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Understanding the Earliest Symptoms of Pregnancy

calendarJuly 26, 2016
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Understanding the earliest symptoms of pregnancyUnderstanding the Earliest Symptoms of Pregnancy

Many women want to know if they are pregnant at the very earliest possible moment. Unfortunately, the earliest way to find out if you are pregnant is not through symptoms but through having an ultra-sensitive pregnancy test. A good pregnancy test can tell you if you are pregnant before the earliest possible signs of pregnancy will even show up.

The Earliest Pregnancy Symptoms

Perhaps the earliest symptoms you will see in pregnancy is breast tenderness. The breast tenderness will feel a lot like it does before your period but will not go away when you miss your period. This will often be associated with an increase in white vaginal discharge or light spotting, which usually indicates that the embryo has implanted itself in the uterine lining. Fatigue is a common symptom of early pregnancy, and it usually doesn’t go away until you reach your second trimester.

Then you will have a surge in energy and will feel much better overall. Nausea and vomiting are other aspects of the first trimester that usually starts at around the sixth week of gestation. Nausea and vomiting can be mild and will show up just first thing in the morning or sporadically throughout the day.

Nausea and vomiting can be severe so that you develop hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a condition of pregnancy in which dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can occur. Some women need to be hospitalized when this occurs to receive IV fluids and medications to control nausea. Fortunately, most nausea and vomiting of pregnancy fades away by the end of the first trimester (around 13 weeks of pregnancy), only to be replaced by food cravings, which can be unusual. Some women develop cravings for non-nutritive substances such as chalk or dirt. If this happens to you, see your doctor as this can be a dangerous habit.

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A Typical Timeline for Early Pregnancy Goes Like This:

  • You have a sensitive pregnancy test that shows positive — this is the earliest detection method possible and will tell you that you are pregnant before you have any symptoms.
  • Before you miss your period, you can get cramping that feels as though you are going to get your period, but instead you get no bleeding or only light spotting.
  • Light spotting can indicate implantation bleeding. This is not dangerous at all.
  • Breast tenderness occurs before you miss your period. When you actually miss your period, this tenderness does not go away and can last several weeks into the first trimester.
  • Fatigue is another early sign of pregnancy. It occurs shortly after you miss your period, and it doesn’t go away until the beginning of the second trimester.
  • Nausea and vomiting usually begin at about six week’s gestation. It can be mild in nature or very severe, depending on the pregnancy and depending on the level of HCG in your system. Most nausea and vomiting disappears at about the beginning of the second trimester, although some women will experience it throughout the pregnancy.
  • Round ligament pain begins in the first trimester and can last throughout the second trimester. It usually happens when you stand up too fast or twist your body in certain ways. It feels like a severe muscle cramp in the groin and passes after about 20 seconds.
  • In the second trimester (starting from 14 weeks of pregnancy), cravings are common. You can have cravings for just about anything but many women have cravings for foods they wouldn’t have eaten when they weren’t pregnant.
  • In the third trimester (starting from 28 weeks of pregnancy), itching can begin. At first, the itching occurs on the abdomen only and is from stretching of the skin and stretch marks. Some women will get serious itching involving the entire body. It can be so severe that the pregnancy must be ended early so as to relieve the woman of these symptoms.
  • Backaches are common in the third trimester. This is because the baby weighs down the front of the woman, causing her to have her center of gravity be off. Leaning back is common when walking in the third trimester, and this can cause stress on the back.
  • Many women get contractions beginning around at 30 weeks of pregnancy. These contractions usually don’t dilate the cervix but stem from uterine irritability in the late third trimester. You are more likely to have these kinds of contractions if this is not your first pregnancy. Eventually real labor starts and contractions can be timed fairly regularly.

What You Can Do About Pregnancy Symptoms

Most pregnancy symptoms are tolerable and require no intervention. At the beginning of the pregnancy, frequent naps can relieve some of the fatigue, and small frequent meals can keep your nausea at bay. Keeping crackers and water at the bedside can prevent early morning nausea if you chew on a few crackers before getting out of bed.

Things like round ligament pain and breast tenderness are simply annoying and do not need any intervention. You can wear a firm supportive bra to keep breast tenderness down, and you can make sure you stand up slowly so that you do not stretch the round ligament of the uterus.

It is okay to give into pregnancy cravings as long as you eat healthy most of the time. If you develop cravings for non-nutritive substances such as clay, chalk or dirt, this is not normal, and you should see your doctor about this. Try to eat as healthy as you possibly can during pregnancy and take a prenatal vitamin so you can be sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals necessary during pregnancy.

If you develop severe itching in your third trimester, talk to your OB/GYN doctor about this. There are medications that can be given to control the itching, but they usually make you quite tired. If the itching is interfering with sleep and activities of daily living, your doctor may want to induce you at 37 weeks gestation so that you can be relieved of these symptoms as soon as you deliver.

You can use a heating pad or ice pack to relieve low back pain in pregnancy. Practice good posture and rest when you need to so that the back pain can be relieved.

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