Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life, but it can also be overwhelming as her body changes in new ways. As the first trimester progresses, she may begin to wonder: Am I supposed to feel this way, or is something wrong?
Many of the symptoms of pregnancy are not pleasant, but I want to assure you that they are completely normal. Most women tend to start experiencing symptoms around 3-4 weeks after conception at a gestational age of 5-6 weeks..
To help you know what to expect, I’ve compiled this list of symptoms that typically accompany pregnancy.
Symptoms of early pregnancy
The first symptom of pregnancy is the lack of a menstrual period. It may seem obvious, but it really is the cardinal sign that you could be pregnant. As early as the first day of your missed period, it’s possible to find out if you’re pregnant with either a home pregnancy test or a blood test at your doctor’s office.
Unfortunately, not all women are lucky enough to have really regular periods, which makes this symptom less helpful. If you’re one of those women, think about other early signs of pregnancy that might make you consider taking a pregnancy test.
Nausea and vomiting are among the most common symptoms in women during the first trimester of pregnancy. More than half of pregnant women experience nausea, and sadly, many also experience vomiting.
1. Food cravings or nausea
Strange food cravings and aversions are a symptom that can last throughout pregnancy.
Pregnant women usually begin to experience nausea or vomiting before the ninth week of pregnancy. These symptoms may also be associated with food cravings or aversions. Although strange food cravings can last throughout your pregnancy, thankfully most nausea and vomiting will subside by the end of the first trimester.
No one knows exactly what triggers nausea and vomiting – it may be due to increased levels of the pregnancy hormone HCG. Some have suggested that nausea and vomiting long ago prevented pregnant women from eating things that might have been dangerous to early pregnancy.
2. Breast pain
Breast tenderness or pain also appears very early in pregnancy. This is due to the increase in the mammary glands and the fluid retention that your body now does. The amount of fatty tissue increases due to increased levels of pregnancy hormones. The nipple and areola also darken very soon after conception.
When patients call in concerned about bleeding during early pregnancy, I often ask them if they still notice breast tenderness, as it may go away if the pregnancy is no longer viable.
Fatigue and sleepiness is a common complaint in the early stages of pregnancy. Increased levels of pregnancy hormones, particularly progesterone, can make you sleepy.
Studies have shown that giving men progesterone can induce the same sedation that occurs in early pregnancy. Fortunately, this symptom usually resolves after the first trimester.
Late pregnancy symptoms
Progesterone causes smooth muscle relaxation in the body, which leads to many of the symptoms experienced by pregnant women.
Women often complain of urinating a lot during pregnancy. Early in pregnancy, progesterone relaxes the urinary tract. As the pregnancy continues, your growing uterus puts pressure on your bladder, making it seem like you just can’t hold in as much urine.
1. Bloating and constipation
A sluggish GI tract causes bloating and constipation. This can be made worse when they are asked to take iron supplements to prevent anemia.
Progesterone also relaxes the muscle of the esophagus, allowing acid to reflux from the stomach into the lower part of the esophagus causing heartburn. The growth of the uterus makes this symptom worse by increasing pressure on the stomach.
2. Shortness of breath
About three quarters of women will regularly feel short of breath during pregnancy due to upward displacement of their diaphragm. Don’t worry though, you (and your baby) are getting enough oxygen.
3. Emotional changes
Pregnant women are notorious for mood swings and emotional swings. They are caused by several different factors: the physical stress of pregnancy itself, fatigue, changes in metabolism, and hormonal ups and downs.
Dizziness is a common symptom that worsens in the last trimester of pregnancy, as the uterus grows and pushes more on the veins that return blood from the legs.
When you suddenly change position or stand up, there is less blood flowing to your brain, causing you to feel dizzy and unsteady. I advise women to go slow and give your body enough time to adjust when standing or sitting.
5. Increased skin pigmentation
Increased skin pigmentation is not limited to your breasts. Other prominent changes include darkening of the line from below the navel to the pubic bone and dark spots appearing on the forehead and cheeks.
Finally, many pregnant women struggle with insomnia. This can continue throughout the pregnancy and can be difficult to resolve. Cutting back on screen time immediately before bed and taking a hot evening bath can help. Check with your OB provider if you can’t develop a good bedtime routine.