The first time you go through the labor process can be a scary ordeal. You've been feeling minor contractions, you may have lost your mucus plug, and you're thinking: "This HAS to be it!" only to get there and be told that you are in the early stages of labor, and to go home for now. This is not an abnormal circumstance... but it does leave you wondering... just when do I go to the hospital? When is the right time to go and be seen?
When true labor begins, the contractions you've been feeling, minor and mild, will become more frequent, more painful, and more intense. During these contractions, you usually won't be able to feel the baby move at all. These contractions will push the baby's head down and will thin the cervix, also known as effacement and dilation.
However, you can have labor that is intense and painful, but with no thinning of the cervix. This is called False Labor, but the pains sure are real!
Now, labor or not, there are times when you should definitely rush to the hospital. And remember, if in doubt, it's always better to be safe rather than sorry, so head to the hospital if you're concerned.
10 Pregnant with multiples
Any time you go into labor in a multiple pregnancy, you should head straight to the hospital, whether it is early labor or not. Each additional fetus a mother carries during pregnancy increases the chance of complications and risks. Multiple births come with the risks of preterm labor and lower birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction, pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, and more.
Depending on the positioning and amount of babies, there also may be the birth process itself that is higher risk or requires surgery. It's generally encouraged to go to the hospital as soon as contractions begin for these reasons when multiples are involved. It's all about the safety of mom and babies.
You should have a plan in place with your OB about the delivery of the babies, when it will happen, and how you will go about doing it. Keep all of this in mind and make sure to inform the hospital staff of it when you go in.
If you end up in a hospital that you were not planning to be at, it's a good idea to have your OB's number on hand to give to the doctors, so they can consult with your OB and determine what the next plan of action is for you and your babies.
9 Water Breaking
Not all women will have this happen before labor, but for some, the first real sign of labor can be the water breaking. When this happens, call the doctor, write the amount of fluid down, and take down the time it happens. This fluid can be clear or straw colored, and can either smell sweet or have no scent. It does not smell like urine and shouldn't be confused with having an accident, you'd smell the ammonia in urine.
When this happens, if true labor does not begin 24 hours after the waters break, the doctors will usually assess the situation. When the waters break, it can potentially introduce bacteria to the baby, so they will often want to induce if labor does not begin on it's own. Because of the bacteria risk, DO NOT get into a bath when you suspect your water has broken! This can introduce more bacteria into the uterus and vagina! You can, however, shower if you feel the need to do so.
In the case of pre-term labor, doctors will often take it on a case by case basis to figure out what is in the best interest for the baby and the mom, and may give your child steroid shots to mature the lungs.
8 Intense Abdominal Pain
Now in this area, there's the intense pain that comes with labor, and the intense pains that can mean something is wrong. Both instances need to be checked out, pronto. As the baby moves into the birth canal, it can put pressure on the lower back and abdomen. This can cause some intense cramping, and during labor it can be completely normal.
If you are pre-term, though, this needs to be looked into by a doctor as soon as possible, because it's definitely a sign of pre-term labor.
However, there are also instances where you can have severe menstrual like cramping and it's not labor... it's miscarriage. Cramps or contractions that get progressively stronger can be signs that a miscarriage is about to happen.
If you're concerned at all, you need to call the doctor, they'll want to check things out and make sure that the baby is going to be OK. Also, keep in mind, some cramping in pregnancy is completely normal and is simply a side effect of the uterus expanding.
7 Heavy Vaginal Bleeding
Some spotting in early pregnancy can be normal and the pregnancy can go on to be healthy, happy, and without other issues. But, sometimes it can be a sign that something is not right. Heavy spotting and bleeding can be a sign of many things, including placenta previa, implantation bleeding if it's early enough, and, unfortunately, miscarriage.
Always let your doctor know when bleeding is present
If you think you've passed fetal tissue, it should be placed in a clean, clear container and taken to a doctor right away to be analyzed.If you've had heavy bleeding at any point in pregnancy, it's always a good idea to get it checked out.
