleeding later than 20 weeks into your pregnancy (the medical term for this is “antepartum haemorrhage”, says Dr Moodley) can have several causes, “the most common being placenta praevia or placental abruption. In the case of placenta praevia, the placenta is lying over the opening of the cervix. You’ll need to follow medical advice, such as possibly avoiding exercise, sex or using tampons, throughout your pregnancy and may need to have a C-section.”
5 REDUCED FOETAL MOVEMENT
“Once the pregnancy reaches viability at around 24 weeks, it is important that you keep track of how often your baby moves,” says Dr Moodley. “No movement may be a sign that your baby is in serious trouble and you need to seek medical advice immediately.” Having said that, babies do sleep, and do have days where there is somewhat less movement. Try to gauge what is normal for your baby, and if you are worried, try a few things to “wake” him such as eating or drinking something sugary or prodding your belly a little, before you take further action.
Yes, most niggles are harmless discomforts, and you don’t want to spend your whole pregnancy worrying. But these symptoms do need medical attention, so be on the lookout for them, writes Margot Bertelsmann