Dr Christopher Chong, a consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist and urogynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, gives the rundown on five dangerous pregnancy symptoms to be wary of.
Bleeding in early pregnancy
In early pregnancy, any bleeding is treated as a threatened miscarriage. A transvaginal scan will be done (where the probe is placed inside the vagina) to show how the baby is doing. Usually, the mum undergoes a vaginal examination to assess bleeding and look for a possible cause, such as cervical polyps (soft, small growths), cervical infection, and trauma from intercourse. About 15 per cent of pregnant women have some bleeding in early pregnancy. If the foetal heart movement can be detected and bleeding does not get worse, the pregnancy and foetus will usually be fine.
Bleeding in advanced pregnancy
Later in pregnancy, spotting and bleeding are more likely to be signs of placenta problems. If a pregnant woman bleeds after 20 weeks, your gynae will check for placental abruption. If there is abdominal pain, the placenta might have separated from the womb. If it’s painless, the mum could be suffering from placenta praevia — where the placenta is blocking the cervix. If the woman bleeds after sex, she needs to be checked for an underlying problem, such as a low-lying placenta.
Severe headache and blurring of vision
Your gynae will need to rule out high blood pressure. Left untreated, very high blood pressure can lead to eclampsia (convulsions). If medical help is not given immediately, both mother and foetus may die. The mum can have multiple organ failure and placenta separation can occur, causing foetal damage and death.
Breathlessness — especially in advanced pregnancy — can be caused by deep vein thrombosis (clots forming in lower limbs, moving to block air supply in the lungs) and amniotic fluid embolism (amniotic fluid going into the blood stream and to the lungs, blocking the mum’s air supply). This needs immediate attention as there is a risk of maternal death.
When foetus is in an abnormal position
If the foetus is in transverse (lying horizontal across the womb) or breech position (feet towards your pelvis), there is a higher (more than 10 per cent) risk of umbilical cord prolapse. This happens when the cord drops through the cervix into the vagina, ahead of the baby. Cord prolapse can cause severe lack of oxygen to the foetus, resulting in brain damage and even foetal death if the baby is not delivered immediately.