Am I Really Pregnant? The Early Symptoms of Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting times in a woman’s life. A pregnant woman goes through a multitude of physical and emotional changes. Symptoms typically vary from one woman to another so it can get quite confusing when trying to determine if the symptoms are truly related to pregnancy.

The most significant symptom associated with early pregnancy is a delayed or absent menstrual period, but pregnant women may also experience implantation cramps and/or bleeding, swollen tender breasts, darkening of the areola, food cravings, food and/or odor aversions, morning sickness, frequent urination, headaches, exhaustion, constipation, mood swings and/or dizziness.

Pregnancy symptoms may arise as early as 1 week after conception, but most of the time the symptoms begin around the 4th or 5th week of pregnancy. It is important to note that it is not uncommon for a woman to be pregnant and not realize it until many weeks later. In addition, if a woman has an irregular menstrual period, she may not realize she is pregnant until months later.

Absent Menstruation or Implantation Bleeding and Cramping

I’m late!

One of the most common symptoms associated with pregnancy is a delayed or absent menstrual period. If you are indeed pregnant you will more than likely miss your next period. You may spot or lightly bleed at the time of your period, but you will notice that the blood is lighter or different in color then your normal menstrual period. The bleeding may be light brown, pink or red, but not enough to fill a sanitary pad.

Spotting, bleeding and cramps during the early days of pregnancy are usually contributed to implantation, the process in which the fertilized egg burrows into your uterine lining. Implantation bleeding and cramping typically occurs between the 6th and 12th days following ovulation and conception. You may notice bleeding and cramping around the time that you would normally have your menstrual period.

In some cases, implantation bleeding and cramps may be similar to your normal menstrual-related bleeding and cramps, so you should test for pregnancy if you experience other early pregnancy symptoms such as an absent period, frequent urination and morning sickness.

Swollen and Tender Breasts and Darkening of the Areola

I think my breasts have grown a cup size in the last couple of weeks.

Another common symptom of early pregnancy is swelling of the breasts. If you are pregnant you may notice that your breasts are swollen and tender. This can occurs as early as 1 to 2 weeks following conception. Do not be alarmed if your breasts and sometimes your nipples are tingly, achy, sore and/or numb.  In addition, you may notice a darkening of your areola, the skin around your nipples. Darkening of the areola generally begins around the 7th week of pregnancy.

Morning Sickness, Cravings and Aversions

I constantly feel like I have to throw up.

Some of the most recognized pregnancy symptoms are cravings, aversions and morning sickness. These symptoms typically begin around the 6th week of pregnancy, but they can arise earlier or later then this time frame. If you are one of the unlucky that experiences early morning sickness, you may have your first bout of nausea and vomiting around the 4th or 5th week of pregnancy. If you are lucky you may only experience mild nausea or no morning sickness at all. It is important to remember that not all women experience morning sickness when they are pregnant.

In addition, you may begin to experience food cravings and odor aversions. You may suddenly crave a food that you used to hate or you may hate a food that you used to love. Furthermore, certain foods and smells such as: coffee, popcorn, meat, seafood, chick, cologne, perfume and gasoline may trigger or exacerbate your morning sickness. Cravings and aversions may begin around your 4th week and continue throughout your pregnancy.

Frequent Urination and Headaches

I constantly have to pee.

Approximately 6 to 8 weeks following conception, you may notice that you have to pee more often than normal. This is normal. Frequent urination is caused by fluctuating pregnancy hormones. When you’re pregnant your body accumulates excess fluid, which is expelled when you urinate. As your pregnancy progresses the extra weight of the baby puts pressure on your kidneys causing you to urinate more frequently, but that does not occur until the 2nd or 3rd trimester.

In addition, as your estrogen levels rise, you may experience headaches. The headaches may begin around your 4th or 5th week of pregnancy and subside towards the end of your first trimester. Women who are prone to migraines and headaches have an increased risk of headaches during pregnancy.

Exhaustion

I always feel so tired-even when I take a nap.

When you are pregnant you will experience fatigue. This pregnancy symptom can arise as early as 1 week following conception and persist until the 2nd trimester. During pregnancy your body constantly changes to accommodate your growing baby. These changes along with increasing progesterone levels, increased blood flow and lower blood pressure and glucose levels (blood sugar) can zap your energy and leave you feeling exhausted.

Constipation

I haven’t had a bowel movement in days!

It is not uncommon to experience constipation during the first weeks of pregnancy. During pregnancy your body produces excess progesterone, which slows digestion and causes constipation.  The best way to prevent pregnancy-related constipation is to increase your water intake, exercise and add fiber to your daily diet.

Mood Swings and Dizziness

Everything irritates me.

An early pregnancy symptom is mood swings. This pregnancy symptom is caused by fluctuating hormone levels. In addition to mood swings, you may experience dizziness during early pregnancy. Dizziness occurs when you blood vessels dilate in order to accommodate increased blood flow throughout your body.

 

Reference:

Hathaway, S., Eisenberg, A., Murkoff , H., & Mazel, S. (2008).   What to expect when you’re expecting. (4th ed.). New York,    NY: Workman Publishing Company.

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