When to Call Your Provider During Pregnancy

Written by: Liesel Teen | Mommy Labor Nurse

During pregnancy, I think every mama has moments of worry, anxious thoughts, or questionable symptoms that have them wondering if everything is okay in their belly. For example, something could pop up that stirs a mama to feel that calling their provider is warranted. 

And other times, more overt, even scary-feeling things can happen, where you know you need to call your provider.

As a labor and delivery nurse, and the face behind Mommy Labor Nurse, I’ve fielded many of these types of calls, and been on the other end as a pregnant mama myself!

Today, I want to talk all about when to call your provider during pregnancy. I’m going to go through warning signs and scenarios that are definitely red flags so that you are feeling more confident and informed about what to look out for between visits.

The Big 4

Let’s start the list with four pregnancy symptoms to never ignore. You see, whenever a patient comes into triage, there are four questions I always ask. These questions are important because they can indicate something more serious is going on, and help us act quickly with the appropriate intervention right away.

  1.     Is your baby moving around normally?
  2.     Are you bleeding?
  3.     Are you having any leakage of fluids?
  4.     Are you having contractions or severe abdominal pain?

So, what does that mean for you? If at any point in your pregnancy one of these situations arises, call your provider right away. They will then direct you to either the ER, the L&D Unit, or your women’s health office for the appropriate course of action.

A note about baby’s movement

If you are not yet at the point in your pregnancy where you are feeling baby move regularly every day, then this situation doesn’t apply. If you ARE at the point where you’re feeling baby every day (which is usually around 24 weeks), and suddenly you’re not, definitely give us a call.

One PSA I’m passionate about is a reminder that babies do NOT move less the bigger they get. The movements might feel different, but you should still feel them frequently. One way to check this is by doing a kick count. To do this, you can lay down in a quiet place and see if you feel at least 10 movements within a 2-hour time frame. If you do not, call right away.

The other 3 situations apply to every mama for the entire duration of pregnancy.

Other reasons to call your provider between visits

The 4 scenarios you learned above cover the situations that typically require immediate attention. However, there are a number of other reasons you should call your provider between appointments too! Let’s take a look at a list.

A headache that won’t go away, blurry vision, and/or, sudden, excessive swelling

Severe headaches, blurry vision, and excessive swelling can all be warning signs of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication that involves high blood pressure. When it’s not managed well, it can put you at higher risk for a stroke, or eclampsia, which is the development of seizures.

At your prenatal visits, your provider is constantly assessing you for other warning signs of preeclampsia, the most common being high blood pressure and protein in your urine. However, if between appointments a severe headache, blurry vision, or excessive swelling appears; definitely call. I know that some of those things just happen because, well, pregnancy. But we’d all much rather you be overly cautious!

Nausea or excessive vomiting that’s keeping you from drinking enough water

For many of us, nausea and pregnancy go hand and hand. It’s one of those things that kind of comes with the territory, and while I know morning (all day) sickness is the worst, it’s usually not a reason to call your provider. HOWEVER, your nausea or vomiting is preventing you from drinking water, or you’re unable to keep anything down, definitely give them a call.

Dehydration can be dangerous during pregnancy, and your provider will want to assess you if you may be at risk. What’s more, they can discuss medication that may make it possible for you to keep fluids down.

Fever, or any other flu symptoms

Anytime you are experiencing fever or flu-like symptoms, go ahead and give your provider a call. They can talk you through what’s going on and recommend pregnancy-safe medications. Your provider will also want to check in for signs of dehydration which can happen with flu-like illness.

Furthermore, fevers are something your provider will want to evaluate. Fevers, as you may know, are a symptom that lets us know something else is going on. Your provider will want to check if it could be some kind of bacterial infection that needs treatment or could harm your baby. If it’s viral, they will be able to advise you on how to best treat this symptom. It’s important to manage fevers effectively to keep baby safe.

Itchy palms or soles of feet

A lot of mamas don’t know that experiencing itchy palms or feet can be a symptom of a pregnancy complication called Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy. It’s a condition in which the normal flow of bile is affected by the increased amount of pregnancy hormones in your body. It’s most common in the last trimester of pregnancy when hormones are at their peak. This complication can increase the risk of fetal distress, preterm birth, or stillbirth.

If your provider diagnoses this condition, it will mean your pregnancy will be monitored more closely, and in some cases, you will be induced early for baby’s safety. If you are experiencing this symptom definitely bring it up ASAP!

Call anytime you THINK you should

In addition to all of this important information, a big takeaway I want for every mama? You should call your provider for ANY reason you WANT. Seriously. No issue is too small, and no labor and delivery nurse or provider will judge you for calling!

We know how much you care about that tiny baby in there, and we want to keep you both safe. And most of all, we’d all MUCH rather a call for a false alarm than have an emergency go unreported. There is no such thing as being too cautious––so when in doubt, make the call mama!

About the Author:

Liesel Teen is a labor and delivery nurse (L&D RN), mama, the face behind the popular pregnancy Instagram page @mommy.labornurse and creator of the online childbirth class, Birth It Up. Birth is something she’s been passionate about for as long as she can remember, and she loves sharing her nursing knowledge to help mamas-to-be learn more about pregnancy and birth. She lives in North Carolina and is expecting her second baby in August 2020.