It’s no secret that pregnancy changes the human body in many ways. The moment that conception occurs; a woman’s body begins to change. Her body will go through many adjustments to make sure that she and the baby will get through the next nine months safely. The early pregnancy stage is full of uncertainties with symptoms that can mirror other possible health issues.
Pregnancy is divided into 3 trimesters. Each trimester is a little longer than 13 weeks. The first month marks the beginning of the first trimester. Expecting women are bound to experience a lot of things in the first trimester alone.
Signs and Symptoms
Early signs and symptoms of pregnancy may start to appear around the first few weeks after conception.
A missed menstrual period is often the very first noticeable sign of a possible pregnancy. However, there other signs and symptoms of early pregnancy that can further help diagnose, apart from taking a pregnancy test, if a woman is indeed pregnant.
Some subtle signs and symptoms appear in the first week and more may become obvious before the first missed period.
Signs and symptoms of early pregnancy that happens before the first missed period are often confused with those of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or the approaching menstrual period. With little signs and symptoms, it can be quite impossible to determine a pregnancy (in the absence of a menstrual period) until a pregnancy test is taken and proves positive.
It is important to note, however, that not all women will experience the same symptoms in early pregnancy or experience these symptoms to the same degree. Every woman is different and not all women will notice all of these symptoms.
In addition, the time when very early pregnancy symptoms and signs start is also different for every woman. Pregnancy symptoms can also vary in their intensity, frequency, and duration. The following early signs and symptoms are only a guideline:
1. Tender, swollen breasts
Breast changes provide one of the first symptoms of pregnancy.
Hormonal changes may make the breasts feel tender to the touch, sore or tingly. The breasts may also feel fuller and heavier than normal. These can happen as early as two weeks after conception since a woman’s hormone levels rapidly change after conception.
The breasts and the nipples can also experience more changes around week 11. The hormones continue to make the breasts grow. The areola or the area around the nipple may have a noticeable change in color. It gets a darker shade and also grows larger.
The discomfort typically eases up after a few weeks as the body slowly adjusts to the pregnancy hormones.
Fatigue is another key symptom of early pregnancy since it usually manifests as early as one week after conceiving.
It is important to note that feeling very tired is normal in all stages of pregnancy.
A woman may experience fatigue early on in the pregnancy due to a high level of the hormone progesterone. In high enough doses, progesterone can cause sleepiness.
At the same time, lowered levels of blood sugar and blood pressure and a boost in blood production can team up to sap energy during pregnancy.
Pregnancy fatigue can become persistent and prolonged. It often lingers as far as the third trimester of pregnancy.
It is imperative that a pregnant woman should get plenty of rest. Eating foods that are rich in iron and protein can also help offset the fatigue symptoms.
3. Spotting and cramping
One of the first symptoms of pregnancy is a small amount of spotting or vaginal bleeding.
The slight bleeding occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. This occurs around 10 to 14 days after conception. It is also known as implantation bleeding.
This type of bleeding is usually a bit earlier, spottier and lighter in color than a normal period and doesn’t last as long.
Besides that, a woman may also notice a white and milky discharge. The discharge is linked to the thickening of the vaginal walls. The thickening starts immediately after conception. The increased cell growth within the linings of the vagina causes the discharge.
It can continue all throughout the pregnancy and is typically harmless and doesn’t require medical treatment. If a bad smell from the discharge or a burning and itching sensation arises, it is best to have it checked by a doctor.
Some women may also experience some abdominal cramping early on in their pregnancies. They can be similar to menstrual cramps.
4. Morning sickness
Nausea or morning sickness is a famous symptom of early pregnancy. The term morning sickness is actually a misnomer because it doesn’t just occur during the morning but can occur at any time of the day.
Some women may experience severe nausea and others may not go through it at all.
Typically, it begins at around the 2nd and 8th week of pregnancy. The symptom alleviates towards the 13th or 14th week. There are, however, some women who still experience this unpleasant symptom throughout their entire pregnancy.
This is clinically known as hyperemesis gravidarum.
It is unclear, though, as to what really causes the morning sickness. Hormones are attributed to play a big role in this.
In addition, it is also likely that nausea stems from the rapidly rising levels of estrogen which causes the stomach to empty more slowly. Pregnant women also develop a heightened sense of smell which may aggravate the queasiness.
5. Food aversions and cravings
Craving for particular food is another common symptom of early pregnancy. In addition to this, many pregnant women also develop a sudden dislike or aversion for certain strong-tasting foods or smells.
Like most other pregnancy symptoms, hormones are seen as the cause for these food preferences especially in the first trimester. This is the time when hormonal changes are the most dramatic.
While cravings are mostly reported to occur during the early stages of pregnancy, there are those who have it during the entire pregnancy.
Some experts think that the cravings represent some nutrient that the mother might be lacking. Craving becomes the body’s way of asking for what it needs.
