For the first nine weeks of pregnancy, mom’s baby is called an embryo, but that will change on week ten when her little one hits fetus status. By this point, mom usually knows she’s expecting and may have even seen her baby on an ultrasound looking like a seed ready to blossom.
She’s in the throes of morning sickness and trying to absorb each day of pregnancy.
Many women go on to carry their child to term, but there are situations where the fetus suddenly stops developing, and none of them are good. A baby’s life in the womb is full of growth and development, and when that suddenly stops, it may mean the pregnancy is not progressing and there’s trouble ahead.
A miscarriage is considered the loss of a pregnancy before it hits the 20 week mark, and anywhere between 10 to 20 percent of women suffer from these. The vast majority of miscarriages happen before mom is even 12 weeks along.
When mom loses a child after the 20 week mark, it’s considered a stillbirth. Whether a miscarriage or stillbirth, a fetus that isn’t growing is a sign that the pregnancy may not end the way mom hoped.
While it’s possible for the following signs to be innocuous, mom needs to be aware that any of them can mean her pregnancy and child are at risk. Seeking treatment to better understand what is happening is key, as is recognizing the signs to know there may be a problem.
15 Small Fundal Height
Mom’s uterus will be measured throughout her pregnancy, and it’s interesting to see what the doctor finds. When a fundal height measurement is taken, the doctor is measuring from the top of the uterus to the pubic bone.
This is done with a tape measure while mom is on her back, and it helps let the doctor know if mom’s uterus, and therefore her fetus, is growing. After the 16 week mark, doctors usually find that the fundal height matches the number of weeks mom is pregnant.
When a fundal height measurement doesn’t come in as expected, this can mean a problem with the pregnancy, such as too much or too little amniotic fluid or a baby in a breech position. Unfortunately, it can also mean the fetus isn’t growing properly.
Just like with hCG levels, many doctors will perform a follow-up to make sure the measurement is actually showing a problem. If more than one measurement comes in smaller than expected or if mom is showing other signs of a possible problem with the pregnancy, the doctor may order more tests.
If a child has passed away in the womb, the fetal height measurement may be the first indicator since it shows that development has stopped taking place.
14 No Beating Heart
Doctors start looking for the baby’s heartbeat during the first trimester, though it may be closer to the end of the first trimester before they are able to locate one with a Doppler. In fact, a baby’s heartbeat may be heard around the ninth or tenth week when baby goes from embryo to fetus.
The lack of a heartbeat early on is obviously a concerning sign. Since a baby’s heart starts beating at around the fifth week of pregnancy, most moms and doctors expect to be able to find it by the time the child is a fetus.
However, it is possible for the sound to be missed due to things like the baby’s position or the placement of the placenta.
During the early weeks of the fetal stage, doctors may not worry about not hearing a heartbeat. They will usually have mom come back and try again at another appointment. If no sound is heard again, an ultrasound may be scheduled to see if there is a reason. Sometimes the reason is that the fetus stopped developing.
It is possible for mom to hear a heartbeat in early pregnancy and not hear one at a subsequent appointment. Again, the baby’s position can affect this, but so can fetal demise.
13 Intrauterine Growth Restriction Diagnosis
An intrauterine growth restriction(IUGR) diagnosis means the fetus is measuring smaller in utero than expected, and this could lead to many problems. If a fetus is measuring in the less than ten percentile for their gestational age, they will likely be defined as struggling with IUGR.
This can happen in pregnancies with singletons or multiples, and in the case of multiples one twin may suffer from IUGR while the other does not.
The most common reason for IUGR is a problem with the placenta, which is supposed to make sure baby gets everything he or she needs from mom. If the placenta is not functioning properly, then the fetus may stop growing.
There are other issues that may cause IUGR, including kidney problems, anemia, and diabetes. Once a diagnosis of IUGR has been given, it’s imperative that the doctor or midwife watch the condition closely. IUGR can lead to problems for a baby when they emerge from the womb.
They are more likely to have issues regulating their body temperature, maintaining their blood sugar, and breathing.
12 Low hCG Level
Human chorionic gonadoptropin, better known as hCG, is a pregnancy hormone that mom produces when she’s pregnant.
In fact, many doctors will draw blood to see if mom’s hCG level is where it needs to be depending on what stage of pregnancy she is at, and it is the hormone that triggers a urine test to say positive when mom takes an at-home pregnancy test.
While the hCG level will fluctuate throughout pregnancy, it tends to follow a trend. Around the nine to sixteen week mark, it will be extremely high if mom’s pregnancy is progressing normally.
If mom suddenly stops feeling pregnant or an ultrasound shows there may be a problem with the pregnancy, doctor’s will likely test mom’s hCG level to see where it falls. If it is lower than normal, this is reason for concern.
However, OBs often order a follow-up hCG test a couple of days later because researchers have found that it’s better to look for trends in hCG levels as opposed to relying on one test.
