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Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Before you may even suspect you are pregnant, your body will be undergoing significant changes which are designed to support your developing embryo. Surges of pregnancy hormones such as oestrogen, progesterone and hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), will all synchronise to create a nourishing, protected environment for your newly fertilised and implanted egg.

When will I feel anything?

Most women don’t start to experience early pregnancy symptoms until around week 6 of their pregnancy, however there is a large variation between individuals. Some women are so acutely tuned into their bodies that they know almost from the moment of conception, that something is going on. If you have been trying to conceive, you are more likely to be alert for changes in your body. Women undergoing fertility assistance, for example, are often acutely aware of early pregnancy indicators.

I’m not sure I want to know

If you have been trying to conceive, you are probably aware of not building up your hopes too much. The inevitable disappointment which comes from having a negative pregnancy test or getting a period is a familiar experience for many women. Remember, if you have been using hormone based contraception, it can take between 6-12 months after ceasing contraception to conceive.

But I don’t feel any different

Don’t worry if you don’t experience all or many of these pregnancy symptoms. Some women will sail through the early stages with little or no measurable change to how they usually feel. This does not mean they are less pregnant or more at risk than women who have every pregnancy symptom it is possible to have.

Physical changes

  • One of the first physical changes will be an increased blood flow to your uterus, vagina, cervix and vulva. These tissues take on a distinctive bluish or purplish colouration in early pregnancy. Most women are unaware themselves, though if their doctor does a pelvic examination, or their partner is particularly observant, they may be noticeable.
  • You may feel almost overwhelmed with hunger. An empty, gnawing sensation may hang around inside your tummy for hours. You may only have a brief reprieve when you eat but you can’t seem to get rid of it altogether.
  • A feeling of needing to wee frequently, though when you do empty your bladder there is not as much volume as usual. You could initially pass this off as a possible urinary tract infection or from drinking too much caffeine.
  • Nausea and feeling upset in the stomach. This may not be to the point of needing to vomit but you could just feel a sense of unsettledness which comes and goes throughout the day and evening.
  • Sore, heavy and tender breasts. Your nipples may become extra sensitive and tingle to the point where you become very conscious of them. Your areolas may become darker and larger than they usually are. Your breasts could feel similar to how they do just prior to your period, but are even more uncomfortable.
  • You may have a light vaginal blood loss. It won’t be as heavy as a period and could only be light spotting. This is called an implantation bleed and occurs when the newly fertilised ovum burrows into the thickened, vascular wall of the uterus.
  • One of the most definitive early signs of pregnancy is missing a period when it is usually due. Depending on the length of an individual woman’s menstrual cycle, her period will generally start a couple of weeks after she has ovulated. Some women continue to have a light period while they are pregnant, but this is uncommon.
  • A strange, metallic or acidic taste in your mouth. This is very difficult to describe, but it can be all pervading and very difficult to get rid of. Brushing your teeth and using strongly flavoured mouthwashes will barely disguise the taste.
  • A generalised backache which you don’t normally have. Headaches are another early sign and are thought to be due to the influence of pregnancy hormones.
  • An acute and heightened sense of smell. Odours you are usually not even conscious of may cause you to feel nauseated and almost light headed. You could be turned off by the smell of raw meat, especially chicken and beef. Even cooking smells which normally don’t bother you may become almost intolerable.
  • You could find you develop a real dislike for foods and drinks you normally enjoy. Coffee, alcohol, fried or fatty foods could make you feel physically sick. If you are a cigarette smoker, you may find you develop a real aversion to the smell of cigarette smoke, let alone continue to smoke yourself.
  • You could start to crave foods which are unusual or out of your normal dietary range. Foods with vinegar such as pickles or relishes may suddenly take on a whole new appeal. Salty foods too will perhaps, become very attractive to you.
  • You could experience a heavy, full feeling in your pelvis with bloating and more wind. You’ll question yourself about those pickles and make a silent pledge to yourself to go a little easy on them. The cause for this particular wind is not influenced by your diet though.
  • Feelings of almost overwhelming tiredness, to the point where you wonder how you could possibly get through the day. This may be worse if you have other children to care for and who are demanding on your time and physical energy.
  • If you have been charting your basal body temperature to predict when you ovulate, you may notice your temperature is elevated for around 18 days. A temporary rise in temperature during ovulation is normal, though it usually returns to a normal range if a fertilised egg does not implant.

Emotional Changes

  • Many women describe a sensation of just feeling different, as if something has changed within themselves. Others can actually pinpoint the moment when the embryo implants within the wall of their uterus. This is generally between six and twelve days after ovulation.
  • You could be a little teary and more prone to emotional outbursts than normal. You could find yourself overwhelmed at times and wonder just what has happened to your even tempered self.
  • It is perfectly normal to feel a little different as you physically and mentally adjust to the change in pregnancy. However, if at any stage you feel that things are beginning to feel overwhelming or you are finding it difficult to manage from day to day visit COPE: Centre of Perinatal Excellence for tips to help you identify and cope with the many growing changes in pregnancy.

Most women wait until their period is late before they do a home pregnancy urine test. For others, this seems too long. It is possible to have a false negative pregnancy test, if it is done before the levels of hCG can be detected in a woman’s urine. However, it is not possible to have a false positive test unless taking specific hormone medication.

As your pregnancy progresses there will be different symptoms and changes within your body. Some will be more pronounced and obvious and others will be quite subtle. Remember that no two pregnancies are exactly the same. Even if you have had a baby before, be prepared for a different experience each time.


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