Pregnant or Just Had a Baby? Know When to Call for Help - Fast!

Pregnancy can be a happy time for many people. It can also put a lot of stress on the body. You may have questions about symptoms, your pregnancy, or how you're feeling. Your health care provider can help. Ask them questions over the phone or during appointments.

Most people have only a few symptoms like morning sickness or mild swelling in their hands, arms, legs or feet. Some warning signs could mean something serious is happening.

Share this information with people you live with or people you see often. They may notice some of these symptoms before you do.

CALL 911.

Call 911 and get help right away if you have any of the symptoms below while pregnant or after childbirth. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

  • Shortness of breath -- You can't take a full breath, it's hard to breathe
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
  • Chest pain or fast heartbeat
  • Headache that doesn't go away with medicine, or comes on suddenly
  • During pregnancy, the baby seems to slow down or stop moving
  • After birth, baby's skin is bluish or cold

CALL your Health Care Provider.

Call your health care provider and get help right away if you have any of the symptoms below while pregnant or after childbirth. If you can't talk with your provider, call 911.

  • Fever over 100.4° F
  • Swelling in your hands, arms, legs, ankles, or feet -- especially if it's more than normal
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in your vision -- blurry or can't focus
  • Severe nausea and vomiting -- more than morning sickness
  • Exhaustion – feeling very tired
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking during pregnancy
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or large blood clots*
  • Wounds that won't heal, especially after a cesarean birth – also known as a "C-section"


When you call 911 or your health care provider, tell them if you're pregnant. Also say how far long you are. If you were pregnant in the last year, tell them when it ended. Also, if you gave birth in the last year, tell them when.

Some of these symptoms can appear up to a year after childbirth. Keep this information handy and in plain sight.

Information on common but serious pregnancy complications

Some conditions during pregnancy or after childbirth can be life threatening. They may even lead to death.

You may have one of the conditions or symptoms below while you're pregnant or after childbirth. If you do, ask your health care provider for help to stay as healthy as you can.

Two types of high blood pressure happen later in pregnancy or after childbirth -- preeclampsia and eclampsia (pree-ee-klamp-see-yuh and ee-klamp-see-yuh). They happen when there is too much stress on the heart. They can also affect other organs like the liver and kidneys.

Symptoms include:

  • blurry vision,
  • light sensitivity (bright light hurts your eyes),
  • headaches that don't go away with medicine,
  • nausea or vomiting,
  • trouble breathing, and/or
  • swelling in the legs, hands, and face.

Even someone who doesn't normally have diabetes can get it while pregnant. Gestational diabetes needs to be treated or controlled. If not, it can hurt the baby and cause breathing problems.

Symptoms include:

  • feeling very thirsty,
  • frequent peeing,
  • feeling very tired,
  • nausea,
  • blurred vision, and
  • vaginal, bladder, and skin infections.

The 4 conditions below can happen fast and can be deadly.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 to get help right away.

1) HELLP syndrome

HELLP syndrome is a rare condition that can happen late in pregnancy, and sometimes after childbirth. It is diagnosed by blood tests.

Symptoms include:

  • blurry vision,
  • chest pain,
  • pain in the upper right or middle of the stomach,
  • headaches,
  • feeling very tired, and
  • nausea or vomiting.

2) Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE)

A rare but serious problem can occur when amniotic fluid gets in your bloodstream. This is called Amniotic fluid embolism (AFE). It can be caused by tears in the placenta, or after an injury to the belly. It can lead to blood clots in the lungs and brain. AFE can happen during pregnancy and soon after childbirth.

Symptoms include:

  • trouble breathing,
  • coughing,
  • low blood pressure,
  • and bluish skin and nails.

If it happens during pregnancy, the baby's heart may beat slowly.

3) Postpartum hemorrhage

Bleeding during or after childbirth is called postpartum hemorrhage. It is rare, but it can be very serious. This usually happens within a day after childbirth, but can happen up to three months after childbirth.

Symptoms include:

  • heavy bleeding that doesn't stop,
  • low blood pressure,
  • a rapid pulse or heart rate, and
  • swelling and pain in or around the vagina.

4) Sepsis

If you have an infection, your body could overreact to fight it. This is called sepsis.

Symptoms include:

  • fever,
  • confusion,
  • chills,
  • low blood pressure,
  • cool and pale skin, and
  • hands and feet that look a bit blue.

To learn more, visit Pregnancy Complications ( or Urgent Maternal Warning Signs (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists/ACOG)