Emergencies are stressful for all of us. They cause a spike in adrenaline that gets the pulse racing and heightens our awareness. Add in the additional concerns present during pregnancy and an emergency becomes magnified.
Keeping a level head and acting appropriately is easier when you’re aware of potential emergencies and know how to handle them. Understand some potentially dangerous emergencies when you’re pregnant and how to handle them.
Bleeding During Pregnancy
Any bleeding during pregnancy needs investigation and should be treated as an emergency. It can mean different things at different stages of pregnancy, and should never be ignored. During the early months, it could be signs of an ectopic pregnancy or a threatened miscarriage. In the third trimester, bleeding accompanied by abdominal pain could indicate the placenta has separated from the uterine lining, a condition called placental abruption.
Erratic contractions in the early third trimester could be Braxton-Hicks, or false labor contractions. These won’t increase in intensity and will subside after about an hour. Alternatively, actual contractions will be around ten minutes apart and increase in frequency. If it’s too soon for you to be in labor, call your doctor immediately as it may be possible to stop them. If you’re unsure whether contractions are real, always call for help.
Excess Vomiting and Nausea
Some sickness and nausea is normal during pregnancy, but if it becomes too severe, there’s the risk you’ll become dehydrated or malnourished. Both conditions can harm an unborn baby. Always keep your doctor informed who may prescribe medication or advise diet and small lifestyle changes. Allowing sickness to become severe can turn into an emergency.
This very dangerous condition should always be treated as an emergency. Symptoms include abdominal pain, severe headache, disturbed vision and swelling. It’s more common after the 20th week, and is accompanied by high blood pressure and high urine protein. It is treatable when caught in time, so never ignore symptoms but get help straight away.
Baby Becomes Less Active
It’s hard to know whether decreased activity is normal or not, but there are ways to measure and assess what’s happening. If you suspect your unborn baby is less active, eating or drinking a cold drink can sometimes encourage movement. Another way is to count how often baby kicks, expecting to count around ten over a couple of hours. This is easier if you already have an idea of how often baby kicks, so count them when all is well to establish what’s normal. If you suspect baby’s activity has decreased, call your doctor who can use monitoring equipment to make sure all is well.
Water Breaking Unexpectedly
It happens: You’re going about your normal business and suddenly you’ve wet yourself. But have you? Chances are your waters have broken. Since pregnancy puts extra pressure on the bladder, sometimes it’s hard to know which is which. A sure way to find out is go to the bathroom. If water continues to leak even when you’ve emptied your bladder, your water has broken and you need to go to the hospital or call your doctor. Labor will start so don’t delay.
Supposing you’re caught up in a natural disaster or some other catastrophic happening that threatens your safety and scares your family? This is a different type of emergency to the personal medical ones, although they can turn into medical emergencies if you don’t have basic coping plans in place. The chances of anything like this happening may be small, but they do happen:
- Pre-arrange your contacts: Make sure children, partners, parents and friends are aware of your plans so they know who to contact and where to look should they be worried about you. If you know someone outside your own town or city, make them a primary contact for your immediate family so you all have a common touch point if you’re separated.
- Arrange meeting places: Make it somewhere you all know, older children included.
- Pregnant ladies: Consider learning how to prepare for birth in an emergency. Knowing what to expect, what to do, how to cope, what equipment to prepare just in case will give peace of mind that you’ve got all bases covered.
- Keep your plan visible: Write down the details of people and places and pin it where everyone can see it. By the house phone is a good place.
- Program emergency contact numbers into children’s cell phones, and discuss with them whom to call first, and when.
Emergency plans are for ‘just in case’, and you’ll probably never need them. But if you do, you’ll be grateful you took a moment to build your awareness of the things that can go wrong, and create a plan of action you can call on during that adrenaline spike that makes it hard to think.