Are you pregnant? Often, our body gives us the signs that we are pregnant before that plus sign ever shows up on a pregnancy test. However, many signs of pregnancy could also be symptoms of a medical problem or even just premenstrual syndrome, so it’s important to take that test as soon as a positive result is possible.
Delay/Difference in Menstruation
When a woman misses a period, often the first thing she does is take a home pregnancy test. A late or skipped menstrual period is the most well-known symptom of pregnancy. Some women may bleed lightly during pregnancy. If this occurs in the first few weeks, it’s called implantation bleeding and should be very light. Heavy bleeding after a period is late or after a pregnancy test has shown you are pregnant could indicate a miscarriage and you should speak with your doctor.
Other factors may also create an irregular menstrual cycle or a missed period. These include:
- Excessive changes in weight and/or diet
- Hormonal imbalances
- Going off birth control pills
- Travel, esp. involving changes in altitude
Implantation bleeding, in women who experience it, is typically the first indication of pregnancy. When the embryo implants into the uterine wall, some blood may be released. However, only about 20 to 30 percent of women experience this bleeding, which is really more like a pink or very light red discharge of blood. Any bleeding that is not your period should be discussed with your doctor.
Swollen / Tender Breasts
A woman’s breasts may become sore, swollen or tender as early as one or two weeks after conception. However, this is also a sign of PMS so, if you experience swollen breasts, you may want to wait until the first day of your missed period to take a home pregnancy test. You may also experience tender or sore breasts if you have a hormone imbalance or recently started birth control pills or other hormone-based birth control.
Extreme fatigue or even feeling more tired than usual could indicate pregnancy and may begin as early as the first week after conception. However, there are multiple other factors that could make a woman tired, so if this is not accompanied by other symptoms of pregnancy, consider other factors first.
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you under stress?
- Could you have a cold or the flu?
Stress, exhaustion, depression, illnesses, a change in exercise habits or even a change in diet can leave you feeling fatigued.
Nausea / Morning Sickness
This well-known pregnancy symptom will often show up between two and eight weeks after conception, and typically subsides at the start of the second trimester. Some women do not experience morning sickness at all, while some feel a degree of nausea throughout pregnancy. Rule out other causes first, including food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome, stomach disorders, stress and a stomach flu.
Lower backaches may be a symptom that occurs early in pregnancy, but it may begin at any time during your pregnancy and last until delivery, or come and go based on your level of physical activity and other factors.
Like most pregnancy symptoms, backaches may be caused by a number of other factors, including impending menstruation, stress, back problems, physical injuries such as pulled muscles.
The sudden rise of hormones in your body can cause headaches early in pregnancy but, since headaches are so prevalent in women and have so many other causes, this is not usually a good indicator of pregnancy unless accompanied by other symptoms. Headaches may be caused by:
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Eye strain
- Cold or flu
- Seasonal allergies
- Sinus infection
Around six to eight weeks after conception, as the uterus grows and shifts, taking up more room in your abdomen and exerting force on your bladder, you may experience frequent urination. Frequent urination in the absence of other pregnancy symptoms, however, could indicate a problem such as:
- Urinary tract infection
- Bladder infection
Using diuretics or increasing your liquid intake may also cause more frequent urination.
Darkening of Areolas
If you are pregnant, the skin around your nipples may get darker. This may also be caused by a hormone imbalance not related to pregnancy. Areolas may not return to their original color after childbirth.
As any pregnant woman – or her husband who hit the convenience store at midnight for ice cream, with or without pickles – can attest, pregnancy food cravings are not a myth. They can last throughout your entire pregnancy, but usually don’t appear until the second trimester or late in the first trimester.
Dieting, PMS, lack of a certain nutrients, stress or depression can also cause food cravings. Click here to read about some strange food cravings experienced by the BOL bloggers.
Enhanced Sense of Smell
For moms-to-be pregnant for the first time, an enhanced sense of smell is often one of the oddest symptoms of pregnancy. This evolutionary trait may have developed to help pregnant women detect – and avoid – spoiled foods before they ate them. It can be embarrassing if you have to leave a room because of someone’s intense body odor or want to gag around people with the scent of third-hand smoke clinging to their bodies.
It’s not just a myth. All those hormonal changes going on in your body can wreak havoc with your mood, too. Of course, mood swings can also be caused by stress or plain old garden variety PMS. Some women actually experience improved moods – or a more stable mood if they previously suffered from PMS-related mood swings – during pregnancy. Others discover that one or two specific individuals “push their buttons” but that people, as a whole, are easier to tolerate.
Doctors recommend that women not gain much weight in the first trimester, but you may feel hungrier than usual. To keep weight in check, maintain a healthy diet and eat lots of foods high in fiber, which are filling and will also help alleviate constipation. Drink a glass of water before every meal, too. Pregnant women shouldn’t need to increase their caloric intake to accommodate the growing fetus until the start of the second trimester, when they should eat approximately 300 extra calories per day. You can also maintain a high level of physical activity in the first trimester, which will help prevent excessive weight gain.
Later Pregnancy Symptoms
Some symptoms – such as a backache or headaches – may begin in the first trimester and persist throughout pregnancy. Others appear later.
- Feeling extremely warm / hot flashes
- Quickening (fetal movement)
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in all areas of your body, including hair, skin and nails
- Blurred vision
Essentially, “anything goes” when it comes to pregnancy symptoms. If you are concerned about any reactions you’re having or changes to your body, speak with your midwife or obstetrician.
Author: Dawn Allcot