Posted by Naomi Nessim, June 28, 2016 (last updated on November 20, 2020)
If you’re pregnant and experiencing a medical issue, you probably want to know if going to urgent care is a good idea. The reality is that where you should be seen during pregnancy — an urgent care center, the emergency room, or your primary ob-gyn’s office— depends on the type of health concern you have.
A good rule of thumb, whether you’re pregnant or not, is to go to urgent care when your symptoms are acute enough that you need immediate care but not so severe that you need to spend hours and (and hundreds of dollars) at the ER. Keep reading for an in-depth look at pregnancy services offered at urgent care and when you should go to urgent care versus the ER.
Do urgent care centers have an ob-gyn on staff?
When you’re pregnant, you have a special relationship with your ob-gyn. They are intimately familiar with your health and the health of your baby, so you trust them with your medical concerns. But when an issue comes up and you can’t get an immediate doctor’s appointment, you may be wondering if physicians at urgent care are equipped to treat you.
Typically, an urgent care center won’t have obstetricians or gynecologists on staff. However, they are still qualified physicians who can address the majority of problems that can arise during pregnancy.
For pregnancy-related concerns that aren’t urgent, your best bet is to call your primary ob-gyn. Many doctor’s offices have a nurse hotline you can call if you have symptoms that you’re unsure about. Doing this can help you decide whether you need to go to urgent care or if your concern can wait until your ob-gyn can see you in her office.
When can you go to urgent care while pregnant?
Whether you’re expecting your first child or your third, pregnancy can make you feel a bit, well, delicate. Every cramp, fever, or chill may put you on high alert. The reality is that many pregnant women head to the ER for non-emergency situations. In fact, research done on the overcrowding of emergency rooms found that less than 3% of ER visits required vital intervention. Essentially, this means that the majority of people — including pregnant women — can be treated at urgent care, instead of the emergency room.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t go to the ER for serious symptoms during pregnancy but knowing where to go and when can save you time, money, and a lot of hassle. Here’s an overview of when a pregnant woman should go to urgent care during each trimester of pregnancy.
What are common first-trimester health concerns, and can they be treated at urgent care?
The first-trimester of pregnancy is notoriously rough. Many women experience morning sickness, fatigue, and spotting. All of these are relatively normal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, having an urgent care center that you can book a same-day appointment with or use as a walk-in clinic can help give you peace of mind as you navigate early pregnancy. Let’s look at some common first-trimester health concerns and whether they can be treated at urgent care.
Can I get a pregnancy test at urgent care?
If you think you may be pregnant and want to confirm with something a bit more reliable than a home pregnancy test, you can certainly book an appointment at urgent care. The doctor or physician’s assistant who sees you will be able to do a urine test or blood test to confirm your pregnancy.
Can I go to urgent care for morning sickness?
Ah, morning sickness. Though some women are lucky enough to avoid it completely, more than 50% of pregnant women will experience nausea and vomiting caused by fluctuating hormones. If you’re pregnant and are having “morning” sickness (let’s be real: it can last all day), you may wonder if you should go to urgent care. The answer depends on how severe your symptoms are. If you experience any of the following, you should head to your local urgent care center:
- Nausea with severe vomiting
- If you can’t keep food or liquids down
- If vomiting is accompanied by fever or pain
- If you become dehydrated
These are all symptoms that could be related to hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness that can require a hospital stay if left untreated. When you go to urgent care with symptoms of morning sickness, whether mild or severe, your doctor will likely give you an IV to help you rehydrate and restore your electrolytes and nutrients. They can also prescribe medication that helps ease the symptoms of morning sickness.
Can I go to urgent care for spotting during pregnancy?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 20% of pregnant women report spottingduring the first trimester of pregnancy, making it a relatively common experience. Usually, there’s nothing to worry about if you’re spotting; it can be a result of a fertilized egg implanting into your uterus, sexual intercourse, heavy lifting or exercise, and even a gynecological exam.
