Early pregnancy symptoms overview
Many people think that missing a period means that you are pregnant, but there are a number of different symptoms that can be associated with pregnancy. From nausea to tender breasts and fatigue, you need to know what to expect if you are pregnant.
The first trimester begins with hardly shows any signs of pregnancy and ends with your body getting ready and adjusting to carrying a baby. Your symptoms will typically only start in the fourth week, this is when you can expect to miss your period and may have mild blood spotting and cramping. The early signs of pregnancy are easily overlooked. The classic symptoms normally entail fatigue, mood changes, nausea, morning sickness and in turn, vomiting (which can actually happen during any time of the day). Sometimes these symptoms can be due to something else such as an illness or starting your period.
The best way to tell if you are pregnant is to take a home pregnancy test, if this is positive, then you should consult with your doctor who will confirm the result with a blood test. At this point you are either beaming with unexpected joy or in a slight state of shock, depending on whether your conception was planned. It’s best to chat with your doctor at this point in time in order to figure out your plan of action for your pregnancy in coping with it and giving your baby a healthy body and environment to develop in.
The following article explores what you need to be aware of in terms of the symptoms regarding possible pregnancy. It is important to note that this information is to serve only as a guideline and not as a professional opinion, it is best to consult with your doctor or gynaecologist for that.
Symptoms of pregnancy: what to expect
We have mentioned some of the first signs of pregnancy, but it is best to know all of them in order to determine whether you may or may not be pregnant. It can sometimes be difficult to detect early pregnancy as some symptoms are associated with issues such as the flu or just the start of your period. However, what to expect when expecting can help you to deal with your pregnancy and seek professional assistance for the duration of it.
The following symptoms are some that can be expected:
Spotting and cramping
This normally happens anywhere between six to 12 days after conception. The fertilised egg attaches to the uterine wall, this is what causes the earliest signs of pregnancy associated with spotting and cramping. Spotting at this stage is known as implantation bleeding.
Your cramps during this time can sometimes resemble menstrual cramps, and some woman may mistake this bleeding as the start of their period. The cramping and spotting are light and not severe in any way. It may seem counterintuitive as when trying to fall pregnant, the last thing you expect or want to see is vaginal bleeding. But light spotting is normal at this time as it is sometimes due to the egg attaching itself and settling in the uterine lining.
Besides implantation bleeding, a milky vaginal discharge may also be present in early pregnancy. This is because of the thickening of the vaginal walls, which begins immediately after conception, as your body prepares to have a baby. The cells increase in growth in the lining of the vagina which causes it to excrete the discharge. This white and milky substance can also continue throughout the pregnancy and is usually harmless, not requiring any treatment. However, if the discharge develops a bad smell or causes an itching and burning sensation, get it checked by your doctor as you may have a bacterial or yeast infection. Your doctor may also give you certain hormones that your body may be lacking such as progesterone, this can also result in more vaginal discharge.
Approximately one in four women will experience light bleeding or spotting in their first trimester. When the bleeding is heavier it can sometimes be because of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo has not implanted itself in the uterus but somewhere else instead, usually in either of the fallopian tubes). It is best to consult with your doctor when the bleeding is heavy, especially when it is accompanied by light-headedness or pain.
Another early sign of pregnancy is changes in your breasts. This is due to your hormones changing rapidly after conception, resulting in our boobs being sore, swollen or even tingly a week or two after. They may also feel heavy and tender to touch. The areola, being the area around the nipples, may also become darker in colour.
Breast changes cause some discomfort during pregnancy, but your body will start to adjust to the levels of hormones after the first trimester, resulting in your breast pain easing up and becoming more bearable.
Feeling tired and sometimes exhausted is something many women experience during the early stages and often through the entire duration of pregnancy.
You can expect to feel unusually tired at one week after conception.
It is often related to the high levels of the hormone progesterone, as well as other contributing factors such as morning sickness, low blood sugar, lower blood pressure as well as a boost in blood production. Having to urinate frequently can also be an added symptom. Fatigue is normally worse in the first trimester and it will start to ease up in the second trimester. It can also return later on in the pregnancy when you start to carry more weight.
Try to get plenty of rest (you will need it for when the baby comes) and eat protein-rich foods to aid in giving you more sustainable energy.
Nausea (Morning Sickness)
Morning sickness is possibly the most famous pregnancy symptom, but some women do not experience it. The exact cause of it is not yet known, but it is most likely caused by the change and increase of certain hormones in the body during pregnancy. The condition is known as morning sickness due to most women feeling nauseous and vomiting in the morning, but it can actually happen at any time during the day.
It may start as early as two weeks after conception, or only begin a month or so after. It is also known as pregnancy-related nausea (with or without vomiting) and can be experienced after eating a specific food or for no specific reason at all.
Some women crave specific things during pregnancy and can’t stand other things. And some feel as though their stomach turns at the thought of what once was their favourite food. This is due to the shift in several hormones during pregnancy.
Morning sickness symptoms tend to ease up in the 13th or 14th week of pregnancy. Some women can experience for the entire pregnancy duration, and some escape morning sickness entirely. Every person’s body is made differently, and not one pregnancy is the same.
Try and stick to a healthy diet in order to give your baby the nutrients it needs, speak to your doctor about developing an eating plan that works for you.
