Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy

Here are more signs than a missed period to show you've conceived. Here are some things to look out for.

Some women don't know if they've missed their period or not because their cycles are irregular. Others have periods throughout their pregnancy. And a missed period doesn't always mean pregnancy, anyway - it could be caused by stress or illness. So apart from buying a pregnancy test every time you feel a touch of nausea, how can you tell if you're pregnant?

Even before your period is due you may see some changes in your breasts: they may become tender and your nipples may become super sensitive. Your boobs may even start to resemble a road map as the veins on them protrude. The areola can become darker and the little bumps on them (the strangely named Montgomery's tubercles) become more obvious.

Often mistaken for a period, implantation bleeding can occur when the fertilised egg arrives in your uterus and embeds itself in your uterine lining. Some women find they lose a small amount of blood around this time, or just before their period is due. The blood tends to be reddish to start with but quickly turns brownish. It usually only lasts a day or two and isn't heavy. If you think you've had an unusually short or light period, you may be pregnant.

As early as one week after conception you may find you're dashing off to the loo more than usual. This is because the embryo is secreting the hormone hCG, which increases the blood supply to your pelvic area; this irritates your bladder and causes it to want to expel urine more frequently.

The saliva in your mouth often reflects the chemical content of your blood, so rising pregnancy hormone levels can cause the taste in your mouth to change. Women have often described their mouth as having a metallic taste, and this can make the taste of certain foods seem different from before.

A heightened sense of smell can be a sign that a baby is on the way. Strong smells, particularly - such as the smell of brewing coffee or frying onions - can suddenly make you feel sick, even if you used to love them. Perfume can have a similar effect, and you may also notice that the way your perfume smells on your body may change, because of the alterations in your skin's chemistry.

You may suddenly start to crave foods you've never even thought twice about before. Many women crave tangy or citrus foods such as grapefruits, oranges and lemon juice; other cravings are more peculiar, such as coal and chalk (this is a condition called pica).

No-one really knows why pregnant women get cravings. One theory is that they're your body's response to a deficiency in certain minerals and trace elements. If you crave citrus fruits, for example, you could be deficient in vitamin C - although we don't know this for sure yet.

Feeling overwhelmingly tired throughout the day - as if you could just lie down on your office floor and sleep forever - is partly due to the sedative effect of the high levels of progesterone in your body. Another reason is that during early pregnancy your metabolism speeds up in order to support your developing embryo and your vital organs, which have to cope with an enormously increased amount of work. Listen to the message your body is giving you: it's working hard and needs more rest than usual, so try to schedule some in.

Morning sickness is a very well known side-effect of pregnancy, but don't let the name fool you - some women feel sick all day. Nausea can be worse in the morning, though, because you have an empty stomach and your blood sugar has dropped. Eating regular, small meals can help. Some women swear by ginger (snack on a ginger biscuit or try sipping on ginger tea). Hopefully your nausea will ease by the start of the second trimester of your pregnancy.

At least there's a positive side to the nausea - it's a sign that your hormone levels are high enough to ensure that the pregnancy is well established. But don't worry if you're feeling fine - some women are just naturally lucky enough to sail through their pregnancies without feeling sick.

Of course, the easiest way of finding out if you're actually pregnant is to do a test bought from a pharmacy. If you follow the instructions exactly, home pregnancy test kits are about 97% accurate. You can do a test as early as the first day of a missed period but the longer you wait, the more likely you are to get an accurate result.

Making Babies

Making Babies - Preparing for Pregnancy
Article content written and reproduced from 'Making Babies', published by ACP Magazines, a division of PBL Media Limited