That said, if you see more than a few drops of blood, it’s a good idea to be seen by a doctor. Going to urgent care for first-trimester spotting can help ease your mind and give you confidence that everything is ok with you and your baby.
Can I go to urgent care for a UTI?
Urinary tract infections can happen to any woman, pregnant or not. And they are not fun. However, during pregnancy, women are more prone to UTIsdue to the expansion of the bladder and urethra, as well as the concentration of urine. All of these things can encourage bacterial growth and lead to an infection.
Untreated, a urinary tract infection can cause serious health problems for both mom and baby. You should go to urgent care if you experience any of the following symptoms of a UTI, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Frequent urination
- Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
- Low fever (less than 101 °F)
- Cloudy or bloody urine
- Pressure or cramping in the groin or lower abdomen
Can I go to urgent care for a yeast infection?
Yeast infections aren’t particularly dangerous to you or your unborn child. They are mostly just uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing heavy, white discharge or itching around the vagina, you should see your doctor. While a yeast infection may be no big deal (and a doctor at urgent care will be able to give you a pregnancy-safe prescription to treat it), symptoms of a yeast infection are similar to those of bacterial vaginosis and other sexually transmitted infections. It’s best to have a doctor do an exam, just to make sure.
Can I go to urgent care with second or third trimester health issues?
If you experience any of the above health concerns during the second or third trimester of pregnancy, you can still go to urgent care. However, the further along you are, the more serious symptoms can potentially be. Here are the issues you can go to urgent care for. In the following section, we’ll talk about when you should go to the ER during pregnancy.
Can I go to urgent care if I have preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication related to high blood pressure, occurs most often after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can be life-threatening, so the symptoms shouldn’t be ignored. However, not all preeclampsia symptoms are severe or need emergency treatment. If you have the following mild symptoms of preeclampsia, you can go to urgent care:
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased urination
- Shortness of breath
If you begin experiencing severe headaches, blurred vision, severe abdominal pain, or severe shortness of breath you should go to the emergency room, not urgent care.
Can I got to urgent care if I think I’m in preterm labor?
Preterm labor can happen between 24 and 37 weeks — a timeframe that is too early for labor to occur. The later you are in pregnancy, the less serious preterm labor is (aside from underlying health issues). It can be hard to know for sure if you’re in preterm labor, as contractions can sometimes be Braxton Hicks (or false contractions). If you’re in your third trimester of pregnancy and experience any of the following symptoms of preterm labor, you can go to urgent care.
- Leaking or gushing fluid from your vagina
- Regular contractions
- Feeling of pressure in your lower abdomen or pelvis
- Dull aching in your lower back
A doctor at urgent care will be able to quickly check whether you’re in labor or not. If you are, you’ll be sent to the hospital. If you’re not in labor, you’ll be sent home — in far less time and with a far less expensive bill than if you went to the ER.
Can I go to urgent care if I get injured while pregnant?
As your belly grows and your balance gets thrown off a bit, you’re more prone to injuries from falling. If you sustain any type of injury while pregnant, you can go to an urgent care center.
When should I go to the ER for pregnancy issues?
There are some situations during pregnancy that call for an immediate visit to the emergency room, instead of urgent care. If any of the following occur, you should head to the hospital right away:
- You have severe abdominal pain
- You think you’re having a miscarriage
- You have signs of preterm labor in your second-trimester
- You have severe headaches, especially if accompanied by blurred vision
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Pain or pressure in your chest
- Loss of consciousness
- Any other situation that seems as though it could be life-threatening
If you’re experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
When you’re pregnant, your top concerns are the health of you and your precious baby. When a health concern comes up, sometimes you just can’t wait to see your primary care physician or ob-gyn. In many cases, urgent care is a great option for pregnant women. Not only is it far less expensive than the ER, you’ll also be seen a lot faster — many patients wait an average of 8 minutes when they book an urgent care appointment online with Solv.