Pregnancy is an exciting time full of changes, and your body will experience several physical and hormonal shifts to accommodate the developing fetus. As family doctor Natalia Hapych advises, “Each woman’s pregnancy is unique, and symptoms can vary.” Nevertheless, it’s important to know some of the common pregnancy symptoms to anticipate what may be coming.
Early Signs of Pregnancy
The early signs of pregnancy often mimic premenstrual symptoms. Here are some of the earliest indicators:
- Missed Period: One of the most evident signs of pregnancy is a missed period. However, periods can sometimes be delayed due to stress or other factors, so this sign alone is not definitive.
- Fatigue: Hormonal changes during early pregnancy often lead to fatigue. If you find yourself feeling unusually tired or requiring more sleep, it may be a sign.
- Breast Tenderness: Changes in hormones can cause your breasts to become sensitive or sore early on in pregnancy.
- Nausea or Morning Sickness: Nausea, sometimes accompanied by vomiting, can begin as early as three weeks into pregnancy. Despite the term “morning sickness,” these feelings can occur at any time of the day.
- Frequent Urination: The need to urinate often is another early sign of pregnancy. This is due to an increase in blood flow to the kidneys.
First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
As your pregnancy progresses, you may experience some of the following symptoms in the first trimester:
- Food Aversions and Cravings: You might find that your taste preferences change significantly, developing new dislikes and cravings.
- Mood Swings: Hormonal changes can usually lead to mood swings. You might experience heightened emotions or have quicker emotional reactions.
- Heartburn and Indigestion: Your body produces more progesterone during pregnancy, which can lead to heartburn and indigestion.
- Constipation: Increased progesterone also slows down digestion, which can cause constipation.
- Headaches: Changes in hormones and increased blood volume can cause more frequent headaches.
Second Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
The second trimester often brings relief from some of the more uncomfortable early symptoms. However, new symptoms may arise:
- Growing Belly and Weight Gain: As your baby grows, your belly will too. Weight gain is also a natural part of pregnancy.
- Skin Changes: Hormonal changes may cause darkening of the skin around your nipples. Some women also develop a line on the middle of their abdomen (linea nigra) or experience skin pigmentation changes known as melasma.
- Body Aches: As your pregnancy progresses, you may experience pain in your back, hips, and other joints due to the extra weight you’re carrying.
- Leg Cramps: These can be more common at night and are due to the increased pressure on the leg muscles.
Third Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
In the third trimester, your body is getting ready for birth, and you may experience the following:
- Shortness of Breath: As your baby grows and pushes against your lungs, you might feel short of breath.
- Swelling: Some swelling in your feet and ankles is normal due to fluid retention.
- Braxton Hicks Contractions: These “practice contractions” are your body’s way of preparing for labor.
- Tiredness: Fatigue often returns during the third trimester due to the body’s extra exertion and the discomfort of increased body size.
“Pregnancy symptoms can vary widely, and while they can provide clues to your pregnancy, the most accurate way to confirm pregnancy is through a pregnancy test,” reminds Dr. Hapych.
When to Seek Medical Attention
While most pregnancy symptoms are normal, certain signs can indicate potential complications. If you experience severe abdominal pain, severe headaches, sudden swelling in your hands and face, heavy bleeding, or consistent trouble urinating, it’s essential to seek immediate medical attention.
Dr. Hapych encourages all expecting mothers to remember that “Each pregnancy is unique, so you might not experience all these symptoms. However, if you’re ever unsure about a symptom, never hesitate to contact your healthcare provider.”
These symptoms are a normal part of the process as your body adjusts to accommodate your growing baby. Regular prenatal visits to your OB/GYN and family doctor are essential to ensure the health of both you and your baby.
Further Reading: How To Know When Your Body Is Ovulating