Problems in Pregnancy: When to Call the Doctor

A lot goes on with your body when you’re pregnant.

You have to deal with hormonal changes, aches, pains, morning sickness, stomach problems, and many other pregnancy symptoms that many women experience when expecting.

Most of the time, what you’ll go through is perfectly normal. Soon-to-be mothers have endured these side effects of pregnancy for ages. But what if something happens that makes you think you need help? When, exactly, should you call the doctor?

Pregnancy Symptoms to Watch Out For

Pregnant women don’t always like calling their physician, even when something may be off. Many pregnant women don’t call the doctor to ask questions because they don’t want to be a nuisance.

You should always feel free to talk to your doctor if you have concerns. That’s what we’re here for! But to help make you more comfortable doing so, here are some specific times you should call a doctor.

Severe Nausea: When It’s Not Just Morning Sickness

Nausea, mood swings, and fatigue—all of these are known as common symptoms of most pregnancies, especially during the first trimester. But what about frequent nausea accompanied by vomiting or belly pain? Watch closely for the following symptoms, as they may point to Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a condition associated with severe vomiting—a cause well worthy of seeing a doctor during pregnancy—and other reasons for concern:

  • Moderate to severe dehydration
  • Inability to digest or “keep down” any food or water
  • Unbearable nausea, constant vomiting
  • Excessive or unusual weight loss
  • Belly pain (besides contractions, “growing pains,” baby kicks, and quickening)
  • Severe headache
  • Fainting or losing consciousness

If test results from your physician reveal you have been suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum or a similar medical condition, they will provide you with options for treatment and follow-up care.

Unusual or Severe Vaginal Bleeding

Expecting mothers sometimes spot during the early pregnancy and sometimes experience other minor bleeding throughout their term. Most of the time, it’s not a cause for concern.

However, vaginal bleeding and severe cramping during pregnancy can signify something more serious, like placental abruption or an ectopic pregnancy. To ensure everything’s normal, talk to a doctor whenever you start bleeding—especially if the bleeding comes with severe pain. They can check you out and make sure everything looks okay.

Before your visit, monitor the rate and severity of your bleeding by wearing a panty liner or pad (as is recommended by the American Pregnancy Association).

Abnormal Vaginal Discharge

A sudden release of vaginal discharge in excess or with abnormal coloring, consistency, odor, or frequency is not necessarily a signal for alarm or immediate medical care. Most women notice minor changes in their discharge while pregnant, but inconsistencies can be a sign of a hormone imbalance (aside from what you usually expect from pregnancy).

Call your doctor if you’re unsure about the changes you’re experiencing during pregnancy.


You should call a doctor if your hands, face, or feet start to swell. Sudden swelling can be a symptom of preeclampsia, which can damage your liver and kidneys and usually pops up after the 20-week mark. This condition affects anywhere from 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies.

Note that preeclampsia can happen even if you’re otherwise perfectly healthy, according to your vitals. So, if your extremities and face are swelling, talk to a doctor about it.

Vision Problems

Problems with your vision, such as light sensitivity, blurred vision, spots in your eyes, and excessive dry eye, can also signify preeclampsia. This is due to how preeclampsia can restrict blood flow to the eyes and other body parts.

When you bring up vision problems related to preeclampsia, your physician will first address the condition itself. However, they may refer you to an optometrist to intervene and prevent or treat optical damage the condition may have caused.

Baby Movements

Babies move in the womb. For first-time mothers, this can be both a blissful moment and a scary one. But you’ll eventually settle into a routine and learn how your baby likes to move around.

If you’ve reached the 28-week mark and there’s a change in your baby’s normal movement patterns, you should talk to a doctor. Around this time is when a baby’s umbilical cord can become compromised. Your doctor can take a look and see if anything needs more attention.

Skin Changes and Itching

It’s normal to see changes in your skin during pregnancy, such as linea nigra, a healthy “glow,” and stretch marks. You may also experience itching, acne, new skin tags, and other minor skin changes.

Itching is one of those things that just happens in pregnancy. As with anything else, it’s usually nothing to worry about.

If the pads of your hands and the soles of your feet are very itchy, there might be a problem called cholestasis. Cholestasis can cause issues ranging from premature labor to fetal death, so you must call a doctor if you notice these symptoms. If you notice that your bowel movements are pale-colored, you should also contact a doctor.

Urinary Tract Infection—a Symptom of Premature Labor

UTIs can lead to premature labor, so it’s essential to call your doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms:

  • A burning sensation while urinating
  • Frequent need or urge to urinate—even when you’re unable to pass much urine at all
  • Urine that has a strange odor
  • Bloody or dark urine
  • Pain in your lower abdomen or back
  • Feeling shaky or fatigued
  • Chills or a fever

Urinary tract infections can lead to other serious problems, such as a kidney infection, when left untreated.

When You Should Seek Emergency Care for the Above Symptoms

These or other symptoms that you may experience may concern you. Don’t worry—every expecting mother has gone through many of the same things.

We want you to feel comfortable talking to your doctor whenever you’re concerned. Don’t think you’ll be a nuisance or that it’s always nothing to worry about. Sometimes, the best health decision you can make is to simply call and consult with a physician. After all, our priority is your health and your baby’s health!

If your physician is unavailable when certain symptoms call for immediate medical care, contact or visit the nearest emergency room as soon as you can. It may be the most important health decision you’ll ever make for your and your baby’s safety.

Stay Up to Date With Your Prenatal Appointment Schedule

From the first 6-8 weeks of pregnancy up until your due date, prenatal visits are an important part of ensuring you will receive the best of care. If you think you’re experiencing the symptoms we’ve mentioned or signs of other concerns, try to address them as soon as possible by seeing if you can move up your next prenatal visit with your OB-GYN.

The Next Steps

Although these are general suggestions, you and your baby’s health should be taken seriously, and that’s why these symptoms and other concerns should be well monitored by your OB-GYN or general practitioner of family medicine.

Remember that many women have experienced complications during pregnancy and that keeping tabs on your health during pregnancy is not a burden to physicians in any way.

For More Advice on Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy

Our maternal maternity care team in the Women and Children’s Pavilion at RMC in Anniston welcomes more than 2,000 newborns each year. We have a team of specially trained OB Nurses, board-certified physicians, and top-of-the-line labor, delivery, and recovery care systems.

For all the pregnancy advice and support you need, contact Regional Medical Center today!