Missing a period is known as the most obvious and early sign of pregnancy. Many women will immediately buy a home pregnancy test if they miss their period. Some either hoping to have a baby and others having more of a surprise and doing so to “check”.
It is important to know that not all missed periods are caused by pregnancy and some women may even experience spotting and bleeding during pregnancy. If you know you are pregnant, it is best to speak to your doctor about abnormal or severe bleeding.
If your periods are normally very regular and one does not arrive on time, it is advised to do a home pregnancy test, especially if you are also experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms.
If you do not normally keep track of your periods, look out for symptoms such as breast tenderness and nausea.
Other reasons for missing a period could be due to losing or gaining large amounts of weight, hormonal-related issues such as stress and fatigue, as well as excessive amounts of exercise. You may also miss your period if you stop taking your birth control pills.
High basal body temperature
It is seen as a sign of pregnancy if your body’s temperature stays elevated for longer than two weeks. Speak to your doctor about other reasons for a high body temperature as well, as it may be due to a certain disease or illness.
Avoiding certain foods
It is no secret that certain foods are able to trigger your gag reflex during pregnancy. The smell or taste of a particular food, even if it once was your favourite, may be able to send you running to the toilet to vomit. This may be due to the increasing amounts of oestrogen in your body during pregnancy.
You may also find that your sense of smell and taste is heightened, which is just another reaction to the hormones changing and increasing.
Mood swings are a common occurrence during pregnancy. The hormonal changes that your body is going through can result in the neurotransmitters (the chemical parts of the brain that are responsible for sending messages to parts of the body) being adversely affected. Hormonal changes bring about different reactions in different women, these may be heightened emotions, which can be good or bad, and some women may also experience depression or anxiety.
If your emotional health starts to become concerning or dangerous, it is best to consult with your doctor or psychologist to help you develop coping techniques for emotional changes during pregnancy.
When you have your period, you may experience bloating, this is also common during pregnancy. Some women may feel that their clothes are abnormally tight even when their uterus is still too small to show signs of a forming foetus. This is also due to the hormonal changes in the body.
Shortly after conception, hormonal changes in the body will result in an increased blood flow rate through the kidneys. This results in your bladder filling quicker and more frequently, resulting in your needing to urinate more often.
Frequent urination is known to continue and also intensify as pregnancy progresses. During your pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body will almost double, meaning that there is extra fluid going through your kidneys. As your baby starts to grow and develop, it will put pressure on your bladder, making it feel fuller when it isn’t.
It is best to stay hydrated during pregnancy, don’t try not to drink fluids so as to avoid going to the bathroom. It is also useful to lean forward when you urinate, as this helps you empty your bladder more effectively.
Your urine should be clear, not cloudy or yellow.
Contact your doctor if you feel any pain or discomfort when urinating, as well as if you see any blood in the urine as this could be due to a urinary tract infection.
Heartburn is also commonly experienced during pregnancy. When you are pregnant, the hormone progesterone relaxes the uterine muscles so as to accommodate the developing foetus.
Progesterone can also relax the valve separating the stomach and the oesophagus, this allows for stomach acid and contents to come back up, creating the burning sensation of heartburn.
As the hormone progesterone relaxes the uterine muscles, it can also do the same to the digestive tract, this results in food passing through the intestines at a slower pace. This can result in constipation. Try eating a high-fibre diet and speak to your doctor about natural laxatives.
Positive home pregnancy test
Home pregnancy tests are often unable to detect if you are pregnant in the first week after conception. They tend to be more accurate and reliable from the second week onwards. It is important to know that the baby will start to develop before you know you are pregnant, so if you are trying to fall pregnant, it is advised that you take care of your health.
Once you see a positive result on the home pregnancy test, consult with your doctor.
The baby bump
The most sure-fire and obvious sign of pregnancy is the infamous baby bump. This starts to show anywhere between 12 and 16 weeks after conception. If you are pregnant for the second time, it may start to show sooner as your uterus (womb) has been previously stretched.
Am I really pregnant?
It is difficult to always detect pregnancy through the above symptoms alone. Many of these signs can also indicate that you are sick or are about to start your period. You can also be pregnant without showing any of these symptoms. That’s why it is best to always consult with your doctor should you notice any abnormalities in your period, specifically if your home pregnancy test is positive.
FAQ about pregnancy
Can you be pregnant and not have any symptoms?
Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. There are bizarre stories where women have not realised they were pregnant until they went into labour, these are however few and far between.
Most women experience some of the common symptoms mentioned above in their first few weeks and others may not experience any signs until they are six or seven weeks into their pregnancy.
How early can you show signs of pregnancy?
Pregnancy symptoms tend to become clear at about four weeks from the start of your most recent period.
What are the most common signs of pregnancy?
The most common signs of pregnancy are:
- Heightened taste and sense of smell
- Swollen and sore breasts
- Spotting or missed period
- Morning sickness
- Frequent urination
Is weight gain an early sign of pregnancy?
Weight gain can also be a possible sign of pregnancy as your body may be adversely responding to the rapid increase of hormones. Your body may also be preparing to grow and develop a healthy embryo. Weight gain is expected as your baby and body grow through pregnancy.