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  • Writer's pictureMicah

Recognizing Red Flags During Pregnancy: A Doula's Guide

red flags during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a miraculous journey filled with anticipation and joy, but it's also a time to stay vigilant about your health and well-being. Understanding the potential red flags that may arise during pregnancy is essential for ensuring the safety of both you and your baby. So let's talk a bit about about the red flags to watch out for during pregnancy, empowering you with the knowledge to recognize signs that warrant prompt medical attention.

  1. Vaginal Bleeding: Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is never normal and should be considered a red flag. While spotting can occur, heavier bleeding, especially in the first trimester, could indicate a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If you experience bleeding, contact your provider immediately.

  2. Severe Abdominal Pain: Sharp, persistent abdominal pain, especially accompanied by other symptoms like fever or vomiting, requires immediate medical attention. It could indicate conditions such as an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or placental abruption.

  3. Decreased Fetal Movement: Changes in your baby's movements can indicate potential issues. If you notice a significant decrease in fetal movement, contact your healthcare provider. They may recommend monitoring or further evaluation to ensure your baby's well-being. You want to feel 10 fetal movements every 2 hours, which is considered normal and healthy.

  4. Severe Headaches or Visual Changes: Severe headaches accompanied by visual disturbances, such as blurriness or flashing lights, could be a sign of preeclampsia. This condition requires prompt medical assessment to prevent complications for both you and baby.

  5. Persistent Swelling: Swelling is common during pregnancy, but sudden and excessive swelling of the face, hands, or feet could indicate preeclampsia. If you notice unrelenting swelling, consult your provider.

  6. Preterm Labor Signs: Any signs of preterm labor, such as regular contractions before 37 weeks, lower back pain, pelvic pressure, or fluid leakage, warrant immediate medical attention. Early intervention can help prevent premature birth.

  7. High Fever or Infections: A high fever during pregnancy, especially accompanied by other symptoms like chills or body aches, could indicate an infection. Infections during pregnancy can be serious, affecting both you and your baby.

  8. Significant Weight Gain or Loss: Rapid and excessive weight gain or loss during pregnancy may indicate underlying issues, such as gestational diabetes or inadequate nutrition. Consult your provider to ensure proper management.

  9. Difficulty Breathing: Severe shortness of breath not attributed to physical exertion could indicate conditions like preeclampsia or pulmonary embolism. Seek medical attention if you experience persistent difficulty breathing.

  10. Persistent Nausea and Vomiting: While morning sickness is common, severe and unrelenting nausea and vomiting could indicate hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that requires medical evaluation and treatment.

Being aware of potential red flags during pregnancy is crucial for safeguarding your well-being and the health of your baby. If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, don't hesitate to reach out to your provider. Timely assessment and intervention can make a significant difference in ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy journey.

And while it's important to be aware of red flags, remember that every pregnancy is unique. Regular prenatal care, open communication with your provider, and trust in their guidance are key components of a healthy and well-monitored pregnancy.


American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021). Hypertension in Pregnancy.

American Pregnancy Association. (2021). Preeclampsia.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2021). Infections in Pregnancy.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Pregnancy Complications.

Micah Bower is a doula, birth photographer, and yoga instructor based in Saginaw, TX.

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