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Pregnancy Complications

When to call your healthcare provider

Most pregnancies continue along with no problems at all. You may feel uncomfortable at times but many of these discomforts can be helped with some simple suggestions. However, a few symptoms during pregnancy should be taken more seriously.

Contact your healthcare provider or go to your local hospital if you experience any of the following at any time during your pregnancy:3 4

  • Leaking or gushing of fluid from your vagina.
  • Spotting or bleeding from your vagina.
  • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
  • Unusual or ongoing headache.
  • Changes in your eyesight such as, blurry vision, flashes, or dark spots.
  • Stomach pain in the upper right part of your belly.
  • Pain in your chest or shortness of breath.
  • Fever and chills (temperature above 38.3° C or 101°F).
  • Ongoing nausea and vomiting.
  • Dizziness or feeling unwell.
  • Pain or burning while urinating.
  • Feeling overwhelmed, anxious or sad.
  • Regular contractions before 37 weeks’ gestation (preterm labour).
  • Any noticeable decrease in your baby’s normal movement.
  • If you are in a motor vehicle collision, have a fall or any injury to your belly.
  • Calf (lower leg pain) pain.
  • Unexplained rash.

Fetal activity

Fetal activity is a good indicator of the baby’s well-being. The fetus has both active and quiet periods throughout the day. Once you have become aware of your baby’s movements, you should continue to notice that your baby has been active every day. In the third trimester, you should be able to feel at least 6 movements in 2 hours.1

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you notice any decrease in your baby’s normal movement.

Preterm Labour2

What is preterm labour?

A normal, or term pregnancy lasts 37 - 42 weeks. Preterm labour is labour that starts before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.

What does this mean for my baby?

Preterm labour may lead to a preterm birth. This means your baby is born too soon.

Preterm babies may:

  • Have trouble breathing, feeding, and staying warm.
  • Be more likely to get infections.
  • Need special care in the hospital.
  • Have to stay in the hospital after their mother goes home.

Although babies born between 34-37 weeks are close to term, they still may have difficulties related to feeding, breathing, etc. The earlier your baby is born preterm, the more likely he or she is to have long term health problems such as:

  • Blindness.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Problems learning.
  • Asthma and respiratory infections.

Some preterm babies are very small and may not be strong enough to live.

What are the signs of preterm labour?

  • Cramps or contractions in your uterus that are happening more than normal for you or more than four in an hour. Contractions may not be painful in preterm labour.
  • Cramps or contractions that do not go away and/or worsen.
  • Trickle or gush of fluid, or bleeding, from your vagina.
  • Lower back pain/pressure, or a change in lower backache.
  • A feeling that the baby is pushing down.
  • An increase in the amount of vaginal discharge.
  • Some women may just feel that "something is not right".

What should I do if I I think I am in preterm labour?

Go to the hospital right away.

There are things that can be done to help decrease your chances of having a preterm baby. However, not all preterm births are preventable. It is still possible that the labour will only be delayed for a short time and that your baby will be born early. However, even a little bit more time will help your baby to grow and mature and become more ready for birth.

What can I do to reduce the chances of a preterm labour?

  • Learn the signs of preterm labour and what to do if you have them.
  • Start prenatal care as early as possible in your pregnancy and see your healthcare provider regularly.
  • Sign up for Prenatal Education.
  • If you smoke, try to quit smoking or cut down and ask others not to smoke near you.
  • Take time to rest and put your feet up every day.
  • Learn how to manage your stress.
  • Eat healthy foods following Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider if you have pain or burning while urinating.
  • Listen to your body – notice when things feel “different” and talk to your healthcare provider about it.

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Adapted / Reproduced with permission from Best Start by Health Nexus.

Date of creation: December 6, 2012
Last modified on: August 16, 2019


1Liston, R., Sawchuck, D., & Young, D. (2007). Fetal health surveillance: antepartum and intrapartum consensus guideline. Journal Of Obstetrics And Gynaecology Canada: JOGC, 29(9 Suppl 4), S3-S56. Retrieved from
2Best Start Resource Centre. (2016). Preterm labour signs and symptoms. Retrieved from
3Best Start. (2018). Prenatal education program modules: Pregnancy Changes. Retrieved from
4Best Start. (2019). Prenatal Education Key Messages for Ontario: Physical Changes. Retrieved from