What Causes Early Pregnancy Symptoms?
Pregnancy did not treat me well when I was pregnant with my daughter. “HCG” (the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone) did NOT agree with me and caused all sorts of nasty early pregnancy symptoms through my first trimester and beyond. Even though my experience was difficult, most woman’s discomfort eases during the 2nd trimester.
HCG is the same hormone that triggers the positive pregnancy test, and it doubles every few days during the first trimester. Because it increases so rapidly in your body, it causes many intense and unpleasant symptoms in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. You’ll be happy to know that your hCG levels peak at around 11 weeks, and the 2nd trimester is usually much smoother sailing.
Most Common Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Here are some of the most common early pregnancy symptoms that happen even before you take the test.
This is one of the obvious symptoms, as well as one of the first symptoms that many women notice. Pregnancy tests often don’t show as pregnant until after you miss your period, so you won’t know for sure if you’re pregnant until after you miss your period.
Swollen or Tender Breasts
Your breasts don’t waste any time preparing to breastfeed in nine months. This was one of the first things I noticed when I was pregnant with my daughter. I had this even before I missed my period. My boobs grew a full size, and my nipples and breasts were so sore! My poor husband wasn’t even allowed to touch them until I had my daughter.
Exhaustion is one of the most prominent symptoms in the first trimester. Your body goes through many hormonal changes during the first trimester; your progesterone (another pregnancy hormone) levels increase drastically, and that, combined with lowered blood sugar and blood pressure, contribute to your newfound exhaustion.
Yes, it’s the dreaded “morning” sickness, but I like to call it the three (or four or five or six) month stomach bug. The increased hormone levels affect different women in different ways, and, unfortunately, nausea is one of those ways. If you have nausea, here are some remedies you can try to relieve your symptoms:
- Ginger (these tasty ginger pear tummydrops are delicious and ease morning sickness)
- Sour foods (citrus, etc.)
- Mint (this mint tea can work wonders for morning sickness!)
- Vitamin B6
- Nausea bracelets: I used these when I was pregnant, and they helped settle my stomach.
If none of your at-home remedies help your morning sickness, talk to your doctor. There are several prescriptions that doctors offer to help with morning sickness.
Food Aversions or Cravings
You used to love eggs every morning, but now you can’t stand the sight of them? You might be pregnant. It’s common to have aversions to foods, especially those with strong smells when you’re pregnant.
The stereotypical pregnant woman sending her husband on a midnight ice cream run is also very possible. It’s common to have a wide variety of cravings, especially for salty snacks, sweets, and sour foods.
Fun fact: I craved fruit and hated meat during my entire pregnancy.
If you find yourself craving non-food items like chalk, call your doctor. This is called pica and is a sign of a nutritional deficiency.
Women experience a flood of estrogen and progesterone when they get pregnant, and the mood swings can start even earlier than when your pregnancy test reads positive. Several other factors contribute to mood swings as well. Not only are we women overwhelmed with hormones when we’re pregnant, but we also feel sick and exhausted from the new pregnancy.
Many women experience a heightened sense of smell, also known as hyperosmia, during pregnancy. This is one of the earlier signs that you are pregnant. If you’re extra bothered by your husband’s morning breath or the smells of cooking, you might want to take a pregnancy test!
The hormonal changes in your body lead to an increased blood flow and fluid in your body. On top of that, your kidneys amp up their efficiency. These facts, combined with your growing uterus pressing on your bladder, will see you making more and more trips to the bathroom.
Some of the early pregnancy symptoms, such as bloating, are similar to period symptoms. The hormonal changes in your body, specifically progesterone, slow down your digestion, making you feel constipated and bloated.
Here are a few tips to reduce the bloating:
- Go easy on the beans
- Drink lots of water
- Eat plenty of fiber
- Opt for small, frequent meals
- Move for 30 minutes/day
- Consider stool softeners, or if you want to go more natural, try this organic constipation tea
Raised Basal Body Temperature
Basal body temperature (BBT) is the temperature of your body when it’s at complete rest. Fun fact: measuring and tracking your BBT can help you track your fertility cycle as well as be a sign that you’re pregnant.
To measure your BBT, you have to take your temperature and record it first thing in the morning. Any activity, even sitting up in bed, affects your BBT, so you have to take it as soon as you wake up. Your temps will go up 1-2 days after ovulation, and if they stay up, it’s an indicator that you might be pregnant.
Here is a handy little ultra-accurate thermometer you can use to measure your basal body temperature. It even connects to whatever ovulation app you use!
Implantation bleeding is light spotting or bleeding (brown or pink in color) that occurs when the embryo makes its way into the uterus, usually between 7-14 days after fertilization. This sometimes causes tiny blood vessels to burst, hence the light bleeding. Don’t worry if you get implantation bleeding (or if you don’t). Whether or not you get it isn’t an indicator of a healthy pregnancy.
Call your doctor if you have heavy bleeding at any time during your pregnancy.
When Can You Start Getting Early Pregnancy Symptoms?
Most women start getting pregnancy symptoms at week five or six, but you can get some signs as early as week four. Remember that pregnancy treats every woman differently; some have a plethora of symptoms, and some barely feel pregnant. Don’t feel guilty or worried just because of how severe or mild your symptoms are. Talk to your doctor about any concerns that you have, but try not to stress too much.
Hang in there, mama, and enjoy the wild ride of pregnancy!
If you want to get a head start at picking out baby names, check out my list of 89 Irish Baby Girl Names You Haven’t Heard.