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It is important to know that vaginal bleeding and spotting are quite common in pregnancy and especially in the first trimester, so it is normally not something to get too worried about, but it is useful (and reassuring) to get it checked out by your doctor nonetheless.
Bleeding, if abnormal, can be a sign of serious complications, such as:
- Ectopic pregnancy - this is when the egg gets fertilised outside the womb and pregnancy cannot continue as it is dangerous for the mother
- Miscarriage - there are currently no known ways of preventing a miscarriage from happening, but some experts believe there are ways to reduce the risk of miscarriage
- Placenta praevia - this means that the placenta is lying low on the cervix and obstructing it, resulting in painless vaginal bleeding (usually occurs later in pregnancy)
- Placental abruption - this is a more serious condition, where the placenta starts to lift off the wall of the uterus and can be painful for the mother; the baby may need to be delivered early to avoid any further complications for mother or baby (it usually occurs later in pregnancy)
It is important that if you are bleeding, you should make an appointment to see your doctor and have a thorough examination to rule out any serious problems with your pregnancy.
Bleeding (or spotting) in pregnancy can also be associated with the following minor concerns:
- hormonal fluctuations
- an infection
- bleeding after sex due to the cervix softening
Some women who have spotted throughout their pregnancy go on to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby, so it is not uncommon.
If you do have any bleeding (or spotting) during pregnancy, your doctor may advise you to limit or even avoid strenuous physical activity and intercourse, until the bleeding stops.
Swelling in the hands, feet and ankles is a very common (and harmless) symptom of pregnancy, especially later in the pregnancy. Swelling also occurs more commonly if the middle and latter parts of the pregnancy coincide with the summer season (when it is hot).
Swelling can also be a sign of pre-eclampsia; especially if the swelling occurs in the face too. It is even more likely to be pre-eclampsia, if the swelling of the face is also associated with the following symptoms:
- blurry vision
- seeing "star"
Pre-eclampsia can be fatal for both the mother and the baby, so it is really important that you seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the symptoms above.
Headaches are very common in pregnancy.
If the headaches occur later in the pregnancy, and especially if they are also associated with swelling of the face, visual disturbances (blurry vision and seeing things), this could mean it is pre-eclampsia. Seek immediate medical attention.
It is quite normal to have mild cramps and some abdominal discomfort in pregnancy, but if the pain grows more severe or persists, you need to see a doctor as it could be due to the following:
- ectopic pregnancy
- placental abruption
- symptom of HELLP syndrome (a serious complication of pre-eclampsia)
Later in pregnancy, abdominal pains could be due to practice contractions (Braxton Hicks), which your body engages in to get you ready for the real thing - labour.
Prior to 37 weeks, vaginal leaking can be a sign of premature labour.
A rush of amniotic fluid from the vagina at or after 37 weeks can be the first sign of labour. Amniotic fluid can be clear or it can be stained with blood or meconium.
If you think your waters have broken, put on a pad and call your doctor (or midwife) to let them know. Then empty your bladder and see if the fluid from your vagina continues to come through onto the pad over the next few hours. If it does, then it means you are going into labour.
Itchy skin, especially around the abdomen, is really common in pregnancy - it is a side effect of the stretching of the abdominal skin.
However, if you have really severe and persistent itching (especially later in your pregnancy) and if the itching occurs on the following:
- palms of the hands
- soles of the feet
Call your doctor immediately, as it could signify you have the condition obstetric cholestasis, which is a serious liver condition.
Obstetric cholestasis is caused by a build up of bile acids, which can interfere with blood clotting ability. This has serious implications for delivery, as the mother can be at a very high risk of bleeding too much.
It is imperative if you have the symptoms above, that you visit your doctor and then you can be monitored during delivery to ensure that it is safe for you and the baby.
Pregnancy is a special time for every pregnant woman and as you know your own body the best, you should talk to your doctor about any health concerns you may have at any stage of your pregnancy.
If it is nothing to worry about, at least you will feel reassured to know that it is nothing.
If it is a concern that needs to be resolved, then you have taken the right steps in order to do this before it becomes a major problem.
Just remember - nobody knows your own body better than you.
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