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Heed advice on pregnancy danger signs

Dear doctor,
Am just from my first antenatal clinic and I was overwhelmed by the amount of information I got. I really didn’t quite understand the concept of danger signs. What is this all about?

Most women will go through fairly uncomplicated pregnancies and childbirth, save for minor symptoms that are usually inconsequential. But unpredictable problems may arise at any time, to any woman. Hence the need for routine medical care in pregnancy, so called antenatal clinics. Every pregnant woman should attend antenatal clinics. Supervised care must be done by qualified caregivers, usually midwives and obstetricians.

You play a big role in your own care during pregnancy. And that’s why your midwife or obstetrician will go into great lengths to educate you on what to expect during pregnancy. You get to know about common but innocent pregnancy symptoms. Equally, you get to be clear about certain symptoms that imply grave risks either to you or to the developing baby. Such symptoms always warrant immediate actions on your end, and are aptly described as danger signs.

Common danger signs include bleeding, severe abdominal pain, convulsions, severe headaches with blurred vision, breathing difficulties, and reduced fetal movements. There will be other danger signs that may be related to your specific characteristics. Danger signs should not be confused with mundane aches and pains that are so common in pregnancy. Such common symptoms include the odd pelvic discomfort, mild fatigue, poor sleep patterns and many others.

Common sense dictates that you take heed of all the advice that you get during your antenatal visits, and act accordingly. It shouldn’t just be you, your partner and close family members also need to be aware of basic things during your pregnancy. If you get the odd sneeze or itch, there shouldn’t be any undue overreaction and panic. But it’s different with danger signs, a plan of appropriate action should already be in place, and instituted without delay.

So what should you do when you experience any danger signs?

Don’t panic. Immediately summon help, either from a family member or any of your nearby friends or colleagues. You must then immediately get to the nearest health facility. Take the fastest mode of transport, an ambulance is best if immediately available. Don’t waste precious moments trying to freshen up, or gather all your records together. Emergency departments should be your first stop, or you could make your way directly to the maternity unit. Don’t accept to wait in the queue on arrival, immediately alert the medical personnel that you have a pregnancy-related emergency.

Majority of women will not experience emergencies during pregnancy. But understanding danger signs, and acting accordingly, can be life-saving. The more proactive you are, the more you will enjoy your pregnancy. Any undue ignorance on your part may end up with an avoidable and regrettable catastrophe.

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