Being a parent is a great responsibility and it requires you and your partner to decide when exactly are you ready for taking up this job. While, the mother has to bear the child in her womb for 9 long months, both parents are required to be prepared to be able to provide their child with emotional, social and financial support for years to come.
On one hand, many couples take contraceptives till the time they buckle up to enter parenthood, others eagerly wait to become parents.
Regardless of whether you are avoiding pregnancy or desperately waiting to conceive, after doing the deed; a question pops up in your head “How do you know if you are pregnant?” Let’s make life easier for you and help you find answers regarding the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy.
Early Signs Of Pregnancy
Under this heading, we will be shedding light on the symptoms which are often reported by women in their early pregnancy.
- Spotting or Implantation Bleeding
- Abdominal Cramping
- Breast tenderness and enlargement
- Feeling Fatigued and Short on Breath
- Nausea And Vomiting
- Morning Sickness
- Missed Periods
Other Early Symptoms Of Pregnancy Are:
- Mood Swings
- Cravings and Unusual Hunger
- Food Aversions
- Lower Back Pain
- Constipation and Abdominal Bloating
- Increased Sensitivity of Smell
Understanding And Identifying Implantation Bleeding
Spotting or Implantation Bleeding: This sign may alarm you, particularly when it is your first pregnancy but you have to calm yourself down and understand that this doesn’t indicate miscarriage. A retrospective study published in the Oxford Journal of Human Reproduction showed that very early bleeding during the pregnancy results in normal delivery and healthy live birth, showing that it was not associated with negative impact on the fetal or maternal health.
This bleeding is an early sign of your pregnant which is marked by spotting and cramping which resembles to that you experience at the beginning of your period.
Known as implantation bleeding, this sign is experienced anywhere between six to 12 days after egg fertilization a.k.a conception. As the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, it may cause light vaginal spotting.
It is advised that once you suspect that you are pregnant, you should see your doctor for a check just to be sure that this bleeding is an early sign of pregnancy and not an alternate case of placental dysfunction.
Some women may also experience a milky, white discharge from vagina. This takes place due to the thickening of vaginal walls and it is pretty normal. But, if this discharge begins to leave a bad smell or the discharge is accompanied with burning or itching, you might want to consult your doctor as this may be an indication of bacterial or yeast infection.
Abdominal Pain During Pregnancy
Abdominal Cramping: Cramping during pregnancy is common. Resembling with the pre-menstrual cramping, the cramping can begin from the time your fertilized ovum is implanted into your uterus. Similarly, the stretching of your uterus during pregnancy can also make you feel such cramps. Changing your positions, coughing or sneezing can also cause cramping during this time. While, low intensity pain and cramping is normal during pregnancy, pain with increased intensity should never be ignored and you should consult your doctor without a delay.
Premenstraul Breast Swelling And Tenderness
Breast Tenderness And Enlargement: Due to sudden increase in hormonal levels following conception, a woman begins to notice changes in her breasts. 1-2 weeks after conception, the woman may feel soreness or swelling in her breasts. At other times, this change may also be accompanied by pricking sensation, feeling the breasts to be fuller or tender. The area around the nipples, known as areola may also darken. As the body becomes accustomed to new increase hormonal levels, the breast pain will begin to ease accordingly.
These increased hormone levels help prepare your breasts to lactate and produce milk for the new born. Thereby, the milk ducts grow and filled with milk as pregnancy continues. During this time, to ease your discomfort; it is advised that you wear supportive bras with wide shoulder straps.
Shortness Of Breath During Pregnancy
Feeling Fatigued and Short Of Breath: Being pregnant is not an easy task; your body has to go an extra mile for supporting your pregnancy and helping it finish successfully. In the early stage of pregnancy, your body is working too hard to pace up with the support requirement to help the developing fetus grow in a healthy environment. Thereby, the work which is consistently being done by your body has to show its effect somewhere and this is the reason why during the beginning of your pregnancy, you are likely to feel fatigued without an evident reason. During this time, your energy will be drained out which is also contributed by the increase in hormone levels. Being of a crucial value for the implantation of fertilized egg in the uterus and the maintenance of pregnancy, the hormone also increased the body temperature. As the temperature increases, the energy is given up, leaving you feel more drained out.
All the organs begin to work with increased efficiency to meet the fecal development requirements, for instance the heart rate increases, the lungs, liver and kidneys become to alter their function to become better equipped for the smooth sailing of your pregnancy, which also is a factor for feeling fatigued early in the pregnancy.
