pregnant woman sitting in grass

You're pregnant--congratulations! While this special time of life brings much to celebrate, pregnancy puts additional stress on your body and increases your chance of developing certain health conditions. By keeping a watchful eye out for certain signs, you'll have a better chance to nip potential complications in the bud. Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms.

Vaginal bleeding during any stage of pregnancy is a serious warning sign. In your first trimester, heavy bleeding accompanied by severe cramps could indicate a potentially life-threatening condition called ectopic pregnancy. This results from a fertilized egg implanting outside the uterus.

The same symptoms in the first or second trimester could also be a sign of miscarriage. In the third trimester, bleeding with abdominal pain may occur when the placenta separates from the uterine lining--another condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Although mild nausea is to be expected in the early stages of pregnancy, severe nausea and vomiting indicate that something may be wrong. Vomiting can cause you to become dehydrated and malnourished, which can lead to complications from premature labor to birth defects. Your doctor can prescribe medicine to help control your symptoms and suggest changes to your diet to ensure that you and your baby receive proper nutrition.

Decline in Baby's Activity Level
One of the joys of being pregnant is feeling your baby moving and kicking inside you. If you notice a major decline in your baby's activity level, it may indicate that your baby isn't receiving adequate nutrients and oxygen from the placenta. Try eating something and drinking orange juice and lie on your left side. If this doesn't make your baby start moving again, see your doctor as soon as possible to monitor your baby and ensure he or she is growing properly.

High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a sign of a serious condition called preeclampsia that can occur during your third trimester. Other symptoms of this condition include:

  • Severe headache
  • Cramps
  • Swelling
  • Visual disturbances

If you experience any of these symptoms, your doctor can test your blood pressure to help confirm the condition.

High Blood Sugar
An increase in glucose levels during pregnancy may indicate gestational diabetes. This form of high blood sugar usually starts about halfway through the pregnancy, with glucose levels often returning to normal post-delivery. The condition occurs when pregnancy hormones block insulin from doing its job. According to the National Institutes of Health, all women should receive an oral glucose tolerance test between 24 and 28 weeks to screen for gestational diabetes. However, the following symptoms may also indicate the condition:

  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting

At the end of your pregnancy, contractions are a healthy sign. But if you feel contractions early in your third trimester, you could be experiencing either preterm labor (regular, painful contractions that cause a change in the cervix) or false labor contractions (which could be painful contractions but don't cause a change in the cervix and go away after a short time).

While regular contractions are spaced about 10 minutes apart and increase in intensity, false contractions aren't evenly spaced and don't increase in intensity. If you experience false contractions, try drinking some fluids and lying down on your left side. If the contractions don't go away, call your doctor or go to the ER. If at any time you're concerned about your pregnancy, you should go to the ER.

Water Breaking
If you feel liquid rushing down your legs, it's likely one of two things: either urine has leaked due to your enlarged uterus pressing on your bladder, or your water has broken. While the former situation is no cause for alarm, the latter means you must get to the hospital immediately. To tell the difference, try emptying your bladder. If the fluid continues after that, your water has broken.

When it comes to your health and the health of your baby, don't ignore potential signs of trouble. Always listen to your body. Being mindful during pregnancy will help make for a safe and healthy delivery.