In most cases, the early symptoms of pregnancy occur as soon as the hormones build up to the point when they start to produce the symptoms. Therefore, it is absolutely possible that a woman experiences the pregnancy symptoms before her menstrual cycle normally starts.
The early signs of pregnancy, e.g. headache or bloating, are quite confusing, since these symptoms may affect as those who are pregnant, as those who are not. Besides, the pregnancy symptoms are not always the same; they may vary from first pregnancy to the second, from the second to the third, etc.
A pregnancy test is the most effective, if not the only way to confirm gestation. However, there are a number of signs that you should pay attention to.
What Are the Most Common Pregnancy Symptoms?
Below, the list of the most frequently occurring symptoms of early pregnancy is presented.
Missed Period/Strange Period
Although missed period does not necessarily mean you are pregnant, it is one of the most accurate early signs of pregnancy, which is why they ask you about your last normal period (LMP) dates.
Some women may have implantation bleeding and mistake this blood as the beginning of their period. However, implantation bleeding is usually lighter and shorter than their normal menstrual cycle. It is also theoretically possible to continue to cycle throughout pregnancy, although such cases a very rare.
For women with irregular menstrual cycles, it might be harder to understand whether their missed or strange period results from pregnancy or other underlying causes. Such cases require a pregnancy test and a pelvic exam. If the results of the examinations do not confirm pregnancy, further steps will be undertaken to identify the cause of period complications.
Higher Basal Body Temperature
Your basal body temperature (BBT) is the lowest temperature your body attains at rest (e.g. during sleep), or the temperature of your body as soon as you wake up. As a result of hormone activity, the basal body temperature in pregnant women increases compared to their normal state. Continuous BBR measurement is a good fertility awareness-based method of natural family planning. Higher basal body temperature is one of the most typical early symptoms of pregnancy, which can indicate impregnation even before the test confirms it.
Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy
Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (NVP), more commonly referred to as “morning sickness” is a common symptom that affects around 50% of pregnant women. Although the symptom is called “morning” sickness, it can appear at any time during the day. You might experience nausea only in the morning, during the night, or all day long. The feeling may also come and go with its own pattern. Sometimes, the sickness is accompanied by vomiting, but not always.
Morning sickness is a result of increased levels of estrogen in a woman’s body, produced by the fetus and placenta. Pregnant women are also more sensitive to smell, which means their symptoms may also be triggered by various odors coming from foods, fragrances or smoke.
Pregnancy sickness typically occurs between the forth and the eighth weeks of pregnancy. However, you might also experience the symptoms two weeks after the conception.
Although it is not common, severe cases of morning sickness can affect some women. A severe form of pregnancy sickness is known as hyperemesis gravidarum, and it may cause dehydration and other health complications. If you experience severe nausea, you are recommended to contact your doctor.
The feeling of pain and tenderness in the breasts is among the first physical symptoms, which lasts for three to six months of pregnancy. The tenderness is another result of hormone increase. The breasts start changing during pregnancy as they need to prepare for breastfeeding, which is followed by estrogen and progesterone rise.
Another common sign of pregnancy is frequent urination, which is caused by growing uterus. This symptom is mostly experienced during the first and the third trimesters. This is a normal reaction of your organism and there is no way to prevent the symptom. It is especially important to stay hydrated enough during these periods.
Tiredness and Dizziness
Almost permanent fatigue and sleepiness is also common among pregnant women. This is caused mainly by the multiple changes being undergone by the body in order to prepare for baby carrying. Besides, rise of progesterone – a central nervous system depressant – leads to even more sleepiness. Again, this is a typical pregnancy symptom, and the best way to deal with it is to trying taking power naps throughout the day.
Sometimes, during the first trimester of pregnancy, women may experience vertigo resulting from the expansion of blood volume and blood vessels.
Cramping is a symptom which is associated with impending menstruation period, rather than early pregnancy. However, some pregnant women may experience cramping in the uterus, as the organism starts changing. If the pain is severe, or especially when accompanied by bleeding, you should immediately report it to your doctor.
Pregnancy may also cause increase in acne breakouts, as well as other changes in the skin. When getting acne treatment, make sure it is safe for the baby. Some commonly used acne medications including Accutane and those with high concentrations of vitamin A can cause serious birth defects. To make sure you use the best solution for you, talk to your dermatologist.
Changes in hormones that occur during pregnancy cause headaches. However, headache is a symptom of many conditions, so it is not necessarily a sign of being pregnant.
Headaches usually affect women during the first trimester of their pregnancy. In case the pain you experience is too strong, you should ask your doctor about possible safe treatment options, as there are a number of painkiller that may affect your baby.