Nausea During Pregnancy
Nausea Or Vomiting: Linked with a set of other symptoms, nausea and vomiting is often a strong indicator of pregnancy. For many women, nausea and food aversion go hand in hand during the first trimester. Increase in the progesterone leads to slowing down of your digestive system which can further lead to indigestion or constipation. Now that the usual process of digestion is slowed down, the stomach takes a while to empty itself for you to feel hungry again and during this period, you are likely to feel nausea or food aversion. Similarly, the hCG hormone levels are also associated with triggering nausea.
Morning Sickness During Pregnancy
Morning Sickness: Quite similar to the symptom of nausea, you can feel morning sickness essentially during any time of the day and it is not confined to be experienced during morning. Due to the increased levels of hCG hormones, you will develop this symptom in your first trimester. About 90% of the pregnant women are troubled by morning sickness which starts during the 4th week of gestation which peaks during the 9th week of your gestation. Relax and take a break from work to fight off this symptom which would begin to fade away as you reach the 4th month of your pregnancy.
Read more: Fight Morning Sickness – No More Queasiness
Early Signs of Pregnancy Before Missed Period
Missed Period: You might hear the term “Amenorrhea” as an early sign of pregnancy. While you struggle to make sense out of this term, which does sound like a brutal disease; please be informed that it only means “missing your period”. Yes, amenorrhea is as simple as this and it can be a good early predictor of your pregnancy. But, please wait, missing your period never guarantees your pregnancy and not being able to meet your monthly visitor may have another underlying reason apart from being pregnancy.
Am I Pregnant?
When can amenorrhea not mean that you are pregnant? Missing your period or experiencing amenorrhea is not always attributed to pregnancy. You need to know that there are many other conditions in which you can miss your period, besides pregnancy. These conditions include:
- Problems with reproductive organs, glands or hormones.
- Reaching your age of menopause.
- Breastfeeding a child.
- Taking allergy medications.
- Taking oral contraceptives.
- Taking antidepressants.
- Taking anti-psychotic drugs.
- Taking hypertension controlling drugs.
- Chemotherapy and/or radiations linked with blood, lymph nodes or bone marrow.
- Cancer treatment for breast cancer or cancers of reproductive organs.
- Scarring of tissues preventing the normal shredding of uterine lining.
- Suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
- Thyroid problems and non-cancerous tumors.
- Structural abnormality of vagina.
- Lack of reproductive organs.
- Hypothalamic amenorrhea, contributed by low body fat, emotional stress, low body weight, low-calorie intake, increased strenuous activity, deficiency of metabolism and appetite regulating hormone “leptin”
Pregnancy Food Aversions
Food Aversions: As soon as your pregnancy begins, you may feel yourself feeling a bit too choosy about your food. Looking at some kinds of food can make you feel repulsive or nauseated without a reason is what we call food aversion, which is a common sign of pregnancy manifested during the first trimester. As the hormonal levels in the body change, food aversion is linked with the increased levels of hCG in the maternal system which continue to increase till the 11th week of gestation.
Commonly taste aversion is experienced against certain food items which include; spicy foods, milk, tea, coffee, onions, fish, garlic and egg.
Some speculate that women begin to develop food aversion against the foods which can be harmful for the fetal development, but nothing can be said for sure.
However, experts believe that you should listen to your body and not forced yourself against your aversions. But, if it is affecting your dietary intake then you should take careful substitute to replenish your nutritive needs or if talk with your doctor for receiving further help. For instance, if you can’t seem to eat meat, take your proteins through nuts, pulses and beans.
Mood Swings During Pregnancy
Mood Swings: Having mood swings during pregnancy is common and while there are many factors which lead to the change in mood; change in the metabolism and hormonal levels on the onset of pregnancy are said to be prominent contributing factors in this regard. Commonly experienced in the first trimester between the 6th and 10th week of gestation, these mood swings are directly influenced by the hormonal levels which can in turn affect the neurotransmitter and result in the change of mood observed.
Later in the pregnancy, these mood swings can be triggered in the third trimester as well as the body is constantly under physical and emotional stress to prepare for delivering a child and entering motherhood.
Depression During Pregnancy
Studies show that women who are in their reproductive stage are at the greatest risk of developing major depression. However, once a woman is pregnant, it becomes hard to differentiate a mood disorder with the normal pregnancy symptoms which include appetite change, altered sleep cycles and fatigue. However, certain environmental stressors can make women increasingly prone to suffering from depression. These factors include:
- Young maternal age
- Having a prior history of depression
- Having a limited social support
- Having greater number of children
- Living alone
- Having mixing feelings about the pregnancy
- Having marital conflict
- Facing social or financial problems
Amongst the mood alternations experienced during pregnancy, the most commonly manifested problems include mood and anxiety disorder, manic depression also known as bipolar disorder, panic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Can we take medicines for altered behaviours? While taking psychotropic medications have a risk of crossing through the placenta and influencing the fetal development, the mood disorders can be helped through following few simple steps.
