Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy
Getting pregnant is an exciting time in the lives of couples trying to conceive, so how can woman know that its perhaps time to take a pregnancy test, or head to the doctors office for an official determination? There are a variety of signs and symptoms which are telltale signs of pregnancy. Here, we will review each of the signs, and look at each in some detail.
Early Signs of Pregnancy
- Spotting: Also called ?implantation bleedings', spotting is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. The embryo implants itself in the uterus between 6 to 12 weeks after conception occurs, and this implantation sometimes causes light bleeding or spotting.
- Cramping: As the implantation happens, sometimes, along with the spotting you may experience cramping. The cramping in combination with spotting is a stronger sign that you may be pregnant.
- Headaches: Pregnancy induced headaches could be caused by hunger or dehydration, as the new embryo require more resources from the mother's body.
- Back Aches: Hormonal changes which help prepare the body for giving birth also impact ligaments (i.e. loosen them) which act as supporting structures to the spine can result in lower back ache.
- Cravings or Food Aversions: It is not fully clear to researchers why food cravings and aversions arise during pregnancy, but it is generally agreed that they are caused by hormonal changes.
- Sensitivity to Certain Smells: As part of pregnancy the woman's sense of smell becomes more acute, and as a result some smells may feel unpleasant.
- Feeling Bloated: During the early months of pregnancy you will feel bloated, and again you can thank those hormones.
- Feeling Constipated: During the early months of pregnancy your body will produce the hormone progesterone which relaxes the muscles which control the digestive system, causing constipation.
- Moodiness: Though moodiness is often associated with PMS, it could also be a sign of pregnancy.
- Dizziness: The hormones released during pregnancy not only relax muscles but also blood vessels (making them wider) letting more blood through causing dizziness. Dizziness can also be caused later in the pregnancy as your uterus grows putting pressure on your blood vessels.
- Breast Pain & Swelling: Thanks to the hormones which are produced during pregnancy, blood flow to the breast tissue increases which results in swelling and tenderness/pain.
- Extreme Exhaustion: Fatigue is an early sign of pregnancy which usually goes away by the second trimester.
- Shortness of Breath: The same relaxation in muscles which causes many of the other symptoms mentioned above is also responsible for sometimes making breathing difficult during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Missed Menstrual Cycle: Even though menstrual cycles can shift, often a missed period is a reliable sign of being pregnant.
Pregnancy Test Options
There are a variety of ways to check whether you are indeed pregnant. They all check for the presence of certain hormones or chemicals in the body resulting form pregnancy.
- Home Pregnancy Tests: The home pregnancy test checks for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) within the urine, and provides a positive or negative result. This is the most common way women check whether they are pregnant. However, even though the accuracy has improved over the years, it is not one hundred percent accurate.
- Clinical Urine Test: The clinical urine test is similar in methodology to the home pregnancy test, but is able to measure much smaller amounts of the hCG hormone in the urine.
- Blood Test: The pregnancy blood test measures the hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone present in the woman's blood. hCG is produced during pregnancy and is present in larger quantities than urine.
Parents to be are always eagerly looking for signs of pregnancy, but it is important to note that there can be instances where there are false positives. We discuss the most common pregnancy false positives here.
- Chemical Pregnancy: A chemical pregnancy occurs when the woman loses the fetus before it can be detected by ultrasound scans. This means that the body produces the levels of hCG high enough to be detectable by a pregnancy test.
- Menopause: The most common way a women may suspect pregnancy is by missing a menstrual cycle. However, the missed cycle may not be a one-time occurrence indicating pregnancy, but an early onset of menopause. Or even just a skipped cycle. A woman is not in menopause until twelve consecutive cycles are missed.
- Ectopic Pregnancy: Even though an ectopic pregnancy is an actual pregnancy, it is not a viable one, because in an ectopic pregnancy the fertilized egg attaches itself to something other than the uterus (usually the fallopian tube). However, since only the uterus is a hospitable environment for the fetus to develop, an ectopic pregnancy has to be treated (ending the pregnancy).
- Ovarian health issues (e.g. cysts): There are a variety of conditions which may arise in the ovaries resulting in symptoms of pregnancy. These conditions include ovarian cysts, and cancer.