Pregnancy can be an exciting time in a woman’s life, but it can also be confusing. Your body gives clues that a pregnancy is developing, but the way in which these symptoms are experienced varies from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same woman. To make things worse, many symptoms of early pregnancy can often be explained by other conditions, such as menstrual irregularities or even the stress of daily life.
Missing Your Period
A missed period, or even two, is often the first sign of pregnancy that you may notice. If the pregnancy is unplanned, you may not be on the lookout for other early symptoms of pregnancy, such as breast tenderness or nausea. Many women experience irregular menstrual cycles or menstrual cycles that vary in length from month to month. This makes predicting pregnancy based on your menstrual cycles alone confusing and unreliable. If you suspect that you have missed your period, take a home pregnancy test.
As estrogen and progesterone levels increase, blood flow to the breasts also increases. This causes swelling and tenderness to both the breast tissue and to the nipples. The surface veins on the breast may become enlarged and more noticeable as well. This infusion of blood and hormones helps prepare the breasts for breastfeeding.
Women who are trying to become pregnant or who know they are in the first weeks of pregnancy will be on the watch for pregnancy-related nausea. It is referred to as morning sickness, although it can occur at any time during the day. In many cases, vomiting alleviates the condition temporarily. Fatigue and low blood sugar can aggravate this condition, so you should eat regularly and plan to get plenty of rest.
According to OBGYN.net, 90 percent of women experience nausea during their first 16 weeks of pregnancy. The direct cause is still unknown, though the nausea experienced in pregnancy can follow the rise and fall of certain pregnancy hormones. This is a self-limiting symptom of early pregnancy, which means it usually resolves by the early weeks of the second trimester with no long-term effects on the mother or the fetus she is carrying.
The urge to urinate frequently is not reserved solely for late pregnancy. As soon as the fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining, it begins to secrete hCG, the pregnancy hormone. This hormone is notorious for triggering frequent urination. The increased size of the uterus in the later stages of pregnancy is responsible for the near-constant urge to go that you may feel.
Progesterone, the hormone your uterus utilizes to maintain a healthy lining, is to blame for your fatigue as well. As levels of this vital hormone increase, so does the urge to take a nap.
Changes in maternal circulation can leave you feeling light-headed and fatigued. To decrease the risk of falls associated with dizziness, expectant mothers should get plenty of rest and rise slowly after prolonged sitting or lying.
Heartburn and Constipation
The gastrointestinal tract dramatically slows during pregnancy. This allows the mother’s body more time to absorb precious nutrients. It can also cause heartburn after meals and chronic constipation. Eating small meals, drinking plenty of water and incorporating regular exercise into the day can help minimize these symptoms. Consult your health care provider if you cannot eat or are unable to have bowel movements.
Hormones, not a growing uterus, are to blame for the abdominal distension pregnant women experience in the early weeks of pregnancy. This symptom is often overlooked, as it mimics the bloating many women regularly experience prior to the onset of their monthly menstrual cycle.
Elevated Basal Body Temperature
If you have been charting your basal body temperature and it has remained elevated for 18 days in a row, you are likely pregnant.
Positive Home Pregnancy Test
Call your health care provider if you get a positive result on a home pregnancy test. Depending on your medical history, she may want to see you immediately, or she may decide you can wait a few more weeks before your first prenatal office visit. Either way, she will want to clarify your medication history and will likely get you started on a regimen of prenatal vitamins.
About this Author
Melanie Clatfelter is a licensed practical nurse in the state of North Carolina. She spent five years working in childcare and early childhood education before transitioning to the health care arena where she still enjoys working with expectant parents, new moms, and young families. Clatfelter is a contributor for LIVESTRONG Health, eHow, Trails Travel, and Answerbag.