Vaginal discharge, not followed by itching or burning sensations, is an early sign of pregnancy that usually occurs shortly after the conception. Once you get pregnant, your body start to protect the baby from potential threats. Thus, helping to protect the baby from infections, the cervix builds a mucous plug blocking the opening of the cervix, which may lead to a slight increase in vaginal secretions. Additional symptoms as smell, burning or itching may indicate certain infections requiring proper treatment.
Strange food cravings are a common stereotype about pregnant women. In fact, it is common to experience as cravings, as aversions to certain foods throughout the pregnancy, especially to those foods that smell stronger or to unhealthier options.
The changes happening in the body are not yet visible in early pregnancy, though it might be possible to have an enlarging belly in the beginning. This symptom normally occurs as a result of bloating. During the first trimester of their pregnancy, women usually do not gain much weight – most likely only one or two pounds. Some women may even lose weight a result of various factors including sickness, food aversions, or maybe due to switching to a healthier diet.
Mood swings is another common side effect of hormone increase. Many women may experience intense emotions and varying feelings during pregnancy.
The hormone progesterone affects various processes happening in the body, and food digestion is among these processes. When the levels of progesterone increase, this leads to slower digestion.
If the symptom occurs in a pregnant woman, exercise and increased fiber can help to solve the problem. The constipation may also be increased because of the iron in prenatal vitamins you are to take. This is why it is important to find an option that suits you best.
Premenstrual Syndrome and Pregnancy Symptoms
Sometimes, pregnancy symptoms may be confused with PMS or even completely missed, if the changes are too slight. Bloating, cramping, backache, mood swings, cravings – all these symptoms affect millions of women during their period.
During the first weeks or even months, pregnancy can be only confirmed by a pregnancy test or better by a specialist. Thus, taking the test or visiting a doctor is the only way to alleviate the worries about possible pregnancy. The symptoms discussed above are absolutely normal in pregnant women, therefore they are no reason to concern. However, in some cases medical help may be needed, if the symptoms are too severe or if they completely disappear, for instance, overnight.
How Common Is It to Experience Pregnancy Symptoms?
Not all the pregnant women would experience all the early pregnancy symptoms. In fact, it is possible that a woman does not experience any. The lack of pregnancy symptoms does not necessarily mean there is a problem with the condition – most women can have a perfectly healthy pregnancy without having any symptoms. However, some women perceive the absence of symptoms as a problem with a baby, and visiting a doctor in that case can help to get rid of negative thoughts.
In addition, during your prenatal visits, make sure to ask all the questions you have by the moment. Remember that worrying and panicking during pregnancy is contraindicated. Instead, speaking with your doctor will help you find out what is going on in your body and find a solution in case of any complication.
Taking a Pregnancy Test
As mentioned before, the only way to confirm pregnancy is to take a test. When you are pregnant, your body start to secrete a hormone known as hCG. The pregnancy tests determine whether you are pregnant or not by measuring the hormone levels in your urine. Different tests may detect different hCG levels, as well as different women may secrete different amounts of the hormone. Your urine and your blood will contain different amounts of the hormone, too.
Ideally, a test would detect 25 to 50 mIUs of the hormone, which is the amount typical for the fourth and the fifth weeks post ovulation.
The highest hCG concentration is contained in the first morning urine, since the hormone has enough time to build up. However, the majority of pregnancy tests can be taken throughout the day, not necessarily in the morning. It is recommended to wait around four hours since your last urination before you perform the test.
Sometimes, pregnancy tests may show a negative result, even if a woman is pregnant. This happens mostly because the test was taken too early. It is also possible that the test is positive, but the woman is not pregnant. In this case, a very early miscarriage might be the reason.
If you have any questions or hesitations about your pregnancy test, you should contact your doctor or call the toll-free number provided on the test package.
Pregnancy can also be indicated by a blood test, which has been the most accurate method so far. Blood tests are also regularly used to predict the health of a pregnancy. The tests are performed around a week after the conception, and visiting a practitioner is required in order to get one.
Seeking a Doctor’s Help
Pregnant women, especially young women, normally have many questions concerning their condition, and it is important that you address these questions to your doctor or midwife. Doctors are there to help you, and it is absolutely normal to call and make sure you and your baby are absolutely fine.
Remember that you don’t have to be ashamed of asking a lot of questions – your well-being is way more important than that.
The Bottom Line
There are women who experience pregnancy symptoms shortly after the conception; there are women who start feeling changes later on; and there are those who do not get any symptoms, which is also normal. To find out for sure whether you are pregnant or not, you have to take a pregnancy test. If the result is positive or unclear, contact your health care provider.