There are lots of hormonal changes taking place during a pregnancy. These hormones trigger a variety of pregnancy signs and symptoms.
In general, pregnancy is divided into three trimesters. Each trimester has its own nature and generates different pregnancy signs and symptoms.
Early pregnancy symptoms may include missed periods, fatigue, breast sensitivity, increased urination, and the dreaded morning sickness (nausea and vomiting). Make sure you take a pregnancy test if you notice these symptoms and suspect you may be pregnant.
The symptoms of late-stage pregnancy may include cramps, varicose veins, indigestion, vaginal discharge, mood swings, headaches and backache.
Pregnancy signs in the first trimester
Missing your period
Missing a period is the most common sign of a pregnancy.
A variety of other reasons, such as stress, illness, and weight fluctuations can also cause a late or missed period. Missing periods may also be a symptom of a condition like polycystic ovary syndrome.
Another common symptom of early pregnancy is a change in the size and feel of your breasts immediately after conception.
The increasing hormone levels in your body make your breasts become more sensitive, fuller and heavier than usual. Breast tenderness can happen just a week or two after conception and before a period is missed.
Breasts begin to enlarge as they prepare for breastfeeding. Many women claim that their breasts become very sensitive and that they experience a very sharp and twinkling sensation in that first trimester.
Most people have heard of the common symptom of pregnancy from the first trimester regarding nausea and vomiting, known as morning sickness.
This is where a feeling of sickness is experienced around the fifth and sixth week of the pregnancy. It can start as early as the 2nd week of pregnancy and the degree of sickness tends to differ from person to person.
Mostly, this early pregnancy symptom disappears into the second trimester of pregnancy. Hot drinks, crackers, and fresh fruits are great choices for relieving morning sickness.
Tiredness and fatigue
Tiredness and fatigue in the first trimester are also very common. This happens as the body starts to use more of Mum’s nutrients and energy to fuel the growth and changes that are starting to take place. Don’t push yourself by working too hard. Try to rest whenever you feel fatigued.
Frequent urination is a very common sign of pregnancy.
In the first few weeks of pregnancy, there is a reduction in the size of the bladder due to pressure from a swelling uterus, which can result in more frequent trips to the toilet.
Taste and craving changes
A drastic change in taste and smell is also another factor of early pregnancy. This often results in a craving for certain foods and a dislike for certain other types of foods.
Try to eat nutritious and balanced foods so you and your baby are well nourished.
The sudden appearance of pregnancy hormones can cause women to experience mood changes.
It is believed that a pregnancy hormone, progesterone, can influence chemicals in the brain in early pregnancy, which may cause mood swings.
In early pregnancy, a woman’s emotions and moods can scale from the highs of feeling elated and excited to the lows of feeling scared as the realisation of becoming a mother and giving birth fast approaches.
Although mood swings are a very common symptom of pregnancy, one in ten pregnant women experiences depression. It is essential to spot the difference between hormonal pregnancy mood swings and depression.
If you are feeling depressed for prolonged periods of time it’s important to seek help quickly. Make sure you contact your GP and midwife to seek support. Depression can be treated.
Pregnancy is a wonderful rollercoaster full of emotion, love and joy, that ultimately results in two people bringing a new person into the world. But all that love does bring with it a number of not so wonderful pregnancy symptoms.
It’s useful to be prepared for the common symptoms of pregnancy that may lie ahead for you.
Varicose veins are quite common during pregnancy because of an increase in the amount of blood circulating. These veins tend to appear in the legs and are a result of the uterus placing pressure on the larger veins in your body.
If you have been diagnosed by your GP with varicose veins, make sure you:
- Try not to stand for long periods of time.
- Wear your support stockings.
- Continue to exercise lightly.
- Keep your legs and feet elevated where possible.
Vaginal discharge can be a symptom of pregnancy and commonly known as leukorrhea.
Leukorrhea is a milky white (often odourless) vaginal discharge that lots of women experience in their first trimester. As your pregnancy progresses, the amount of discharge may increase.
Pregnancy increases estrogen levels which in turn moves more blood flow to your pelvic area. This blood flow stimulates mucous membranes, which can result in an increase in vaginal discharge throughout your pregnancy. This discharge is helpful, because it removes dead cells, helps to reduce the threat of infection, and maintains a good balance of bacteria in your vagina.
Leg cramps are a very common symptom of pregancy and are much more common in the second and third trimesters.
Many women face cramping pain in the calves and up through the legs. Pregnancy cramps result from a build-up of acids and are much more noticeable at night because of fluid retention.
If you are suffering from leg cramps you should:
- Try to massage the affected muscles to remove the build-up of acids.
- Stretch the muscles in your legs regularly.
- Apply a hot water bottle to the area.
Unfortunately, backache during pregnancy affects nearly half of all pregnant women at some point through a pregnancy.
Your body loosens ligaments when it’s pregnant to help accomodate a growing body and baby. It is this loosening that can cause back pain in some women.
You can try to reduce back pain during pregnancy by avoiding lifting heavy objects, use chairs with proper back support (especially at work) and where possible wear flat-heeled shoes.
Water-based moderate exercise can also help reduce back pain through pregnancy. Lots of women see a physiotherapist for pregnancy back pain so don’t suffer in silence if the pain gets too unbearable.
Indigestion and heartburn
Indigestion can occur when acids from the stomach enter the oesophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach).
During pregnancy, the uterus grows and places pressure on the organs in the abdomen. It’s this pressure, along with an increase in the hormone progesterone, that relaxes the muscle between the oesophagus and stomach, causes heartburn.
If you are experiencing indigestion or heartburn try to:
- Wear comfortable loose clothing.
- Try to raise your head when sleeping with more pillows.
- Don’t consume food just before bed.
- Make meals smaller but more regular.
- Avoid fatty or spicy foods that might aggravate symptoms.
- Never take any prescription drugs before consulting with your GP.
A constant, or persistent, headache can be associated with pre-clampsia. Always contact your GP or midwife if paracetamol doesn’t help alleviate your headache. This is especially important in trimesters two and three of your pregnancy.
They have never a sexy subject, but piles (hemorrhoids) are quite common for many people, especially during pregnancy.
Piles are swollen veins that sit inside or outside of your anus. These painful veins are unfortunately rather common during pregnancy, especially in the second half of pregnancy and shortly after birth. Thankfully, most women report symptoms disappearing completely after childbirth.
There are a number of things you can do to help ease the discomfort of piles:
- Try to use soft wipes or pads.
- Apply a haemorrhoid cream (make sure your GP is consulted)
- Take a warm bath straight after bowel movements.
- Make sure your diet is rich in fibre and water to keep stools soft.
- Try not to sit down for long periods.
- Avoid straining when moving your bowels.
If you notiuce any bleeding or your pain continues for longer than a few days, contact your GP or midwife.
When you start your pregnancy, a hormone called progesterone helps build-up your lung capacity. This happens so you your body can supply more oxygen to your baby and remove waste that you both produce.
You’ll find that you can breathe much deeper than before you were pregnant. The amount of air you can inhale and exhale will also increase. This is what triggers the feeling of breathlessness in pregnant women.
As your body shape changes and grows through your pregnancy, your uterus will enlarge and place more pressure on your diaphragm, which adds to the feeling of breathlessness.
If you experience a sudden breathlessness throughout pregnancy, which is accompanied by pain, extreme tiredness, or exercise then contact your GP or midwife immediately.