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15 warning signs of a pregnancy problem

A pregnant woman sits on a couch and writes in a notebook.

Sept. 9, 2020— Fortunately, it isn't common for American women to die because of problems related to pregnancy. But it does happen. In fact, about 700 women die each year in the U.S. because of pregnancy complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And the risks are two to three times greater for American Indian, Alaska Native and Black women than for white women.

Nearly two-thirds of these deaths are preventable, CDC says. The agency is hoping to raise awareness of the warning signs with a new campaign called "Hear Her."

What to watch for

Pregnancy-related complications are problems that can occur during your pregnancy or up to a year afterward. If you or a pregnant loved one notices any of these 15 warning signs, get medical care right away:

  1. Severe headache that won't go away or gets worse. This might feel like the worst headache you've ever had.
  2. Dizziness or fainting. It may persist or come and go over a few days.
  3. Changes in vision. These might include flashes of light, blind spots or blurry vision.
  4. Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.
  5. Extreme swelling in the hands or face. This swelling is different from the slight swelling women often have during the last few months of pregnancy.
  6. Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby. You might also feel sad or worried all the time.
  7. Trouble breathing. You might feel as if you can't fill your lungs. Or you may feel the need to prop your head up on pillows to help you sleep.
  8. Chest pain or rapid heart rate. This might include a feeling of pressure in the center of the chest. Or you might notice an irregular heart rate or skipped beats.
  9. Severe nausea and vomiting. This is more than morning sickness. Seek help if you're unable to drink for more than 8 hours or eat for more the 24 hours.
  10. Severe and persistent belly pain. This may be accompanied by severe chest, shoulder or back pain.
  11. A change in your baby's movement. While pregnant, get help if your baby stops moving or moves less than before.
  12. Vaginal bleeding or leaking during pregnancy. This is more than spotting—more like a period. You may also leak fluid or have a discharge that smells bad.
  13. Vaginal bleeding or discharge after pregnancy. You might pass clots bigger than an egg, soak through a pad within an hour or have a discharge that smells bad.
  14. Severe swelling, redness, or pain in your leg or arm. This can happen anytime during pregnancy or up to six weeks after birth.
  15. Overwhelming tiredness. You may feel suddenly tired and weak, have little to no energy, or feel so tired that you don't get up to care for your baby.

This isn't a complete list of every symptom you might have. The most important takeaway is this: If you don't feel like yourself, trust your instincts. Talk with your doctor. Be sure they know that you either are pregnant now or were pregnant within the last year.

You can read more about these signs at CDC's Hear Her website.

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