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Learning About When to Call Your Doctor or Midwife During Pregnancy (After 20 Weeks)


It's common to have concerns about what might be a problem when you're pregnant. Most pregnancies don't have any serious problems. But it's still important to know when to call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if you have certain symptoms or signs of labour.

These are general suggestions. Your doctor or midwife may give you some more information about when to call.

When to call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line (after 20 weeks)

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means you are soaking through a pad each hour for 2 or more hours.
  • You have sudden, severe pain in your belly.
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have a seizure.
  • You see or feel the umbilical cord.
  • You think you are about to deliver your baby and can't make it safely to the hospital or birthing centre.

Call your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have vaginal bleeding.
  • You have belly pain.
  • You have a fever.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • You have signs of a blood clot in your leg (called a deep vein thrombosis), such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in your leg or groin.
    • A colour change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin colour.
  • You have symptoms of preeclampsia, such as:
    • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
    • New vision problems (such as dimness, blurring, or seeing spots).
    • A severe headache.
  • You have a sudden release of fluid from your vagina. (You think your water broke.)
  • You've been having regular contractions for an hour. This means that you've had at least 6 contractions within 1 hour, even after you change your position and drink fluids.
  • You notice that your baby has stopped moving or is moving less than normal.
  • You have signs of heart failure, such as:
    • New or increased shortness of breath.
    • New or worse swelling in your legs, ankles, or feet.
    • Sudden weight gain, such as more than 1 to 1.3 kilograms (2 to 3 pounds) in a day or 2.3 kilograms (5 pounds ) in a week.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
  • You have symptoms of a urinary tract infection. These may include:
    • Pain or burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • Pain in the flank, which is just below the rib cage and above the waist on either side of the back.
    • Blood in your urine.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor, midwife, or nurse advice line if:

  • You have vaginal discharge that smells bad.
  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You have skin changes, such as a rash, itching, or a yellow colour to your skin.
  • You have other concerns about your pregnancy.

If you have labour signs at 37 weeks or more

If you have signs of labour at 37 weeks or more, your doctor or midwife may tell you to call when your labour becomes more active. Symptoms of active labour include:

  • Contractions that are regular.
  • Contractions that are less than 5 minutes apart.
  • Contractions that are hard to talk through.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.