However, there is also no evidence of a link between cravings and nutrient deficiency.
What’s more, studies show that the high hormone levels present during pregnancy can alter both a woman’s sense of taste and smell.
This makes certain foods and odors more enticing but, in some cases, more offensive to pregnant women. This plays out as a pregnancy food aversion.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms and discomforts experienced during pregnancy. Around 39% of pregnant women report frequent mild headaches.
It may be related to the changing hormone levels early in pregnancy. These frequent and mild headaches might be triggered by increased blood circulation caused by hormonal changes.
During the first trimester, a woman’s body experiences a surge of hormones and an increase in blood volume. These two changes can cause more frequent headaches.
Headaches may occur at any time during pregnancy, but they tend to be most common during the first and third trimesters.
Make sure to ask a doctor before taking any medication to relieve the headaches, this also includes herbal treatments as well.
Constipation is another common symptom experienced by approximately half of all women at some point during their pregnancy.
Hormones, once again, are the cause why women have constipation in early pregnancy. The hormone can slow the digestive system. High levels of progesterone make food pass more slowly through the intestines.
Constipation is also thought to occur due to hormones that relax the intestinal muscles and by the pressure brought by the expanding uterus on the intestines.
Prenatal vitamins are also seen as a source for the constipation because of their iron content.
Constipation can also increase feelings of abdominal bloating.
Expectant mothers are advised to not take just any medicine to help ease the symptom without inquiring first with their doctors. Plenty of water, exercise, and high-fiber foods are the best cure for this symptom during pregnancy.
8. Frequent urination
One of the most common early symptoms of pregnancy is frequent urination which starts in the first trimester (around the 6th or 8th week)
The pregnancy hormone hCG increases the blood flow to the pelvic area. It also increases blood flow to the kidneys, which becomes more efficient during pregnancy. As the kidneys get better at their job, the body gets rid of waste more quickly.
During pregnancy, the body increases the amount of blood it pumps. Hormones stimulate the kidneys to expand and produce more urine, which helps the body get rid of extra waste more quickly. This leads to more fluid in the bladder.
Pregnancy also places a stress on the bladder. The uterus, which is normally the size of a fist, also grows and stretches to accommodate the baby. The enlarged uterus puts pressure on the bladder and contributes to the urge to urinate more often.
The frequent urination abates temporarily in the second trimester. The uterus rises higher in the abdomen and away from the bladder. However, it is just a temporary break since the symptom will probably make a comeback in the third trimester.
9. Missed period
A missed period is probably the most obvious early symptom of pregnancy. It is also a common first trimester symptom.
When implantation finishes, a woman’s body will begin producing a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This is the hormone that helps the body maintain the pregnancy. It also signals the ovaries to stop releasing mature eggs each month.
Missed periods are often what causes women to search for more details about the other pregnancy symptoms.
However, not all missed or delayed periods are pregnancy-related. If there is a delayed period and pregnancy is a possibility, it is best to take a pregnancy test either at home or have it done in a doctor’s clinic to be sure.
10. Raised basal body temperature
A persistently elevated basal body temperature is another characteristic sign of early pregnancy.
Basal temperature is the oral temperature of a woman when waking up in the morning, before getting up from the bed. This is the body’s temperature when at complete rest. Basal body temperature changes based on a number of factors, including hormones.
The hormone progesterone causes body temperature to rise
It slightly increases soon after ovulation and remains that way until the next period.
Many women chart their basal temperature to keep track of their ovulation. The continued increase in the basal temperature for more than two weeks may indicate that a woman is pregnant.
11. Mood swings
Changes in mood can be caused by many factors like stress, fatigue, changes in metabolism or by the hormones estrogen and progesterone.
These are common symptoms of early pregnancy. It is mostly experienced during the first trimester, between 6 to 10 weeks, and then again in the third trimester as a woman’s body prepares for birth.
In early pregnancy, hormones flood the body. Significant changes in hormone levels can affect the level of neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals that regulate mood.
Hormone levels also change and can lead to volatile outbursts of emotion such as crying or shouting. Women become more emotional or reactive than usual.
12. Fainting or dizziness
Feeling faint or dizzy is very common in pregnancy. It is most common during the first trimester, but it can happen anytime during pregnancy. Many women experience dizziness starting between the 12th week and the first few weeks of the second trimester.
Dizziness is usually not one of the first signs of pregnancy, but it can be an early pregnancy symptom if a woman may have low blood sugar due to morning sickness. It may be a sign of pregnancy even before a missed period if a woman is not eating much because she’s feeling nauseous, which can sometimes (but definitely not always) occur within days of conception.
These symptoms are often caused by a drop in blood pressure. This is from the hormones released during pregnancy that relax the body’s blood vessels. The blood vessels dilate and blood pressure drops. Too little blood is then pumped up to the brain. When this happens, fainting or dizziness may occur.