6 Lack of Movement
It's completely normal to not feel movement until even up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. And fetal movements are already something that can drive you crazy with worry and doubt. But, after you've begun feeling regular movements, if you can't feel the baby moving and can't get them moving, then it's time to see the doctor.
A snack, as long as things are ok, should perk things up and rouse the little one. Sometimes sex and other activities can lull baby to sleep as well. But, if you can't feel around 10 movements in a 2 hour span in the last couple of months, then you need to get to a doctor as soon as possible and let them make sure that the baby is OK. They will monitor the baby to ensure that the heartbeat is good and make sure that he or she is not in distress.
It should always be a sign to go to the hospital if you have a seizure, pregnancy or not. Seizures in pregnancy can be a sign of eclampsia, however, which is a very serious blood pressure condition in pregnant women. Eclampsia is a condition that follows pre-eclampsia, which is also very serious.
Many women with preeclampsia will not go on to have seizures, but some do, and predicting which will is very difficult. Women with severe preeclampsia who have had headaches, abnormal blood tests, severely high blood pressure, and vision changes are at high risk to develop seizures and eclampsia.
Also, some other factors that up the risk of developing eclampsia are being 35 or older, being African American, being a teen, and having multiple babies. Speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you suspect you are developing pre-eclampsia, because untreated, it can be very dangerous to mother and child.
4 Vision Problems
Pregnancy hormones can sometimes change your vision during pregnant. It's why women are often cautioned against getting new eyeglass prescriptions while pregnant, because the prescription could change after the pregnancy ends. However, there are other reasons that you can have a severe shift in vision.
Blurred vision can mean a lot of things
One of the signs of preeclampsia is severe vision problems. These problems can include temporary loss of vision, blurred vision, seeing spots, and light sensitivity. If you suddenly have temporary loss of vision or other severe vision problems, then it's definitely time to head to the ER to make sure you're alright.
3 Severe Headaches
We all get headaches from time to time, but sometimes we get headaches so severe that they make us want to sit in a dark, quiet room. Yet another sign of preeclampsia in pregnancy is severe headaches. Headaches can be caused by high blood pressure, and should not be ignored, especially if they do not subside.
Always listen to your body
Headaches can also be caused by dehydration, which is something else you do not want to have to deal with when you are pregnant. Headaches that don't go away need to be treated by a doctor, and if they're severe, they may warrant a trip to the ER.
Some dizziness is a normal part of pregnancy. Your blood flow has changed a bit and your hormones aren't at their normal, so you'll experience some occasional dizzy spells. There are, however, times when you need to be seen for the dizzy spells. If dizziness is accompanied by pain and bleeding, it could be a sign of a placental abruption, ectopic pregnancy, or a low-lying placenta.
Do not take dizziness lightly
Dizziness plus blurred vision, headaches, and increased heart rate are potential signs of anemia, preeclampsia, and other problems and you should be seen for it immediately. If you have severe dizziness, it could be a sign of dehydration as well, and could require fluids. Either way, don't hesitate to go to the hospital if you're feeling like you need to.
1 Sudden Extreme Weight Gain
You're going to gain weight during pregnancy, that's pretty inevitable, and at points you're going to retain water. However, weight gain of more than 4lbs in a week is extreme and should be followed up by a doctor. Extreme weight gain is another sign of preeclampsia. You gain weight with preeclampsia due to massive retaining of water.
You'll sometimes be asked to monitor if your joints swell, most noticeably the ankles and feet. If you notice any sudden weight gain or if your joints suddenly swell rapidly, it's time to go to the ER or your OB's office to rule out preeclampsia.
Pregnancy can be scary, but in the end, the result we all want is a healthy baby and an equally healthy mommy. That means trusting the doctor or midwife, and confiding your concerns when needed.
Remember it's their job to listen to you and make sure you are ok, and if you ever feel like someone is not doing their job, you have the right to change physicians and find someone you are more comfortable with. If you suspect anything is wrong, bring it up to your doctor as soon as possible to rule things out and ensure that you and your baby are happy and healthy.
In the end, it's your body, and you know it best. You know when something feels off. Some of these pregnancy complications are nothing to play around with, so if you think you may have something wrong, you need to get checked out. Better safe than sorry.