When to call the doctor or midwife

Sep 14, 2010 at 2:49 p.m. ET

As pregnancy progresses into the second trimester, you can really start seeing physical changes in your body. With an expanding belly comes a bevy of additional symptoms, ranging from mildly uncomfortable to the severely painful. Here are a few tips to help you know when you should call the doctor during this stage of your pregnancy.

Second trimester of pregnancy

Expert Tips

You've gotten through the first trimester. Now, in your second trimester, as things progress, you may contemplate calling your doctor or midwife as you worry about possible complications. But it can be tricky to determine what truly warrants a call and what's a false alarm. Dr Rallie McAllister, MPH, and co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth, shares some of her top reasons to make the call.

1Abnormal urine

Most pregnant women are familiar with frequent trips to the bathroom, but are you paying attention to while you're there? "If you experience burning when you go, pain in your back or lower abdomen, fever or chills, or cloudy, dark or bloody urine, call your doctor or midwife right away," says Dr McAllister. "These could be signs of a urinary tract infection."

2Back pain

Some additional pregnancy weight may cause your back to be a bit uncomfortable, but it shouldn't be terribly painful. If it is, make the call. "If the back pain is severe or if you are feeling numbness, you should call right away," says Dr McAllister. "Back pain can be a signal of premature labor." Other tell-tale signs of premature labor include vaginal discharge, contractions, abdominal pain and menstrual-like cramps.

3Odd cravings

You've probably heard plenty of stories about pregnant women and their odd food cravings. If you've joined the pickles-and-ice-cream fan club, don't worry. But if your cravings seem even more unusual, branching out into non-food items, there could be a problem. "Pica is a condition that causes women to crave non-food items, such as dirt, copper, or detergent," says Dr McAllister. "Rather than eating any of those, call your doctor."


Pregnant women are often assumed to be be a bit clumsier than usual. Whether this is actually true is debatable, but if your unsteadiness causes a fall, call your doctor. "Be on the lookout for any bleeding, gush of fluid from the vagina or severe abdominal pain," says Dr McAllister. Your health care practitioner will definitely want to examine you.

5Plethora of symptoms

During the second trimester, pre-term labor is perhaps the biggest fear. According to Dr McAllister, "signs of this condition can include watery, mucous, or bloody vaginal discharge; menstrual-like cramps; low, dull backache; pelvic or lower abdominal pressure; abdominal cramps with or without diarrhea; your water breaking; or contractions every 10 minutes or more frequently." Pick up the phone if you experience any of these symptoms.

Stay tuned for "When to call your doctor during your third trimester."

More second-trimester tips