Whether your first sign of
impending parenthood was nausea, headaches or just a positive
pregnancy test, they're only the start of a long list of things to
come. The question is, what's normal? Many pregnancy symptoms can
be both signs of a totally normal pregnancy and a signal to call
your doctor. Broken down by trimester, here's what to expect when
you're expecting and what should put your mommy sense on
Odds are you're not going to be feeling great-fatigue, nausea,
vomiting and mild pelvic cramps are all normal symptoms during this
time. The severity of these symptoms is what you should keep track
of, however, when deciding when to call your doctor.
"You should not be so tired that you can't get through normal
activities without some extra rest," says Dr. Mark Gapinski, an
obstetrician and gynecologist at Central DuPage Hospital. "If it's
'I can't get through my day and have to go home from work,' it
could be something else wrong, such as a thyroid disorder that
needs to be evaluated or anemia."
Although many women have spotting at various times in their
pregnancy with no ill effects, Gapinski says spotting is never
normal and you should always contact your doctor when it happens,
especially if it is accompanied by significant pain.
Often known as the "honeymoon period," many of the difficult
symptoms of the first trimester go away in the second trimester.
It's not necessarily smooth sailing for all expectant moms,
"It's a very individual thing and the key for the patient to
know if it is a problem or not is if there is a dramatic change,"
says Dr. Alex Lin, attending obstetrician at Northwestern Memorial
Hospital and a professor in clinical obstetrics and gynecology at
Northwestern University. "If they feel crummy in the first and
second trimesters but nothing has really changed, it's probably
just going to be a difficult pregnancy for the patient."
Common symptoms include random, sharp pains in the groin area
(called round ligament pain) and some swelling in the legs and
fingers. You should call your doctor if the pains take on any
organized pattern or are accompanied by bleeding or increased
discharge (or if you just have a huge increase in discharge without
pain) since these can be symptoms of early labor. Swelling in just
one leg and not the other can be a sign of a blood clot and a
dramatic increase in swelling along with headaches and/or blurry
vision can be an early sign of preeclampsia and should be addressed
with your doctor immediately.
Aches and pains typically increase during this time, along with
swelling and fatigue. Your baby's movement will also usually slow
down, but Lin says there should still be three episodes of movement
per day. Increased (or returned) nausea is also a possibility
during the third trimester. Some contractions are normal at 35 and
36 weeks of pregnancy, but call your doctor if they are strong or
follow a timed pattern. Some mucus discharge is also normal, but
you should notify your doctor of any dramatic increase in discharge
or any watery or bloody discharge.
All nine months
Although you don't need to call your doctor every time you get a
cough or runny nose, you should contact him if your symptoms don't
go away within a week or are accompanied by a fever. You should
also make a call if you've never had chicken pox and are exposed to
it at any point during your pregnancy. Any exposure to Fifth's
Disease (symptoms include fever and red cheeks) should be noted. No
matter what the situation, though, you should feel comfortable
contacting your doctor.
"You should have good communication with your physician," says
Gapinski. "If not, it could be a sign that you could have a
difficult time when you need to get a hold of them."
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