Recognizing urgent pregnancy-related warning signs

This prewritten matte article about the Hear Her campaign is ready for adaptation and use by journalists, bloggers, and other members of the media.

By Wanda Barfield, MD, MPH, RADM USPHS
Director of the Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Far too often, women in the United States die from complications related to pregnancy. Recognizing the warning signs and getting the right diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible can save lives.

CDC launched the Hear Her campaign to raise awareness of potentially life-threatening warning signs during and after pregnancy and to encourage the people supporting pregnant and postpartum women to really listen when they express concerns. Pregnant and postpartum women up to a year after pregnancy need to seek medical care immediately if they experience any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Severe headache that won’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
  • Changes in your vision
  • Fever of 100.4º F or higher
  • Extreme swelling of your hands or face
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain or fast-beating heart
  • Severe nausea and throwing up (not like morning sickness)
  • Severe belly pain that doesn’t go away
  • Baby’s movement stopping or slowing down during pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding or fluid leaking during pregnancy
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding or leaking fluid that smells bad after pregnancy
  • Swelling, redness or pain of your leg
  • Overwhelming tiredness

About 700 women die in the U.S. each year from complications related to pregnancy. Most of these deaths could be prevented. Listening and taking the concerns of pregnant and recently pregnant women seriously is a simple, yet powerful action to prevent serious health complications and death.

Hear Her encourages partners, family, friends, and providers–anyone who supports a woman during or after her pregnancy– to listen when she expresses concerns. Your action could help save her life.

To learn more, visit