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Signs of Dangerous Pregnancy Complications

Although the normal discomforts of pregnancy can be annoying, they are not life-threatening—and, when you're holding your new baby, who even remembers the swollen ankles, the UTIs, or the hemorrhoids!

However, there are other symptoms that cannot be ignored and need attention immediately.

First Aids

Ectopic pregnancy means that the fertilized egg never made it out of the fallopian tube and down to the uterus. Instead, the egg begins to grow and divide while it's in the small tube.

The Three Big Pregnancy “Tests”

There is nothing worse than the fear that something might be happening to your body when you are pregnant—something that might hurt your baby. The three most alarming warning signs that a pregnancy is at risk are spotting and bleeding, abdominal cramps, and sudden weakness.

Spotting can signal the onset of a miscarriage. Help the pregnant woman having these symptoms into bed. Have her rest completely, which means staying in bed. Call her obstetrician once she's settled in. Outright bleeding can be more serious, especially if clots or tissue are eliminated. A sudden heavy flow can signal a spontaneous abortion (which, in most cases, occurs when the fetus is deformed or problematic). Too much bleeding, however, can cause shock. Don't wait; get to the hospital as quickly as possible.

First Aids

A gynecologist specializes treating conditions related to the female reproductive cycle. An obstetrician specializes in treating pregnant women. A pediatrician specializes in treating newborn babies, toddlers, and young teens.

Mild abdominal cramps, even if accompanied by chills and fever, aren't necessarily a cause for alarm. Call the doctor and make the pregnant woman comfortable. Mild cramps can signal something as simple as slight pressure on the pelvic area. On the other hand, serious cramps are a different matter entirely. If they occur early in the pregnancy, the cramps can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. The cramps might also be accompanied by severe pain, nausea, chills, and fever.

Today, an ectopic pregnancy can be corrected with an outpatient laser surgery. A tool called a laparoscope is inserted into the belly button while the patient is under anesthesia. If not treated and the egg continues to grow, the fallopian tube will eventually burst—and, like a ruptured appendix, infect the body. The end result can be shock, blood poisoning, and the loss of at least one fallopian tube.

First Things First

If a pregnant woman has been injured or is a victim of the flu or any other illness, call the doctor. Obstetricians are there to answer your questions, even if you think the questions sound bothersome. (In fact, if the physician does seem annoyed, get another one fast!)

Occurrences of sudden weakness can be the result of a sudden hormonal drop as the body adjusts to its pregnant state. If a pregnant woman experiences weakness that immediately passes, she need not do anything more than lie down for a while. However, it can't hurt to call the obstetrician, and definitely report anything out of the ordinary. On the more serious side, if the weakness is accompanied by signs of shock (such as rapid pulse, pale skin, chills, blurry vision, and irregular breathing), a woman should seek medical help immediately.

While you are waiting for an ambulance to arrive, follow these guidelines for treating the pregnant woman:

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to First Aid Basics © 1996 by Stephen J. Rosenberg, M.D. and Karla Dougherty. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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