It is important for your to have good amount of sleep which can be accompanied by naps in the day as well, going out for a walk, maintaining a routine of moderate physical activity, find time for meditation or yoga, eating well, going to spa for a massage, spending quality time with partner; and relaxing with friends and family can be helpful in managing your mood swings during gestation.
Headaches During Pregnancy
Headaches: While so many changes are taking place in your body, having headaches early in your pregnancy is common. This can be as a result of dehydration, hunger or your caffeine withdrawal. These headaches can just also be simply triggered by your anxiety and stress during pregnancy. Increased blood volume levels in your circulation in early pregnancy can also cause you to feel headaches, which can be further elevated by your sinus congestion, lack of sleep, tiredness, strain in your eyes or allergies.
As the hormonal levels stabilize and you adapt to the new hormonal levels in your body, these headaches are likely to reduce by the start of second trimester, so be assured that this is a short-lived symptom. Some of you may also experience migraine but it also disappears as your pregnancy proceeds.
Increased Appetite During Pregnancy
Cravings and unusual hunger: The change in hormone levels alters your metabolism and appetite. While at sometimes you might not want to eat anything, at other times you can be tempted by untimely cravings and hunger. As the pattern of appetite is on a rough track, you never know what comes next in terms of accepting or rejecting certain foods during your pregnancy.
While experts cannot say for sure, which underlying mechanisms work to cause cravings and unusual hunger; it is often proposed that you crave for foods due to certain nutrient deficiencies in your system. For instance, if you crave pickles, then you are likely to have a deficiency of sodium in your system, similarly if you crave for ice cream then you might be going low on calcium or fats. In a study, published in Appetite, it was quoted that over 50% of American women gain excessive weight during pregnancy due to their cravings, which can put them and their child at risk of adverse perinatal health outcomes.
Therefore, ladies be aware of your unhealthy cravings and start to replace them with healthy snacking, trust me it is for your own good.
Do cravings have a cultural string attached to them? In a study published in the Frontiers in Psychology, different aspects that could govern prenatal cravings. Delving majorly in to the roles of hormones, nutritional deficits, pharmacologically active ingredients in the craved foods and the cultural and psychosocial factors involved, the study reached some interesting findings.
While reviewing a large data, it was concluded that hormonally driven changes of the sensory perception and the effect of active ingredients in the craved food, is not causing the craving and the influence of cultural and psychosocial factors on the cravings were also limited. However, it was said that further research in this matter was required to find the underlying causes behind food craving.
Sweet And Salty Cravings Have Different Effects On Body: In another study published in the Journal of The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it was found that the food cravings during early pregnancy were associated with dietary intake. The cravings were largely associated with craving for sweet food, which was followed by craving for salty foods, savory food and starchy food. Furthermore, these cravings were linked with the nutritive intake of sucrose, total fat, saturated fat, fiber, carbohydrates and n-3 fatty acids. In this regard, the craving for salty foods was linked with reduced risk of developing gestation diabetes, later in pregnancy.
In a similar research, it was found that the food cravings for sweet foods, dairy products and fruits was linked with increase energy intake in pregnant women, which on an average was [9721 (3016) kJ]. However it was found that these cravings were not impacting overall dietary intake and similarly it was not linked to excessive gestational weight gain, offspring outcome measurement or maternal glycaemia.
Low Back Pain During Pregnancy
Lower Back Pain: While back pain becomes increasingly common during the second half of the pregnancy due to the increasing weight of the baby and the pressure exerted on the back, the pain in lower-pain can also be manifested as soon as your gestation begins.
Throughout the pregnancy, lower back pain manifests itself due to various results. During pregnancy, a woman typically gains between 25 to 35 pounds and the spine has to support this increased weight. At this point, the enlarging uterus pushes against the nerves and blood vessels of the pelvis and back, which leads to back pain, settle in.
The hormonal changes in the mother’s body are also responsible for the back pain manifestation. Secretion of a hormone called relaxin helps the maternal body prepare for birth process by relaxing and loosening the joints in the pelvis and spine, which leads to the ligaments of spine to become instable and induce back pain.
Posture change during this time, also changes the center of gravity for the mother, which puts the back under increased stress.