Tests taken over a couple of days that show a declining hCG level are likely to mean the fetus has stopped developing and a miscarriage is about to occur.
11 Cramping During Pregnancy
Trying to distinguish between pains suffered during pregnancy can feel like a full-time job. Of course it’s not going to be comfortable every single day since mom is growing a person in her body. There will be aches and pains, but mom needs to pay attention to cramps that may feel like menstrual cramps and can even be a bit stronger.
Cramping while pregnant can be a sign that something is not right with the pregnancy.
Again, cramping alone usually does not mean there is a dire occurrence. Combined with other symptoms, it may be a concern, but many times when a fetus is developing perfectly mom will still have cramps.
As the uterus expands, mom will feel the pain, and during the second trimester, mom’s cramps will often be from round ligament pain. Round ligament pain can be sharp or dull, but it is common as mom grows.
Mom needs to be concerned if her cramping doesn’t go away or intensifies over time. In these cases, a problem with the placenta may be to blame, so a doctor needs to be involved.
Other times cramping, unfortunately, means mom’s body is beginning the process of miscarriage and has started experiencing contractions to remove the baby from the uterus.
Cramping and don’t know why? Call the doctor for peace of mind.
It’s true that moms may suffer from light bleeding, also called spotting, when pregnant. In fact, some women spot so much during pregnancy that they aren’t aware they are missing a period. What they may be experiencing early on is spotting from the process of implantation.
However, mom should never assume that bleeding during pregnancy is normal. If mom starts bleeding while pregnant, even if it’s a negligible amount, she needs to contact her OB. Bleeding is sometimes a sign of a problem with the pregnancy.
When a woman miscarries, she will often bleed or pass large clots. Its her body’s way of expelling the fetus since it stopped developing and suffered fetal demise. Though there is nothing that can be done to stop the process of a miscarriage, mom still needs to confer with her doctor to find out if that is truly what is taking place and to make sure she doesn’t lose too much blood.
9 Back Pain
For the record, back pain is usually normal and very much expected during pregnancy. As the body grows to accommodate a person living inside the uterus, the pressure and strain on the back is inevitable.
Some women experience it worse than others, and moms of multiples will often wonder if their back is going to break under the strain of carrying all those children.
The key to understanding when back pain is a problem is knowing what it shouldn’t feel like. Back pain should never be severe, and it’s not a great sign if it starts in the front of the body and moves to the back.
Back pain is also considered more of a concern when it is coupled with other symptoms, such as bleeding or a lack of usual signs of pregnancy.
Severe, aggressive back pain during any stage of pregnancy should never be ignored. A doctor can examine mom and try to find the cause. For some moms, a dull, achy back is just a normal part of the pregnancy process.
Vaginal discharge is never fun to talk about, but it’s a normal part of being a female, and it’s also a normal part of being pregnant. Mom will find that all of the bodily fluid situations during pregnancy leave her mind reeling as she tries to figure out what is normal and what is problematic.
Gushing fluid or material that could be tissue leaving the vagina is a reason to contact a doctor. This may be an early sign of miscarriage, or it may be normal hormonal changes. However, it isn’t something to ignore.
The baby spends its life in the womb surrounded by amniotic fluid, and this fluid is essential to its well being. When it’s time, the water breaks, which means the amniotic sac holding the amniotic fluid ruptures.
While moms look forward to this at the end of pregnancy, it’s not a good sign if fluid is leaking or gushing too early. It means the body may have realized fetal development stopped and so it’s time to get the baby out.
7 Abnormal Ultrasound
Moms consider ultrasound printouts their very first baby pictures, and it is exciting to see the baby as he or she grows. However, ultrasounds are used for more than just pre-birth pictures. They can be excellent indicators of problems within the womb.
Ultrasounds show the doctor the size, position, and overall development of the baby, and mom will probably have her first ultrasound sometime during the first trimester. Ultrasounds can also show birth defects and help doctors make an estimation of mom’s due date.
While ultrasounds usually show a healthy baby making leaps and bounds in growth, some also show fetuses that are no longer growing or developing normally.
In both the first and second trimester, ultrasounds are used to assess size and development. If both are not moving as scheduled, doctors will warn their patients that a miscarriage or stillbirth is possible.
However, ultrasounds are not always accurate about size, and many doctors who use them to predict what weight a baby will be find they were wrong when the child arrives and is pounds off the prediction.
Though ultrasounds are great tools that can predict fetal distress or demise, they can also give false positives, so they should be used in conjunction with other tests.
6 A Negative Pregnancy Test After A Positive One
Pregnancy tests that allow moms to test days before their missed periods are awesome for the woman who has been waiting and really wants to know the very first second she is pregnant. Though tests are more accurate after mom has missed her first period, many moms will still take tests earlier just to see what they say.
