5 Common Pregnancy Concerns and Complications

As a community midwife, I get many questions and concerns weekly via text or at a client's appointment. In the age where Google is at the tips of our fingers, it can be hard to decipher when something is truly a complication versus something that feels concerning to us. Before I dive into my most commonly reported pregnancy concerns, I want to state that if you, as the gestational carrier, think that something is off or wrong, listen to your gut. Sometimes, we cannot explain the feeling that something is wrong, which is correct. A suitable care provider listens to a parent's gut, knowing that the parents are the experts on their bodies and babies.

Shortness of Breath 

Shortness of breath from simple tasks like going up the stairs or picking up the toddler's toys is a common concern from parents, especially those in their first trimester. It can feel alarming to go up one flight of stairs and have to pause halfway through or sit down when you make it up to the top, yet it is also really typical. 

The blood volume of a pregnant person is expanding and will eventually be almost double the amount that it was pre-pregnancy. Because of this, the heart has to work much more than it used to, and this can make simple tasks feel like a lot more work. Add the weight of your baby and placenta into that equation, taking up precious lung space, and you can see why it might be more difficult to do regular tasks without feeling out of breath. 

If you are ever experiencing dizzy spells, passing out, pain in your chest accompanied by shortness of breath, or the shortness of breath is getting worse and worse, it is a good idea to contact your care provider. Otherwise, listen to your body and rest when it asks you to rest, take things slowly, and give yourself grace. After all, you are building an entire baby.

Feeling Smelly

Whenever I ask about abnormal vaginal symptoms, it is typical for a pregnant individual to report that everything smells stronger in the vaginal region. This is really normal, and whether it is actually more pungent smelling or the fact that a pregnant person's sense of smell increases is hard to know, but we know that this is a normal pregnancy symptom. 

Warning symptoms to look out for include a fishy or foul smell, strange colored discharge, itching or burning during urination, and a rash. Along with this, please note that an increased amount of discharge is also quite common, especially as one moves further into pregnancy. It can feel alarming, but there is nothing to worry about if it is clear or white.

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Yes, headaches can be a sign or symptom of something more serious, and it is crucial to note that we commonly see healthy individuals getting headaches while pregnant. For some, the headaches are caused by the hormones increasing throughout the body. Tension headaches are also quite common in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. But when does a headache become alarming? 

If the headache is intense and does not go away with Tylenol or other methods, it is important to contact your care provider. In general, most care providers will want to know if you have had any headaches between appointments, but this is simply information that, when paired with other signs and symptoms, can be something to look further into.

Less Baby Movement

As we move through our pregnancies, we notice patterns and a general amount of kicks and movements our babies give us throughout the day. This is why it can be so alarming when we go a day without feeling or remembering if we felt our baby move. Most commonly, I get concerns about a baby's movement or lack thereof after a busy day when a parent could focus less on neonate moving sensations. 

Babies will sometimes move positions, and their kicks and punches feel muted or nonexistent. Other times, neonates will go through a growth spurt, making movements feel less or absent. Doing kick counts is an excellent way to gauge if you need to go into your care provider. 

When doing kick counts, you start them when it is usually a busy time for your baby to move (often at night or when lying down), then you will drink a big glass of iced water or juice and lay on your right side. Set your timer for an hour and begin counting kicks and movements. Hiccups do not count; if your baby punches and kicks simultaneously, that counts as two movements. You should get ten movements in an hour. As soon as you get your ten movements, you can stop doing kick counts and trust that this is a good sign that all is alright with your little one. 

If you do not get ten movements in an hour, it is a good idea to reach out to your care provider and see what they want you to do next. Some will have you redo the kick counts for another hour, others will come to you or have you come in to listen to baby. Trust your gut and do what feels best for you and your baby. If you need someone to listen to them and perform a non-stress test, then that is the route you should take.

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Braxton Hicks and Cramping

These are all different things that are reported quite commonly. Cramping is usually reported in the first and third trimesters. It can feel really scary because, when combined with bleeding, it is a good sign of the threat of miscarriage or early labor. Sometimes, cramping happens by itself, which can be very typical in these cases. If you are cramping, try to hydrate, take a nice Epsom salt bath, take some magnesium, and rest. If these things are not taking the cramping away, or you notice other symptoms along with the cramping, it is best to reach out to your care provider. 

Braxton Hicks are another symptom that we mainly see in the third trimester, but for parents of multiple babies, we can see it occurring in the second trimester as well. Braxton Hicks are mostly normal but can also be a sign of dehydration. If you get more than five Braxton Hicks in an hour, make sure to hydrate and then reach out to your care provider.

Pregnancy can be a time filled with uncertainty, which can feel uncomfortable. Remember that you are the professional of your body and your baby, which means you can trust yourself and your gut. If you think something is off, reaching out to your care provider and getting their thoughts and opinions on the matter never hurts. If possible, do your best not to Google, especially if you are anxious. Sometimes, it helps to simply give your concerns to your care provider or a close support person, allowing them to let you know if there are further steps you need to take about a concern or whether it is shared amongst other pregnant individuals. There is a delicate balance between getting valid concerns answered with care providers and deep diving into anxiety on Google. Only you can weigh out which one is occurring, but knowing that the latter commonly exists can help you determine when you need to reach out and when you need to sit in discomfort for a moment longer.

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