Pregnancy: When to Get Your Ass to the Doctor

A while back I got an email from a reader who asked if it would be possible to write a quick list of the things you should really keep an eye out for when you're pregnant – "like if you're experiencing this, get thee to a trained professional.” 

Good idea! Except who could I ask that would actually tell us rather than hmmming and hawwing about how every experience is different crap? I know! Hilary from Pulling Curls! She’s a no-shit tell-it-like-it-is kind of gal.

So Hilary was kind enough to take a run at it so we have a general idea of what should be on our radar.  

- Amy

Sure, I see a lot of dumb reasons to come into labor and delivery.  I've even heard of someone coming in because their belly button lint fell out, but THAT, my friends, is a blog for another day.  Here are SOME reasons that we never question you for coming in. 

 

1. If your baby isn't moving. 

Babies do fluctuate in how much they move, but if you feel like it's lower than usual drink 2 ginormous glasses of water (ice water is best as the chilly stomach is next to the uterus that wakes the baby up), eat something, lay down and "feel".  If within the next hour the wee one doesn't perk-up. Come on in. The official kick count sheet says 10 movements should happen in 2 hours. You know your baby, if it's way less and bells are going off in your head, come in. We'll leave the light on for you. :)

 

2. A headache that won't go away. 

If you have a strong headache that's not relieved by tylenol and LOTS of water (3-4  large glasses of water, all at once) come in. It could just be the 20 hot dogs you ate last week, or it could be the beginnings of Preecclampsia (learn more about it here and here).  Call your doctor, see what they think and they are likely to want you to head on in.

 

3. Face swelling.

If all the sudden you wake up and your face is REALLY swollen, and it seems to have happened overnight (and can be confirmed by someone you live with – this isn't just a case of personal fat face). This too can be a symptom of PIH (pregnancy-induced hypertension). Call your doctor. Hands and feet swelling can be a problem, but no reason to rush to your doctor.

 

4. Pee problems.

If you can't pee, it really hurts (or burns) to pee, or you have a backache on your flank (that's the fattier part of your back on the sides of your spine), call your doctor. It could be a urinary tract infection. They may want to see you in the office (or sometimes you can just drop off a urine sample) or possibly go to labor and delivery. 

 

5. Severe vomiting. 

If you really can't keep anything down for a full day. Call your doctor. There are drugs they can try and I can't TELL you how much better you'll feel after some IV fluids. If you've got CRAZY morning sickness going on, try to get a baseline when your doctor feels like you should be seen. They used to just kind of ignore these people, but they're getting better at managing it with drugs, steroids and IV fluids. Call your doctor.

 

6. If you're less than 36 weeks, more than 6 contractions in an hour. 

Call your doctor, see what they want you to do. We'd prefer labor doesn't happen much before 36 weeks. Keep that baby cookin'. Also, if you're feeling contractions drink 3 GIANT glasses of water. Most preterm labor is caused by dehydration.

 

7. You think your water broke. 

I have a good blog post that gives you an idea of if it really did break. I'll leave that there. BUT, water breaking is certainly a reason to come in and we have a test we can do to see if it was that or you peed. Which, in fact, happens way more than I'd care to share (and I totally get it – no one is making fun of you behind your back, it's an every-day occurrence for us). Also, if you think something is in your vagina after you water breaks, take a feel up there. That's a 911 moment if the cord has slipped out (more about that in the link above).

 

8.  You have a fever over 100.4 – call your doctor. 

Having a fever when you're pregnant isn't the best for you or your baby. It's not something to rush to labor and delivery for, but call your doctor. They'll probably want to see you, or have you come in to L&D.

 

9. Bright red bleeding. 

Not related to any vaginal activity {wink, wink, nudge, nudge}. You may get some spotting after sex or after your doctor checks you - and that's fine.  But if you're getting enough to cover a pad or clots, you need to come in.  Don't pass go, don't collect your 200 dollars, just go in.  We're not as concerned about dark red as the mucus plug looks like that.  Also, if your doctor has told you that you have problems with your placenta (called previa) you need to come in NOW. No shower. NOW.

 

10. Supremely Itchy

I'm not talking mosquito bites, or stretch marks on your belly. I'm talking REALLY itchy, often accompanied by what looks like a rash. Of course, that COULD just be a rash. I'd take a dose of benedryl and see if that goes away. If it doesn't and the crazy itchiness continues, I'd make an appointment with your doctor. It can be cholestasis (when bile isn't moving properly) and it isn't something to mess around with and it's something your doctor will want to keep an eye on.

 

11. Your mommy bells and whistles are going off.  

Ladies, it's time to start listening to your mommy gut. I'd figure out a way to articulate what's wrong (most often it's that the baby isn't moving). But listen to those bells and whistles. Start now, you need them.

[Editor's note: keep in my handy venn diagram of Medical Visits: Get Used to Feeling Like an Ass in mind for this stuff and don't sweat it.]

 

12.  Anything your medical practitioner told you to come in for. 

They know you, they know your history, they know your ultrasound and they know your baby.  If they said "come in for __________" don't hem and haw over it.  Just go.  

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it was what I came up with on the top of my 14 years as a labor nurse head.  As an aside, try to figure out where you should show up at your hospital.  Some have you go right to the ER, and some, after a certain number of weeks, send you to labor and delivery.  At my hospital that's not connected to the main hospital, so there is a delay in us seeing you if you go to the ER (because we have to come get you).  So, double check that and get on in there!  


Unlike me, Hilary is a nurse who has worked in various medical fields for the past 14 years, however, none of the information on this blog should be substituted for the care of a physician. You're smart. You get it. Call your doctor if something seems weird.

Hilary is a mom to 3, wife to one, part time labor and delivery nurse, and part time superhero blogger over at Pulling Curls  where we talk about pregnancy, parenting and systems to help you do the things you WANT to do instead playing catch up with the "needs" in life.  Come give us a visit, tell me you saw me at the bird.