How to Recognize Symptoms of Complications from Pregnancy or Childbirth

An estimated two thirds of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are preventable. Learning about the warning signs of complications during pregnancy or in the months after could save your life.

If you are pregnant or have been pregnant in the last year and have any of the symptoms below, seek medical care immediately:

  • Severe headache that does not go away or worsens over time
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
  • Vision changes
  • Fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Extreme swelling of your hands or face
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or a fast-beating heart
  • Severe nausea and vomiting
  • Severe pain in your belly that does not go away
  • Baby’s movement stopping or slowing down during pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking during pregnancy
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking that smells bad after pregnancy
  • Swelling, redness or pain in your leg
  • Overwhelming fatigue

This list represents the most common urgent maternal warning signs, but there are others. Learn more about urgent maternal warning signs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Share this information with your loved ones to raise their awareness of warning signs as well. When others know what to look for, they may recognize the symptoms as warning signs before you do.

How to Talk to Your Doctor

When you talk with your doctor, specify the symptoms that are bothering you, what they feel like, and how long they have been lasting, whether that is hours or days.

Ask what these symptoms could mean and whether there is a test you should have to rule out a serious problem.

Ask, "At what point should I consider going to the emergency room or calling 911?"

You can download a printable sheet with these maternal warning signs and conversation prompts from the CDC that can help you talk with your health care provider about how you are feeling.

Trust your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, call your health care provider. If symptoms worsen or you do not hear back from your health care provider, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

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