What are the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy?
Every woman is different and so are the signs and symptoms of pregnancy they may be experiencing. Some women may go through most of the symptoms below, while others may not experience them at all. The only way to find out for sure if you are pregnant or not is to take a pregnancy test.
Some of the early signs of pregnancy may include:
- Missed period - if you have a regular monthly menstrual cycle, the earliest sign of pregnancy is a missed period. You should also know that some women may notice some spotting or very light bleeding during the first few weeks of pregnancy, which is called implantation bleeding.
- Feeling sick or being sick - this is commonly known as morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day or the night. Usually, morning sickness starts when you are around 4-6 weeks pregnant, but it can also happen earlier than that. The sickness usually improves or stops completely in weeks 16 to 20, although for some women it can last longer.
- If you are experiencing sickness all the time that feels much worse than normal nausea and vomiting and you are unable to keep food or drink down, you should see a GP as soon as possible. This excessive nausea and vomiting is known as hyperemesis gravidarium and often needs hospital treatment.
- Feeling tired - it's normal to feel tired or exhausted, especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, due to the hormonal changes your body is going through. You may also experience mood swings or feel emotional or upset...all having to do with the hormonal changes.
- Breasts soreness and tenderness - you may notice that your breasts will become larger and feel tender, just like they do before your menstrual cycle. Their veins are likely to become more visible and the colour of your nipples may become darker in colour.
- Tension in the lower abdomen - as the uterus prepares for pregnancy, there is a typical tugging in the lower abdomen. The uterus is growing, the blood supply is increasing with new blood vessels. This can be one of the symptoms of pregnancy from the very first days. Mothers-to-be feel this and for many of them, it is quite different from regular stomach aches.
- Peeing more often - as the pregnancy develops, you will notice that you may need to urinate more often than usual, including during the night. Apart from that, you may also notice constipation and increased vaginal discharge.
- Noticing strange tastes, cravings, and a more sensitive sense of smell - during early pregnancy, you may notice that you no longer like certain foods or drinks you used to enjoy. Or start liking some that you didn't use to. You may also notice that your sense of smell is becoming more sensitive than usual, or even have a strange taste in your mouth (which some describe as metallic)...you may crave new foods too. It's all normal and part of the process, however, if you are worried about any symptoms you are experiencing, talk to your midwife or your GP.
Pregnancy hormone hCG
If you have been feeling symptoms that make you think you may be pregnant…or if you are trying to get pregnant and want to know for sure... The appearance of the hormone chorionic gonadotropin, also called hCG, is the indicator that a pregnancy has started.
When does the pregnancy hormone hCG appear?
Every month, at the time of ovulation, the egg travels down the fallopian tube to meet a sperm. If the sperm is successful, the egg continues its journey and implants eight days later in the uterus.
This implantation triggers the production of the pregnancy hormone hCG, which will be present during the 9 months of pregnancy.
The role of the hCG hormone is to keep the corpus luteum active so that it can produce the hormones that are essential for the development of the pregnancy.
Does the hCG level change?
HCG levels increase regularly until the 6th week of pregnancy and give an indication of the progress of the pregnancy. This hormone is present in the blood from the first days of pregnancy and the hCG level doubles every 2 to 3 days to reach its maximum at the end of the 3rd month of pregnancy. It then gradually decreases until birth.
Pregnancy hormone hCG is first detected in the blood.
The hCG hormone is passed into the bloodstream and throughout the body, including in the urine. Pregnancy is thus detected by a urine test or a quantitative blood test, which is usually done in a laboratory.
The measurement of hCG with a blood test allows earlier detection of pregnancy than with a urine test and is more reliable.
This is because hCG can be detected in blood as early as the 6th day after ovulation if the fertilised egg implants in the uterus.
'For a woman, knowing whether she is becoming pregnant is obviously a fundamental piece of information, an essential right, and early pregnancy tests are an undeniable breakthrough. Advances in biology allow for reliable and early detection of hCG in blood and urine, and a woman can now know very early “if she is pregnant”, well before any delay in menstruation. Of course, a few days later, an ultrasound scan will complete a positive result.'
D Ludovic Moy, Obstetrician gynaecologist