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4 things that are not normal during pregnancy

This article will discuss experiences that are not normal during pregnancy and birth and what to do if they happen to you.
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© Trinity College Dublin

With so many changes going on in your body, it can be difficult to know what is normal and not normal. Let’s explore some changes that are not normal, and when you should go see a midwife or doctor.

1. Vaginal bleeding

One in 5 women in early pregnancy experience vaginal bleeding. Bleeding in pregnancy can happen for a variety of reasons but it is never normal. Often, there may be no apparent reason. It may vary from spotting to soaking through a maternity pad. If you do see blood coming from your vagina, please go to your local maternity hospital. It is important to seek out medical assistance from your midwife or doctor.

2. Premature labour (labour before 37 weeks)

Waters leaking or breaking, contractions and a ‘show’ are all signs that you may be going into labour. You may have all of these or just one of these signs. But if it is before 37 weeks experiencing one of these is a reason to seek help from your midwife or doctor immediately.

A show on its own does not indicate the onset of labour, but before 37 weeks it should be reported to your midwife or doctor. A show happens when the thick plug of mucous that seals up your cervix (the neck of your womb) comes out, possibly due to the neck of your womb relaxing and opening slightly.

It has a sticky, mucousy consistency, and it may be streaked with blood. It may occur with or without contractions. Not every woman has a show and some women will experience multiple shows.

If you are not sure if you are having a show or you are bleeding, it is really important to seek out medical assistance immediately from your midwife or doctor.

3. Reduced baby movements

How often does your baby move? When does your baby move most?

These are personal and individual questions. Just as your baby is an individual, your baby will have a different pattern of movements from other babies. But what is important is to get to know your own baby’s normal pattern of movements. Then you can recognise when it is normal for your baby to be kicking, whether that’s when you go to bed, after meals or all day!

If you notice that your baby is not moving as much as usual, sit down quietly and consciously start thinking about their movements. Have something to eat or drink (something sweet, maybe), put your hands on your tummy, lie on your left side, if that is possible.

If after an hour of this you are still not happy with your baby’s movements, start making your way to see your midwife or doctor.

If you are used to noticing your baby’s movements, you will know that s/he sleeps for periods of 2-3 hours during the day or night and that at those times s/he will be much quieter. This will help you not to be concerned about quiet times if they are at the baby’s usual ‘sleep’ times.

4. Headache

If you have a throbbing severe headache that is not improving after taking paracetamol and resting, tell your midwife or doctor immediately. You may also feel dizzy and have blurred vision. This could be a sign of a more serious pregnancy-related problem.

You may have heard of pre-eclampsia, a disorder in pregnancy that affects between 1 in 10 and 1 in 30 pregnant women. If severe, it can impact your health and the health of your baby. It can affect your kidneys, the growth of your baby and could lead to a complicated pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia can be managed well in pregnancy once it is detected but if it occurs, you and your baby will need to be closely monitored. This is why your midwife or doctor will always check your urine and blood pressure at every visit.

© Trinity College Dublin
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