4 Signs of Distress During Pregnancy

Some of the relatively normal changes and symptoms that happen during pregnancy can be really strange or uncomfortable. Others, however, can be serious or indicative of underlying complications. Staying calm and taking care of yourself are both crucial, but you should also make sure to discuss anything abnormal with your obstetrician or midwife -- before it becomes a problem. Here’s a look at some things that can be suggestive of bodily distress during pregnancy. 


Headaches are pretty common during pregnancy, especially as your center of gravity shifts and the muscles in your back begin to protest. What can be troublesome, however, are the symptoms that accompany them. If you experience anything unusual during a headache, such as uncontrollable vomiting, flu-like symptoms, or a change in vision, give your doctor a call. Admittedly, these things can simply be the result of a migraine, but they may also be signs of preeclampsia, a type of high blood pressure specific to pregnancy. 

Swollen Extremities

Puffy ankles are kind of the poster symptom for being great with child. It’s entirely possible swollen feet can be from weight gain and water retention. But, this could also be caused by edema -- swelling caused by trapped excess fluids. Look for swelling of the feet, legs, and ankles that seems to be extreme. If you’re having difficulty determining what’s normal and what’s not, it won’t hurt to see your doctor. If you notice mild swelling, definitely have your obstetrician or midwife check it out during your regular visits. 

Itchy Skin

As your skin stretches with the growth of your stomach and breasts, and you may find yourself feeling itchy in those areas. Extra blood flow may even cause a little light itching elsewhere, and is quite common. However, if you get a severe urge to scratch everywhere, it could be something more serious. Extremely itchy skin can be a symptom of obstetric cholestasis (OC), a liver condition that affects about 10% of pregnant women. While OC is rather rare, it can have serious repercussions for your baby, and is something to keep in mind throughout your pregnancy. 

Vaginal Changes

Vaginal spotting occurs very often during the early stages of pregnancy, but it can be a sign of something more serious. If the spots are brownish in color, very light, or a very small amount, chances are good its normal. Conversely, bright red, extensive bleeding or clotting will require immediate medical attention -- you may also notice abdominal cramping or discomfort alongside these symptoms. 
Vaginal discharge isn't uncommon during pregnancy either -- it can be particularly strange when your mucus plug starts to dissipate. You don’t generally need to worry unless the discharge is filled with blood or very liquid-like mucous. If you’re also having trouble urinating, this could mean you have a bladder, urinary tract, or yeast infection. 

More Serious Concerns

Experiencing things like double or blurry vision, fainting, dizzy spells, or any change in consciousness isn't normal for anyone and requires instant medical attention. Pregnancy can make breathing a little difficult from all the pressure in your abdomen, but if that’s accompanied by chest pains or coughing up blood, seek medical attention. Ultimately, it’s important to trust yourself -- if you feel like something is wrong, it’s better to call your doctor and be reassured than to ignore what could be a real problem. 
Last Updated: November 03, 2017