“It has been a week after my second trimester, recently I have been vomiting more than usual,” said Rose, a middle-aged woman in her 30s to her general practitioner. She has had previous deliveries with no complications.

However, with her third pregnancy currently, she has been experiencing a severe urge to vomit, usually in the morning and in the evening.
This is a typical presentation of an emergency sign in pregnancy. In the same vein, before one can understand these emergency signs, we need to understand what is pregnancy in general.

Pregnancy not only refers to the development of the fetus in the womb of the woman, but the period from the conception to birth. In other words, from the fertilization of the egg to the delivery of the child. This period normally lasts for 9 months, approximately 40 weeks and is divided into 3 trimesters.

Well with that said, what would lead one to seek immediate medical attention, aside the required regular health checks during pregnancy.

1. Vaginal bleeding

Bleeding during pregnancy, normally involves different factors. However, profuse bleeding with severe abdominal pain and menstrual-like cramps during the first trimester could be an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg is implanted elsewhere aside the uterus.

This normally poses a risk to the mother’s life. Profuse bleeding with abdominal cramps in the first trimester or early weeks of the second trimester could be a miscarriage. Finally, bleeding with abdominal pain in the third trimester could indicate separation of the placenta from the uterine lining (placenta abruptio).

2. Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms in pregnancy. However, when severe it presents as an emergency sign. It is best to contact your health care provider, if experiencing severe nausea and vomiting.

3. Early Contractions

The presence of early contractions particularly in the third trimester could be preterm labor. Sometimes women having their first child, could confuse true labor contractions from false ones.

4. Severe Headaches and Visual Disturbances:

These symptoms are normally seen with a condition called preeclampsia. This condition has a high fatality risk and occurs during pregnancy. It involves presence of high blood pressure and excess protein in urine.

It normally presents after the 20th week of pregnancy. Seek medical attention immediately, when these symptoms are persistent.

5. Symptoms of Cold or Flu:

These symptoms can predispose a woman to serious complications such as difficulty in breathing, fever, and other metabolic disturbances. Normally, a flu vaccine is given to pregnant women to increase their immunity against the virus. Contact your health practitioner, when experiencing flu-like symptoms.

6. Fever:

Most often it is due to an underlying infection or inflammation. The most common infections are malaria in the tropics or sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Contact your health practitioner to treat the infection and prevent any harm to the child.

7. Swelling of fingers, face and legs:

Normally, this is a common symptom of pregnancy. However, if there is marked swelling and luster on the swollen area, it could be a renal disorder or preeclampsia. Seek medical attention when confronted with such symptoms.

8. Convulsions:

This is potentially fatal, both for the mother and the child. This is normally seen with eclampsia, which is much worse than preeclampsia. These convulsions could induce preterm labor. Seek immediate medical attention when confronted with such symptoms.

9. Malaise:

This is normally a feeling of general weakness and illness. It is mostly seen in chronic disease conditions. However, it does not raise a cause for alarm in pregnancy. It usually resolves spontaneously, by changing one’s diet or exercising. Contact your health practitioner if these symptoms persist.

10. Difficulty in breathing:

This symptom is common with respiratory infections in pregnancy. It is appropriate not to use over-the-counter drugs but to seek medical care when having symptoms of respiratory infections such as cough, hoarse voice and difficulty in breathing.