Am I Pregnant? Signs of Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a magical time period whether the conception is planned or a complete surprise. You need to take care of yourself during the pregnancy to ensure both you and the baby come out in good health. Determining if you are pregnant is tricky. It is important to identify conception early to avoid problems caused by a poor diet or a lack of pre-natal vitamins. Your body gives off certain signs as soon as conception occurs. Rule out other causes of these symptoms, like common illnesses, before assuming you are pregnant.
One of the first signs is a late period. Keeping clear records of your periods will help you determine if one is late. Other causes of a delayed period include:
- Normal, everyday stress from work or your home life
- Changes in your diet
- Sudden increases in exercise
- Medications like birth control medication
- Illnesses like the cold or flu
Once you suspect that your period is a few days late, you can use an over-the-counter pregnancy test. Some tests can measure pregnancy days before a late period actually occurs. This works for women who are trying to conceive, but most women have no reason to use one of these tests if they aren't trying to get pregnant.
Tracking your periods regularly can help you avoid surprise pregnancies. Some women have a menstrual cycle every 28 days, while others go as long as 40 days between each instance. Irregular periods with varying dates can become regular with the help of birth control. Keeping track of your menstruation also gives you an idea of when you are ovulating, making it easier to know the perfect window for conception. As soon as you realize your period is late, stop using any illegal drugs and do not drink alcohol in large amounts until you take a pregnancy test. This can help prevent accidental damage to the developing blastocyst.
Could I Be Pregnant?
The only way to answer this question is to consider the previous chances for conception. Look for changes in your lifestyle or lapses in birth control coverage that could have led to egg fertilization. Think back to any chances of conception that occurred in the last month or two. Remembering an instance of unprotected sex can help you figure out how far along you could be. Once you know which part of pregnancy you would be in, you can compare the common symptoms to how you are currently feeling.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Many women do not encounter any early pregnancy symptoms. A missed or late period are one of the first signs these women experience. A period that is a week late can be a serious surprise. Most of the earliest symptoms are very vague. It is easy to confuse a mild stomach bug or pre-menstrual cramping as signs of pregnancy. If you believe that you are pregnant, see a doctor for a blood test to officially confirm it. Symptoms include:
- Bloating: Progesterone, the pregnancy hormone, often causes women to retain water and feel bloated during the first four weeks. Gas and intestinal cramping can also accompany the bloating.
- Implantation bleeding: Most women experience some kind of very mild cramping and spotting when the fertilized egg first implants into the uterine wall. These symptoms are often confused with the beginning of a period. Your period will last for at least two days of steady bleeding if you are not pregnant, but implantation bleeding only involves a few spots of blood. Naturally light periods make it difficult to tell the difference between the two.
- Mood Swings: Your moods become difficult to control within the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. Progesterone can make you feel unexpectedly sad or depressed, then send you into a spiral of joy. These symptoms are also easily triggered by stress, alcohol consumption or illnesses like the common cold.
- Mild nausea: Few people go directly into full morning sickness within the first six weeks. It is more common to experience light nausea instead, especially when you are hungry. The spike of progesterone and estrogen that accompanies pregnancy can heighten your sense of smell. You might find cigarette smoke, fish odors or smelly shoes to be overwhelming.
- Swollen breasts: Swelling and tenderness of the breasts accompany both your period and a pregnancy. This symptom alone is not an indicator of pregnancy, but it is a sign when it is paired with other early symptoms. Full and heavy feelings without pain also act as one of the first symptoms.
- Cravings: Increased hunger and cravings for specific food begin at 6 weeks of pregnancy. By the time you take a pregnancy test, you may already have begun adjusting your diet. Try to maintain a healthy and balanced diet if you suspect you are pregnant, even if you crave nothing but junk food.
Symptoms From The 8th Week Through The Second Trimester
The weeks between the very beginning of pregnancy and the 12 week mark can be very rocky. Your sense of smell continues to increase, making it even harder to deal with your husband's smelly socks or opening a can of tuna. Your breasts will continue to swell and soreness increases. The milk producing glands in your breasts are growing to accommodate the production of breast milk, but don't expect any milk just yet. You'll continue to experience periodical nausea. Common symptoms of pregnancy at 8 weeks include:
- More stomach problems: Your nausea will be joined by heartburn. Eating bland foods help greatly during the period between the 6th and 12th week. Indigestion and constipation will also occur. There are plenty of gentle and safe medications to help you cope with these issues. If you are experiencing severe indigestion, talk to your OB/GYN for help. Bloating will continue to worsen at this point.
- Morning Sickness: The morning nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy begins in earnest at 8 weeks. Keep some water and plain crackers on your nightstand. Low blood sugar is the main cause of this issue. Sleeping for 8 hours or more without waking up to eat will cause your blood sugar to drop. Many women also develop pregnancy related hypoglycemia. Eating before you leave the bed can help reduce the symptoms.
- Fatigue & Dream Issues: Weird or frightening dreams are commonly reported by pregnant women at 8 to 12 weeks, but occur throughout pregnancy. Fluctuating hormones have a serious effect on the brain. You will also need more sleep than usual and may feel tired throughout the day.
- Belly Swelling: Most women start to swell and develop a slight belly around the 10th week of pregnancy. It's probably time to begin wearing maternity wear and sharing the news with those around you.
- Vaginal Discharge: Vaginal infections can easily travel into the uterus and harm the growing fetus. Your system will create extra vaginal discharge during the second trimester to help keep bacteria from growing. Try using an unscented panty liner to deal with it.
- Headaches: Vision blurriness and head pain is common at the 12th week. Blood sugar and dehydration issues often cause these problems. Drinking extra water, even if you are already peeing every hour, can reduce the problem. You may also need to eat more frequently. Nausea and food aversions can make this difficult. If you can find at least one bland food that you can force down, keep it on hand for days when low blood sugar gives you a serious headache.
Third Trimester Symptoms
As the last three months of pregnancy march forward, nausea and indigestion tends to fade away. Your stomach will grow visibly over the weeks, and fatigue will continue to be an issue. Stay hydrated and eat well to avoid headaches. If you are still experiencing nausea and vomiting, your doctor may be able to give you medication to control it, especially if it is causing dehydration. Common third trimester symptoms also include:
- Swelling: Your feet and ankles will grow as fluid retention develops. Staying off your feet will reduce the issue. Be wary of numbness that comes with spending hours on your feet in the third trimester. Don't accidentally fall and hurt yourself if you try to work through a sink full of dirty dishes. While some amount of leg swelling is normal, look out for signs of toxemia if your face or arms swell in a similar way.
- Leg Cramps: Dehydration continues to be an issue as the growing baby pushes on your bladder and causes a constant urge to urinate. Keep drinking or your legs will begin cramping. Ask your doctor for an electrolyte test to ensure you are getting a proper balance of fluids and salt. Calcium issues will also cause leg cramps, and can lead to serious bone and tooth damage if not kept in check.
- Back pain: The weight of a growing baby and a swelling belly will continue to add strain to your back. Rest and look into a belly brace if you need to be on your feet often.
- Stretch Marks: A number of marks appear across your stomach and breasts as swelling tissue puts strain on the skin. The linea nigra will also appear at this point. This is a dark line, often accompanied with hair growth, that runs up over the center of the lower belly.
- Gestational diabetes: The symptoms of hypoglycemia can take a serious turn at this point. Your doctor should order a diabetes test at the start of the third trimester to ensure your baby isn't causing your body to have severe blood sugar issues. If you do develop gestational diabetes, changing your diet and starting on medication early will make the rest of the pregnancy much easier.