19 September 2019

Early signs of pregnancy: how do you recognise pregnancy symptoms?

Pregnancy Symtoms
Medical Director
Cesar Diaz-Garcia
MD PhD Assoc Prof
IVI London

 

It’s easy to assume that we all know the early signs of pregnancy, and everyone has heard about missed periods and morning sickness. But when it occurs to you that you may be pregnant, whether you don’t want to be pregnant or very much do, your baseline of general knowledge is no longer enough. It’s only natural to monitor your body closely for those tell-tale signs and keep an eye out for every little twinge or alteration.

In this article we look at some lesser-known pregnancy symptoms as well as those that are more obvious. Read on for our top 10 tips on recognising the early signs of pregnancy but do bear in mind that all women are different, every pregnancy is different, and an individual may have all or very few of these pregnancy signals.

1. Missed period

The best known of all pregnancy symptoms, this one is the simplest to recognise, especially if your cycle is normally regular – but there can be ambiguities. Sometimes women have slight bleeding or cramps at the time their period would normally be due. There is also a phenomenon known as implantation bleeding, about 10–14 days after conception when the blastocyst implants in the womb lining. The resulting bleed is normally light, with red, pink or brown blood, and lasts less than three days.

2. Morning sickness

Something of a misnomer because it can take place at any time of the day, feeling sick during early pregnancy is very common. It’s unpleasant but nothing to worry about, unless it’s so severe that you can’t keep anything down at all, in which case you should contact your GP or medical adviser. It can become worse towards the end of the third month but usually starts to clear up after this point.

3. Breast tenderness

Breasts may become larger or feel tender, as they do for some women before a period, or they could tingle or feel generally heavy. Veins often become more visible and the nipples may darken and become more prominent. The skin around your nipples can look bumpy too, due to the presence of areolar glands known as ‘Montgomery’s tubercles’. These secrete an oily fluid in preparation for breastfeeding. So, you may need a comfortable and supportive maternity bra sooner than you think.

4. You feel tired

Fatigue can strike very early in the course of a pregnancy, probably as a result of the suddenly increased levels of progesterone. This is not normal tiredness due to a day’s activities, but a really deep and otherwise inexplicable exhaustion. If you have the freedom to give in to it, the best response is to allow yourself extra sleep.

5. Frequent loo trips

You may feel the need to urinate frequently long before the increased size of your womb and growing baby are enough to put pressure on your bladder. Even during very early pregnancy, the amount of blood being pumped around your body increases, meaning the kidneys process more fluid than normal. This results in an increased amount of fluid in your bladder. It is important to stay hydrated.

6. Increased vaginal discharge

This is a normal early sign of pregnancy and, unless you have an infection, it does not bring with it any irritation or soreness. The discharge is usually white and milky. It is caused by increased growth of the cells lining the walls of the vagina, which begins very quickly after you have conceived. It can continue throughout the pregnancy and is harmless.

7. Food aversions or cravings

Another well-known peculiarity of early pregnancy could be ‘going off’ certain everyday things like coffee or fatty foods. Alternatively you may find you have a sudden cravings for things you do not normally eat, especially ‘comfort’ foods like biscuits and ice cream. This is normal and relatively harmless, unless it implies putting on weight more than it would be reasonable during the pregnancy. It is different from ‘pica’ in which the patient has cravings for non-food items like soap, paper or soil. This is potentially dangerous and if it happens you should consult a medical adviser.

8. A funny taste

The strange metallic taste in the mouth reported by some women in early pregnancy could well be connected with food aversions, and sometimes a heightened sensitivity to smells. There can also be an over-production of saliva.

9. Mood changes

The hormones oestrogen and progesterone start to swirl around your body very early in pregnancy, and the sudden change can make you prone to mood swings. You could find that you are feeling emotionally ‘wobbly’ and more reactive than usual. This is normal, and nothing to worry about.

10. The pregnancy glow

We saved the best to last. The famous ‘pregnancy glow’ is a real phenomenon, probably due to the increased blood flow, changes in hormone levels and slightly raised body temperature. Increased activity of oil glands in the skin can also add an extra glow to the skin and a shiny gloss to the hair, or acne, in some cases. For some people, the sense of excitement and anticipation, in spite of all or some of the other symptoms listed above, could also have a good deal to do with it!

More information

Naturally, as soon as you suspect you are pregnant, with or without any of the early symptoms, you will need to take a test and if positive, consult your GP immediately in order to begin antenatal care. You may also like to browse our tips on a healthy diet during pregnancy. On the other hand, if you’re still hoping for the happy moment, take a look at our 10 tips for successful conception.

If you have any worries about your fertility, there is plenty of information on our website about our range of treatments and services, including how to get in touch with us through our online contact form.

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