Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

We’ve all seen the stylized version of the pregnant mom-to-be in movies or advertising. She’s floating along in perfectly fitted designer duds, full of energy and positively radiating with that special pregnant glow. The underlying message? Pregnancy is simple, effortless and problem-free. In real life, this isn’t always the case.

My own experiences were widely varied. My first pregnancy was riddled with extreme nausea and morning sickness in the first trimester and halfway through the second. When the nausea finally dissipated, I woke up covered in itchy hive-like bumps that spread across my arms, legs and back. Six agonizing weeks of doctor’s visits, tests, steroid creams, homeopathic soaps, lotions and Internet research later, a daily can of tomato juice cleared the rash right up. My son ended his time in utero with a flourish however, overdue and via an emergency c-section. The next time around, I dealt with sciatic pain and didn’t float along, so much as waddle. My second pregnancy was a cakewalk compared to my first, honestly, but at neither time did I find it completely effortless.

Each pregnancy is different and hosts its own bevy of potential symptoms and side effects. Whether you’re a first-time mom or a veteran, questions about what’s normal can arise. I decided to reach out to Dr. Kimberly Matthews of Women’s Health Associates about what’s typical and what’s not during pregnancy. From spotting to kick counts, she addresses some common concerns.

Q: Is spot-bleeding during pregnancy normal?

While spotting during pregnancy is not “normal,” it is not uncommon. We receive many calls from women who have spotting in pregnancy, and many of those go on without complications. One reason for spotting early on may be implantation, but there are many causes. If you are spotting, you should always let your OB know so that she can determine whether further tests are needed.

Q: Is period-like bleeding normal?

Period-like bleeding is not normal and should be evaluated right away.

Q: Is nausea common? Are there remedies to relieve it?

Nausea is especially common in early pregnancy but can extend into later pregnancy for some. Vitamin B6, ginger, lemon drops and eating small, frequent meals can help alleviate nausea.

Q: When should a doctor be seen for nausea?

If natural remedies aren’t helping, dehydration is setting in or you begin losing weight, contact your doctor. Prescription medication can be an effective alternative.

Q: How much weight should be gained during pregnancy?

Women of average weight should gain approximately 25-35 pounds. Underweight women can gain 28-40 pounds, and overweight women should stick to the range of 11-20.

Q: When should a woman be concerned about her weight gain?

Women typically gain just a few pounds in the first trimester and about a half to 1 pound per week for the remainder. If you are gaining weight at a more rapid pace consistently, you should discuss this with your physician. Some women do gain weight more rapidly, despite a healthy diet and exercise. Others may have an underlying medical condition. Gaining too much weight can increase chances of abnormal progression in labor, c-sections, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Q: How common are rashes in pregnancy?

Itchy skin and skin changes are common during pregnancy. If you have excessive itching, especially at night and on your hands and feet, your doctor should evaluate your condition. If a rash is present and worsens and symptoms are not relieved by over-the-counter medications, you may need further tests.

Q: When should pregnant moms begin counting kicks?

I usually recommend starting kick counts around 28 weeks.

Q: How many kicks are considered normal? When should moms be concerned?

All babies have a different pattern and baseline to their movement in utero. If your baby is moving according to his or her daily pattern, there should be nothing to worry about. Kick counts are useful when a baby is not moving according to his usual pattern. There are many ways to count kicks, but typically 10 movements or more within a two-hour time period is sufficient.  If you haven’t had anything to eat or drink recently, do that at the time of the kick counts. If the baby isn’t moving adequately, call your provider for further evaluation.

Q: What other symptoms should moms be on the lookout for that may require a doctor’s visit?

Discomforts of a changing body are normal during pregnancy, but you should be aware of some things. Severe or unusual pain should be addressed with your doctor. Swelling is not unusual, especially at the end of pregnancy, but if it is accompanied by headaches, vision changes, acute abdominal pain or sudden nausea and vomiting, contact your provider. Lastly, if you suddenly experience a gush of fluids and/or contractions, call your doctor immediately. This could be a sign that the amniotic sac has ruptured and you may be going into labor. Anytime before 37 weeks is considered preterm labor.

            At times, the list of symptoms and side effects to watch out for seems extensive, but don’t worry. Most pregnancies progress just fine, regardless of the speed bumps along the way. I am the proud mom of two amazing little boys, and pregnancy was only a small blip compared to the joy I’ve experienced thus far. As Dr. Matthews says, “Even though some parts of pregnancy are uncomfortable, try to remember that it is short-lived. Concentrate on the fun parts like feeling the baby move. It’ll be worth it when the newest member of your family arrives!”



Jennifer Bosse lives in Kansas City with her husband and two sons.


As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns. 

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