If mom takes a pregnancy test and receives a positive result, she should follow up with her doctor to make sure she starts receiving solid prenatal care at the beginning of her pregnancy. Her OB can also confirm that she is pregnant.
As pregnancy progresses, moms sometimes start to notice that they don’t feel the same as they did in the beginning. Some of their pregnancy symptoms have subsided, and though that is sometimes normal since every phase of pregnancy is different, many moms will reach for another pregnancy test to confirm that they are still pregnant.
There are times that a test will come back negative even after mom has received a positive pregnancy test and confirmed her pregnancy with a doctor. When this happens, it means the baby is no longer developing and mom will need to call her doctor to find out what steps need to be taken.
5 A Feeling Of Loss
A mother’s instincts kick in before the baby arrives, and some moms know their child is not developing before a doctor tells them. Whether it was the absence of common pregnancy symptoms they previously experienced or just the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right, moms sometimes just had a feeling that all was not well.
While it’s okay to trust instincts, it’s also important for moms to understand that pregnancy is a time of fluctuating hormones and insane changes in the body. Many moms fear their child is in danger because they know someone who lost a child or because they read a parenting book that made them scared to even leave their house.
Knowledge is good, and it’s true that fetal demise can happen to anyone, but mom needs to temper this information with the understanding that babies can grow and develop without problems, and many signs of fetal demise are also normal symptoms of pregnancy.
For moms who have experienced pregnancy loss in the past, it may be especially difficult to let go of fear. Talking through emotions with a partner or friend can be helpful, as is calling the doctor if concerns can’t be put to rest. Trust instincts, but don’t be ruled by emotion alone.
4 No Fetal Movement
Though the baby is growing and developing during the first trimester, mom usually won’t feel the first movements until she is well into her second trimester.
Sometime during the third trimester, the doctor or midwife will probably start asking mom to do kick counts to make sure she feels the little one move a certain number of times each day. This helps make sure nothing has happened to the baby, and it alerts mom to changes that may mean she needs to contact her doctor.
If mom was feeling her child move regularly and then notices the movements have stopped, it may be because something has gone wrong. There are also a host of other reasons that a child might not move as often, but one is fetal demise.
Babies who pass away in the womb will stop growing and moving, and mom will be the first one to notice these changes.
The most important thing to do when mom notices that her baby isn’t moving is to contact her doctor. She shouldn’t panic since this lack of movement may not mean anything at all, but she needs to check with her doctor to find out what has happened, just in case.
3 A Lack Of Morning Sickness
Moms generally don’t enjoy morning sickness, also known as all day sickness that doesn’t let up. Most women move past the morning sick phase after the first trimester, but some stop feeling nausea before the first trimester ends.
While this can be perfectly normal and a reason for mom to be relieved, it can also be a sign that the pregnancy is in danger and the fetus is no longer growing.
The hCG levels that increase and spike during the first trimester are responsible for the nausea and awful feelings connected to the first trimester. Though hard to deal with, nausea is actually a sign that hCG levels are high and the pregnancy is progressing with the baby growing just as he or she should.
If mom has other signs of miscarriage and she suddenly isn’t morning sick, her doctor may run a test to see how high her hCG levels are. If two consecutive tests show the levels going down, mom’s absent morning sickness may be a sign that the fetus stopped developing and the pregnancy will end in miscarriage.
2 No Chest Sensitivity
Women spend their whole lives pretty in tune with their breasts. PMS offers sensitive breasts, but mom will find that pregnancy offers a whole new level of chest pain. Her breasts will also feel fuller, sometimes within the first months of pregnancy.
Hormone changes are to blame, and though these changes may be uncomfortable at times, changing breasts are a good sign.
Just like morning sickness can go away and everything with the pregnancy can still be fine, the same is true with breast changes. However, a woman who notices a sudden stop in breast pain or a reduction in size may be dealing with the fact that the pregnancy has taken a turn for the worst.
Hormone levels change if a pregnancy has stopped and the baby is no longer being supported. When they do, mom may notice that the symptoms, like breast pain, that clued her in that she was pregnant stop.
Fever is the body’s natural way of fighting infection, but a fever during pregnancy can mean problems. In fact, if mom-to-be is running fever, waiting it out isn’t an option.
Fever is tricky during pregnancy because it can disrupt the developmental process for the fetus. Plus, fever is usually an indication that there is an underlying problem that can also cause complications for the baby, like a bacterial or viral infection.
If mom is vomiting or suffering from loose bowels while running fever, she also has to be make sure she isn’t dehydrating. Unfortunately, fever is also a sign of a miscarriage.
Instead of panicking, mom needs to contact her doctor or midwife and decide how to handle the fever. Since mom can’t take just any over-the-counter medication while pregnant, she will need to make sure she treats the fever with a product that is safe for both her and the baby.
The next job will be finding the source of the fever and stopping it. The sooner fever is eradicated, the less likely it is to have short or long-term implications for the baby’s development.