Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Early pregnancy symptoms are common in most women, but may not affect everyone the same way. The best way to determine if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test.

Regardless of whether or not you have been trying for conception, it is important to be aware of the signs of pregnancy if you are sexually active. Knowing the classic signs and symptoms of pregnancy can help you determine if you may be pregnant and require medical care to start planning for your pregnancy. These symptoms will not affect all women equally, but they can be used as a rough guide to help you determine whether or not you may be pregnant.

Typical Early Symptoms of Pregnancy

Miss period. The side effect most women look for when they become pregnant is a missed period, which can occur 6-12 days after conception. It is important to note that you may experience implantation bleeding when the fetus attaches to the uterine wall which may be mistaken for a period. Otherwise, you may miss your period all together or you may notice irregular bleeding when you previously did not have issues with irregular periods.

Nausea. One of the most well-known signs that you might be pregnant is the onset of nausea. While this symptom is commonly referred to as morning sickness, nausea may often occur during any point during the day. In some cases nausea may also be accompanied by frequent vomiting. Nausea can begin to affect you as early as three weeks after conception. Many women have used this as a sign that they require a pregnancy test. There are two reasons that nausea heavily affects pregnant women. The estrogen and progesterone throughout the body increase when pregnancy occurs, which will cause your stomach to empty more slowly. This hormone shift will also increase your sense of smell which will make you more sensitive to odors such as smoke, perfume or even cooking food during this time.

Tender breasts. Within the same two or three week time period that nausea begins to occur you may find your breasts are becoming tender as well. Many women report a tingling or sore sensation in the breasts. In some cases your breasts may also feel fuller and heavier. This side effect can also be attributed to the hormone rush that is occurring throughout your body as your breasts are heavily influenced by the levels of estrogen in your system.

Fatigue. Due to the overwhelming level of hormone changes during the first trimester you may find that you become fatigued more easily than before. The hormone progesterone can put you to sleep, and the growing fetus may also cause your blood sugar levels and blood pressure to drop which will make it easier for you to become tired.

Increased urination. Throughout the first trimester you may notice that you need to urinate more frequently. This symptom tends to happen at a significantly increased rate at night or when you lie down to rest. This may be attributed to your uterus beginning to harden to protect the new fetus. You may also find that you need to urinate more frequently as the fetus starts to grow as your large, hardening uterus will put more pressure on the surrounding organs including the bladder.

Food cravings or aversions. As your pregnancy sets in you may find yourself having strange cravings. Once again, the hormonal changes in your body are affecting every part of your body, causing you to smell or taste things differently than you have before. This may also cause you to avoid certain foods that you previously enjoyed, most notably things with very strong flavors.

Elevated temperature. During the first trimester you may also notice your basal body temperature will be elevated. This usually happens at the end of your ovulation cycle, but you may find when you are pregnant that your temperature will not return to normal after a few days. You can check for this first thing in the morning, when it is easiest to detect. Increased body temperature is also attributed to the increase in hormones associated with pregnancy and the menstrual cycle.

Change in skin color. Early in the first trimester you may also notice that you are developing the so-called mask of pregnancy. The face and the nipples are more likely to become a few shades darker due to the onset of melisma. This side effect is more common in those who naturally have darker skin tones. All the symptoms are summarized as the table below.

Table 1: Typical Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Symptom

When does this occur?

Description

Nausea

As early as three weeks after conception

Nausea may occur at any point during the day. This may or may not include vomiting.

Tender breasts

Two to three weeks after conception

Breasts may begin to feel fuller and heavier. In many cases a tender, tingly or sore sensation accompanies this change.

Increased urination

Throughout pregnancy

You may feel the need to urinate more frequently than normal

Food cravings or aversions

During the first trimester, though this may occur throughout pregnancy

You may feel drawn to certain foods, but others may suddenly seem unappealing or may increase your nausea

Missed period

6-12 days after conception

Your period will not begin at its normal time

Elevated temperature

Early in the first trimester

Your temperature will be slightly higher than normal, most notably first thing in the morning

Changes in skin color

Early in the first trimester

Your skin, most notably in and around the nipples will get darker

Am I Really Pregnant?

Pregnancy will affect every woman differently, so you cannot expect to experience every symptom listed above. Some women do not experience symptoms at all when they are pregnant as well. It is also important to note that many symptoms listed above could be signs of another condition and may not be related to pregnancy at all, especially if you have not put yourself in a position where you could possibly conceive.

If you think you might be pregnant, the only way to find out for sure is to take a pregnancy test. These tests will measure a hormone known as the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which your body begins to produce after a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. In most cases you can begin to measure this hormone six days after conception, but the likelihood of receiving solid results increases over time as the amount of this hormone in your body doubles every two to three days.

There are two basic types of pregnancy tests available. The most common is a urine test, which can be done at home or by your doctor. These will require you to take a urine sample, usually on a stick or collection swab and the test will scan this sample for traces of HCG. These tests are usually more effective in the morning when your urine is more concentrated. Each pregnancy test brand will have its own instructions. Read these carefully to ensure that you understand how to use a home test properly.

The second type of pregnancy test is a blood test. These can be used 6-8 days after ovulation, but will take longer to get back the results. Blood tests must be performed by a doctor. Your doctor will usually give you a qualitative and quantitative pregnancy test. The qualitative test will simply inform you there is HCG is in your system. This test can be given 10 days or more after your missed period. A quantitative test will tell you the exact amount of HCG that is in your blood. It is common to have these done throughout your pregnancy to help track whether or not everything is progressing smoothly.

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