Whether it’s your first baby or another addition to your growing family, the anticipation of pregnancy can be exciting as well as a bit stressful. It’s amazing how quickly your body begins adapting to provide a healthy environment for growing your baby. Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you and your family plan for a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy
The signs and symptoms experienced in early pregnancy vary from one woman to another. Some women feel symptoms of pregnancy shortly after conception, even before they’ve missed a period, while others experience very mild symptoms that may not be much different from the monthly changes in their body.
Some of the most common early signs of pregnancy you may experience include:
Amenorrhea: A Missed Period or Lack of a Period
Missing your period is the most common sign of pregnancy and many women don’t suspect that they are pregnant until they have missed a period. Some women may have spotting or a small amount of bleeding that may be mistaken as a period. This is sometimes referred to as “implantation bleeding” that can occur when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus at about 10-14 days after conception. This bleeding is usually considerably less than the bleeding experienced with a period.
Breast or Nipple Tenderness, Breast Fullness
In the first few weeks of pregnancy, pregnancy hormones and blood flow to the breast tissue increases. This can cause your breasts and nipples to be tender or overly sensitive. This is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Some women also notice more obvious veins visible within their breasts and across their chest.
Nausea or Sensitivity to Certain Smells or Tastes
Rising levels of pregnancy hormones, for example human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and estrogen, may be the cause of nausea in early pregnancy. Although nausea is never comfortable, and it’s not always just in the morning, some experts say that nausea may be a good sign that pregnancy hormones are at a high enough level to support a healthy pregnancy.
A lack of nausea, however, doesn’t mean your pregnancy isn’t healthy as many women experience only mild nausea if any at all. Certain smells or tastes may trigger or worsen nausea as your sense of smell is increased during pregnancy because of increased estrogen. Nausea, although it can vary from woman to woman and from one pregnancy to another, can be experienced as early as two weeks after a missed period and typically improves or goes away by week 14 in pregnancy.
Feeling Tired or Fatigued
Pregnancy hormones, primarily progesterone, may cause you to feel more tired as your body is rapidly preparing for pregnancy. Some women notice fatigue as early as a week or so after conception. Fatigue or sleepiness usually improves during the second trimester, sometime between weeks 13 and 26.
Feeling Moody or Emotional
Pregnancy hormones levels rise rapidly in early pregnancy and can affect your mood just as they do during the pre-menstrual period (PMS). Mood swings are not uncommon throughout pregnancy, however, it’s important to seek help for feelings of depression or anxiety—these feelings should not be ignored. Talking to a pregnancy expert about your mood or emotions is just a phone call away at Postpartum Support International (800-944-4773).
Rising levels of progesterone and hCG in early pregnancy increase the amount of blood your body makes and filters., This generally means your kidney’s make more urine. Since your growing uterus rests above your bladder, this can increase pressure on your bladder, requiring you to urinate more often.
However, needing to frequently relieve yourself can also be a sign of a bladder infection.; Call you healthcare or pregnancy care provider if you have the signs and symptoms of a potential bladder infection, including: pain or a burning sensation when urinating; dark, pink, bloody or cloudy urine, or urine that smells strong or foul.
Test for Pregnancy
If you have missed your period and you think you could be pregnant, consider taking a home pregnancy test. These tests measure the presence of hCG in your blood or urine. hCG levels rise rapidly in the first weeks of pregnancy. By the time you have missed your period, the levels are high enough to be measured in a home pregnancy test. Your healthcare provider may also order a laboratory test to confirm a positive home pregnancy test or the other signs and symptoms of pregnancy you may be having.
If you’re unsure when of the first day of your last menstrual period, consider asking for a first trimester ultrasound as this is the best and most accurate time to learn how far you are along in pregnancy and what your due date may be. This is helpful especially if you’re a person who has irregular menstrual periods. Through an ultrasound, your care provider can determine the presence of the pregnancy, see how many fetuses there may be, and calculate your due date through ultrasound measurements.
Although many of the symptoms of pregnancy are obvious and are hard to ignore, others are more subtle or can be symptoms of health conditions not related to pregnancy. Getting a pregnancy test is the surest way to know if you are pregnant.
Just as important as knowing whether you’re pregnant, getting preconception healthcare and early pregnancy care is essential to have the best pregnancy possible. Together, with your healthcare provider, you can review your health history, monitor your pregnancy to see that it is progressing normally and discuss advice on managing or coping with the early pregnancy symptoms you may be having.