Warning signs during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of great change for your body, and in your life, as you get ready for your baby to arrive. It also can be a time when you may be worried about some of the changes you are experiencing, and you want to know when you should seek help.
Most changes in your body are likely to be a normal part of pregnancy. Most pregnancy health issues are mild and common. However, some signs can indicate that things may not be going well, and could point to a more serious pregnancy complication.
Some of these symptoms may appear at different stages of your pregnancy; others might occur at any time. Even if you are not sure about your symptoms but think that something just doesn't feel right with your own or your baby's health, it's important to get it checked out.
Contact your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately if you have any of the following symptoms:
Any time during pregnancy
While some signs may only appear at certain times during your pregnancy, many can occur at any stage, including:
- prolonged or severe vomiting
- bleeding from your vagina
- a discharge from your vagina that is unusual, or a lot more than usual
- severe or long-lasting headaches
- continuing weight loss
- fever or chills
- urgency, pain or a burning feeling when urinating (weeing)
- feeling constantly out of breath, dizzy or weak or having a racing heart
- you have had a blow to your stomach (such as from a fall, crash or a family violence incident)
- you are experiencing problems with your emotional health that last longer than 2 weeks, such as feeling depressed, anxious or being unable to do your usual, everyday tasks
Early pregnancy (before 20 weeks)
Certain types of pain in the early stages of pregnancy could be a sign of miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy:
- persistent or severe pain on one side of your abdomen or pain in the tip of one shoulder
- severe pain or cramping in your lower abdomen (tummy)
Later pregnancy (after 20 weeks)
Although some discomfort is common during the later stages of pregnancy, some signs need to be checked by a doctor immediately, including:
- changes to your vision, flashing lights or blurry eyesight, which are signs of pre-eclampsia
- sudden, severe swelling in your hands, feet or face
- an extreme itchiness of your skin, including hands and feet
- a large amount of swelling in your legs (which is also painful)
- if your baby has stopped moving or is moving differently
What happens next?
When you see your healthcare professional, they may perform some tests to check or maintain the health of you and your baby. These tests may include:
- a health assessment and investigation
- an ultrasound or blood test
You may also receive a referral to another doctor or specialist, and you can also get emotional support.
How can I avoid pregnancy complications?
It's often not possible to avoid a complication in pregnancy. You may have a higher chance of developing one if you have a health problem before conception, or had one during a previous pregnancy. There may also be a higher chance if you have a family history of pregnancy complications.
It may be possible to lessen the chance of developing a problem, or reduce the chance of a complication becoming worse, by making sure you go to all of your antenatal appointments. If a potential health issue is found, you may need additional antenatal appointments to more closely monitor the health of you and your baby.
Where to get help
- Phone your doctor, midwife or maternity hospital urgently if you have any concerns.
- Visit your hospital or call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance.
Other sources of advice
- Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.
- Consider visiting healthdirect's Symptom Checker for pregnancy if you are experiencing discomfort in pregnancy or are worried about any symptoms.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: April 2021