Tips: Usage of hot water bottle or bag of ice on your back, improving your posture, regular exercise for strengthening of muscles and increasing muscular flexibility can be of great help. However, if this doesn’t help then diverting yourself to alternate treatment methods like acupuncture or chiropratic can provide some assistance. Furthermore, if your back pain during your pregnancy is induced by stress then working with your therapist for stress management can relieve your back pain as well.
Constipation During Pregnancy
Constipation And Abdominal Bloating: Pregnancy brings about many changes in your body, changes to the influx of sex hormones in your system which ensure your baby’s health growth inside your womb. For the baby, the you have to sacrifice and it starts right in the beginning of your pregnancy when you begin to have troubles with your digestive system. Sometimes you will feel constipated and on other times, you will feel gas troubling you in your belly.
The increased hormonal levels in early pregnancy lead to the relaxation of smooth muscles of your intestinal wall and the stomach which slows down the process of digestion and increasing your blood volume. For coping up with the increased blood volume in your system you need to stay hydrated, otherwise dehydration leaves you feeling constipated.
In a similar context, the elevated progesterone levels make sure that the slower digestion leads to more nutrients being absorbed in your bloodstream to reach to your baby; however this slowed digestion also causes bloating.
With your expanding uterus, your bloating will also get worse, therefore it is important for you to take smaller meals, eat slowly, drink ample quantities of water, have fiber in your meals and cut down on foods that are gives you gas (which may include beans, fried food, cabbage, sugar foods and onions).
Early Signs of Pregnancy: Heightened Sense of Smell
Increased Sensitivity of Smell: While all of the pregnant women might not feel the increased sensitivity to smell, many report this during early pregnancy. Speculations link this with the elevated hormones during early pregnancy; no conclusive studies are present as yet.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology went out to find a relationship between pregnancy and olfaction (sense of smell). It was found that the olfactory perception in pregnant women is a complex matter to be investigated It was said that there must be an underlying complex relation between the hormonal increase and smell function which is speculated to have a link with increased hCG levels which consequently increases estrogen levels. These hormones then have a complex interaction to sharpening smell perception during pregnancy; however, scientific evidence is limited in this regard.
Early Symptoms Of Your First Trimester
After learning about the symptoms, it’s now important for you to know the early signs that are related to pregnancy. Over a 60% pregnant women experience a set of signs during pregnancy which exhibit themselves in the first 5-6 weeks of gestation. These signs include:
- Elevated Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
- Increased Urination
- Nasal Congestion
Elevated basal body temperature (BBT): It is your body temperature at rest which rises right after ovulation as progesterone released from the corpus luteum (hormone secreting structure in ovary). This rise in temperature can be experienced right over ovulation and hence ovulation can be marked on your fertility chart as a day before your increased BBT. This increased BBT can be an early indicator of your pregnancy.
Increased Urination: This sign might particularly come as a surprise; as most of the expecting women think of this as a sign manifested later in the pregnancy when the fetus grows and press against the bladder. But, mommies-to-be, knows that this can be an early sign of your pregnant due to the extra blood being flown to your kidneys, leading to increased urination.
Nasal Congestion: Heightened estrogen levels lead to the swelling of mucous membrane which lines the nose, eventually causing you to produce increased amounts of mucus. This sign is further pronounced due to increased blood volumes in tiny vessels of which are swelled in the nose. These minute changes lead you to feel nasal congestion and stuffiness during this time. Using saline nose drops, room humidifier, using an extra pillow to elevate your head while sleeping or using steam can soothe your nose.
Heartburn: Learning previously about the disrupted digestive system and sluggish digestive brings no surprise that heartburn is also an accompanying sign of pregnancy. The pregnancy hormones cause relaxation of the valves between your esophagus and stomach which leads to the acid from your stomach to leak into the esophagus and result in heartburn.
Lightheadedness: Your fluctuating blood pressure, during pregnancy can give you some trouble which can also manifest as an early sign for your pregnancy. During your gestation, your blood pressure is likely to run lower as compared to your routine blood pressure before pregnancy. As your body is not well-acquitted with a dip in your blood pressure earlier in the pregnancy, you can feel dizziness and lightheadedness as a result. In some cases, your dizziness can even lead to fainting. Therefore, you are required to not panic and take control over yourself, when feeling dizzy. If you are standing in this state, then you should quickly find a place to sit and if you are driving while feeling dizzy, you shouldn’t risk it and you should push the break, stop for a while in a safe place.
Now, that you are well aware of all the early symptoms and early signs of pregnancy, you will have a clearer picture of your situation.
Oh and, you should definitely take a pregnancy test if you are experiencing some of these symptoms and signs of pregnancy.