While trying to conceive, you may be anxiously looking for early symptoms of pregnancy. However, pregnancy symptoms aren't the trusted indicators of pregnancy. Read on to know more.
By Dr Shyam Kumar
Are you trying to conceive or suspect an unplanned pregnancy? Then, you must be keeping an eye out for typical early symptoms of pregnancy that manifest in the first month of pregnancy.
However, early signs of pregnancy can differ from woman to woman. Also, not every symptom is experienced during each pregnancy. Another interesting fact is that, you may experience symptoms similar to pregnancy even when you haven't conceived. But, these early pregnancy symptoms before a missed period can also be attributed to causes other than pregnancy.
Here are some typical pregnancy symptoms that, in the absence of a pregnancy test, may mislead you into believing that you're pregnant:
Missed period: A missed period is considered the most commonly reported first symptom of pregnancy. However, a missed period can also be the result of various other conditions such as excessive weight gain or loss, thyroid abnormalities, changes in hormone levels, fatigue or exhaustion, tension and stress, change in contraceptive usage or illnesses. If you are not experiencing any other early signs of pregnancy, chances are that you are not pregnant.
Nausea and morning sickness: Most expecting women experience a feeling of nausea or vomiting to some degree. It is the second most commonly reported symptom indicating pregnancy. Nausea and morning sickness typically shows up anywhere between 2 and 8 weeks post conception. But, there are many other reasons which can make you feel queasy such as side effects of some medication, food poisoning, change in hormone levels, tension and stress, and various gastric ailments. All these can cause mild to severe symptoms of nausea.
Tender or swollen breasts: Some women note swelling, tenderness or discomfort in their breasts — all signs of an impending pregnancy. These are usually caused by changes in hormone levels that usually occur when a woman becomes pregnant. Again, breast discomfort doesn't necessarily mean that you are pregnant. Oestrogen levels can escalate just before the start of the next menstrual cycle and cause slight chest discomfort. Fibrocystic breast tissue, a normal condition, can cause pain and tenderness. Also, moderate weightlifting or exercise can be a reason for breast tenderness.
Fatigue or tiredness: The first trimester of pregnancy is marked by rising levels of progesterone. An impending menstrual period in non-pregnant women can cause the progesterone level to rise. This can induce early pregnancy-like symptoms such as fatigue or tiredness, as well as breast tenderness, headaches and moodiness. But, fatigue can also be attributed to other potential causes such as excessive tension or stress, too much physical activity, depression or mental health issues, allergies or other ailments, common cold or flu, lack of sleep and improper nutrition. Common medical conditions such as anaemia, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney or liver problems, and obesity can be contributory factors to fatigue.
Light bleeding and cramping: Light bleeding (spotting) and cramping are two symptoms which indicate pregnancy, although they also resemble the beginning of a menstrual cycle. Spotting is a result of a fertilised egg attaching itself to the uterine wall approximately two weeks after conception. It is also called implantation bleeding. Spotting is accompanied by a pink or brownish discharge, faint or light stomach cramping, mood swings and headaches. Implantation bleeding can be easily confused with a period as it occurs at roughly the same time. However, with an actual period, the discharge is bright or vibrant red in colour, the cramping much lighter, and the duration much longer, confirming a negative pregnancy.
Frequent urination: The urge to urinate more often can be an early pregnancy symptom. Some alternative explanations for this condition include high calcium level, combination of pregnancy hormones, urinary tract infections, diabetes, an increase in liquid intake or diuretic use.
Abdominal bloating: Hormonal changes during early pregnancy may slow down your digestive system, resulting in constipation and increased bloating sensation. This feeling is similar to what you may feel right before the beginning of a period. Causes of bloating also include accumulation of gas, eating quickly, consuming foods that are difficult to digest, side effects of birth control pills or some medication, as well as some other medical conditions.
Food craving or aversion: This can be an early symptom of pregnancy and is commonly associated with the symptom of morning sickness. It is caused by the rapidly increasing levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone in the body and can continue into the first trimester. In non-pregnant women, food craving or aversion can be attributed to lack of nutritious diet, anxiety, stress, depression or even impending menstruation.
Headaches: Some women may experience headaches in the initial stages of pregnancy. But, headaches could be a sign of impending menstruation, hunger, dehydration, high caffeine intake or withdrawal, stress, eye strain and other illnesses.
Lower backache: It is common to experience back pain during the early stages of pregnancy. As your body gets ready for birth, the joints and ligaments start loosening up. These changes can cause backache. But, backache can be explained by other causes such as impending menstruation, injury, stress, strains, improper lifting of weight, and improper sleep posture and mattress choice.
You would have realised by now that the above-mentioned common conditions can mimic most early pregnancy symptoms. So, if you experience symptoms of pregnancy, you can confirm your suspicion by taking a urine pregnancy test at home after you have missed your period.
However, although a home pregnancy test is considered highly accurate, there is a small chance that the test may give a false-positive result. So, it is recommended that you visit an obstetrician/gynaecologist to further confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor can conduct a blood pregnancy test which accurately detects HCG levels early on in pregnancy.
If your doctor confirms that you are pregnant, clear any doubts you may have and follow the recommended prenatal visit schedule. This would also help prevent complications and detect any abnormalities such as an ectopic pregnancy or missing foetal heartbeat.
About the author:
Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 8 April 2019
The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.
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