What are the signs and symptoms of pregnancy? How do you know if this is ‘the real thing’ or just a late period? Have a look through these signs and symptoms if you suspect you might be pregnant.
If you are trying to get pregnant, you may spot some signs and symptoms almost as soon as you conceive. Other women miss these signs, especially if they are not expecting to get pregnant or are very busy, or they may put the signs down to tiredness, work, stress or other causes. Here’s how to work out if you’re pregnant before you are able to take a test.
This could be a sign that you are pregnant, though pregnancy is not the only reason you might have missed a period. If you generally have periods of a regular length and have been noting them on your calendar, a missed period is a good indication that you my well have conceived.
However, it may be more difficult to notice if you tend to have irregular periods or are not paying close attention to when they are due.
Missing a period could be a symptom of something else and if you have ruled out pregnancy, you should check with your doctor to make sure all is well. These reasons include:
Weight loss and anorexia nervosa, being overweight, changes in medication, particularly contraception, some people say stress can delay a period, particularly if you are focussing on pregnancy, the onset of menopause, a significant change in your lifestyle – such as changing from day to night shifts and illness.
If you think any of these may be causing a problem with your cycle, you should consult your doctor.
Your hormones change rapidly when you conceive and the amount of the pregnancy hormone hCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin increases by the day. One of its functions is to increase blood flow to the uterus, making it receptive to a fertilised egg. Unfortunately, the side effect of this is that it can make you feel like you need to ‘go’ more than usual. In addition, as the foetus grows it pushes against the bladder.
Luckily, this inconvenient need for the conveniences reduces over time; the hCG levels gradually drop and the foetus moves up inside the pelvis after a few months, relieving the pressure on your bladder.
If you don’t usually have tender or swollen breasts before a period, this may be one of the most noticeable signs for you that you are pregnant. But if you often suffer from fluid retention before a period, you may mistake it for that. Other changes can occur to the breasts too, such as more visible veins, or dark spots and small lumps appearing around the nipple.
In the very early stages of pregnancy, even before a bump appears, you may feel really tired and have little energy. This can be made worse by morning sickness. The changes in hormones and the amount of extra work your body is doing can really take it out of you. Frustratingly, this is often the most difficult period to get through, as you may not want to tell people why you’re so tired and maybe not feeling 100%.
It’s not really known why some women experience cravings in pregnancy – some old wives’ tales suggest that you crave the nutrients that your body is missing but that wouldn’t explain why some women fancy sardines with chocolate! Some find that favourite foods suddenly make them feel nauseous while others find that things smell different to them. And we have all heard of women who want strange combinations of foods, some women have no cravings at all.
Morning sickness is a feature of many pregnancies, though it is not always in the mornings. The amount this affects you is again a bit of a lottery – some woman have no sickness at all, while others are so sick it is necessary for them to be admitted to hospital and put on a drip to keep up their fluid levels. If you are feeling sick it is another sign of pregnancy, especially if after a couple of hours of nausea you are then ravenous. If, however, you are sick over a period of a couple of days it could be due to a stomach infection.
Mood swings are a common symptom of early pregnancy and again this is down to those pesky hormones. It might be wise to warn your partner that you may be especially touchy or moody at this time, so they know to treat you with the extra special care you deserve!
You may find that you get an unusual amount of vaginal discharge and this is another sign that you might be pregnant. You know what is normal for you, so a change in this – the amount, consistency, even colour – could be a sign of pregnancy. However, your discharges are a strange colour or have a bad smell, you should consult your doctor, as it might be a sign of an infection or even a sexually transmitted disease.
Some women have spotting or cramping, some continue to have what appear to be periods for a few months into their pregnancy. These are actually not real periods but may be what is called breakthrough bleeding or implantation bleeding (which occurs as the egg implants into the womb). This is surprisingly common, so if you are trying to get pregnant it’s important that you continue to take Folic acid and avoid alcohol – as you may be pregnant without knowing it! Bleeding can, however, also indicate a problem with the pregnancy and can be a warning of miscarriage, so you should consult your doctor if you are bleeding when you know you are or suspect you may be, pregnant.
If you have one or more of these symptoms, the first port of call is the chemist. Get yourself a pregnancy test and use the test first thing in the morning, with the first pee that you do. That’s when your hormones will be at their most concentrated in your urine. You might want to buy a twin pack, as the hormone levels in the very first few days of pregnancy may be low and if you have been trying to get pregnant, the temptation is to test very early on. Take another test a few days later and you should see a stronger positive result as the hormone levels increase. Some tests are now so sensitive that they can tell you how far along in the pregnancy you are. If you prefer, you can see your GP who can offer you a free test – this tends to be exactly the same as tests sold over the counter.