Pregnancy not only changes a woman’s life but her body as well. The earliest signs of pregnancy are due to the hormonal response of her body to the developing baby therein. These signs vary from one woman to another. Some may only have one while others may have all of these signs. It is important to realize that these signs do not confirm that a woman is truly pregnant and may be an indication of something else. To confirm a pregnancy, an ultrasound showing the growing babe inside the womb should be undertaken. This not only verifies the expectant mother’s condition but also give her an estimate of the time when she will deliver the baby.
One of the earliest signs of pregnancy is a missed period. Pregnancy is the first thing that comes to mind for a sexually active woman with regular menses. Missing one period is not reliable, though, and may have other causes like stress or a life changing event. Early in the pregnancy, when the fertilized egg burrows in the wall of the uterus, some bleeding might occur and may be mistaken for menstruation. Most women are advised to take a home pregnancy test after the second missed period or at least ten days after the first missed period.
Changes in the breasts are mostly noticeable in women who are pregnant for the first time. During early pregnancy, the breasts feel tender or numb. The areolas become darker and wider and the nipples become bigger and darker as well. As the pregnancy progresses, they grow bigger because of they start to produce and store milk in preparation for the coming baby. Some women start leaking milk during pregnancy while some have difficulty letting the milk out even after birth.
Skin changes are also one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Like all other signs, this does not apply to all. These changes are more prominent in women with darker skin. Parts that are most affected include the face, neck, underarms, chest, stomach, and groins. They usually disappear weeks after delivery.
One of the more common signs of pregnancy is the altered sensitivity to food. The sensitivity to food may be to the taste, sight, smell, or a combination of these. A lot of women suspect they are pregnant when they suddenly crave food which they don’t usually like to eat. Others feel nauseous at the sight or smell of their favourite food. Most expectant mothers also has increased appetite due to the increase in her nutritional need and also to support the growing fetus.
Morning sickness is also a common indication of pregnancy. Most women stay in bed and wait until it disappears after a few hours, while others calm their stomachs by nibbling on crackers. This usually happens around the second month of pregnancy and eventually passes after the third or fourth month.
Extreme emotions may be felt by the expectant mother. It is not uncommon to see them overreact to simple things and situations. This is usually most pronounced in the early stages and may or may not last throughout the rest of the pregnancy.
Fatigue and sleepiness is often experienced by pregnant women. It is important the expectant mothers get plenty of rest and sleep to keep herself and the growing baby inside healthy.
Frequent urination may be experienced by the pregnant woman. This often starts around the sixth week and may be due to the pregnancy itself, a urinary tract infection, diabetes, or use of diuretic drugs (drugs that cause a person to urinate more than usual).
About 10 percent of black women and about two thirds of white women develop vascular spiders. These are small, red elevations with radicles branching out from the center that develop in the skin mostly found in the face, chest, and arms. This has no clinical significance and disappears shortly after pregnancy.
Reddening of the palms occur in about one third of black women and two thirds of white women. Like the vascular spiders, this does not have clinical significance and disappear after pregnancy. These two conditions are most likely caused by the presence of a high amount of estrogen in the system.
Pregnancy test is helpful in determining pregnancy. Pregnancy test kits detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in the urine. This is a hormone that is produced by certain cells called trophoblasts that are present during only during pregnancy. HCG levels in the blood rises from day one, peaks at day 60-70, and then goes down until it disappears at around 16 weeks. This means that pregnancy test would yield a negative result if the woman is around 4 months pregnant.
Although a positive pregnancy test is more reliable than the previously mentioned signs, there are conditions that may present a false positive result. Those who develop heterophilic antibodies like veterinarians and other people who work with animals can have a positive pregnancy test even if they are not pregnant. False negative results can also happen especially if the HCG levels are below the detectable limits of the pregnancy test kit.
There is a condition where a non-pregnant woman may manifest all the signs that indicate she is pregnant even to the extent of having a positive pregnancy test. This condition is called pseudopregnancy and is a result of the intense desire to become pregnant. There are cases when this can last the normal duration of pregnancy and sometimes even longer. There have been reports of men experiencing this condition too. The only way to distinguish between pseudopregnancy and real pregnancy in women is through the presence of a fetus during an ultrasound imaging.
Most of the signs of pregnancy are results of the bodily and hormonal changes that the body makes to accommodate and protect the growing baby inside the mother’s womb. When expecting to be pregnant, it is important that women should be aware of the early indications of pregnancy in order to be able to take good care of themselves and the growing life inside.