Pregnancy symptoms

By Bupa

The symptoms of pregnancy can vary wildly in women. Here are some of the more common experiences and ideas for how to manage morning sickness.

The first signs of pregnancy

The first symptoms to show when you’re wondering ‘am I pregnant or not?’ are fatigue, going to the toilet a lot and sore, enlarging breasts. These three main symptoms become noticeable around the four or five week mark, which is usually when you first find out you’re pregnant. Some people might notice their urine takes on a funny smell, but that might take a second pregnancy to recognise.

While one woman might experience a range of symptoms, another might not have any at all. This isn’t a sign anything is wrong – the body reacts differently to pregnancy for everybody.

If you’ve been pregnant before, you may ‘feel pregnant’, or if you have some symptoms before your period is late you might decide to do a pregnancy test. Nowadays you don’t have to wait for your period to be late to take a home test, you can find out as early as four weeks. If the test turns up negative, don’t worry, it might be too early for the test you are using to detect the pregnancy hormones, but if it’s positive, you’re probably pregnant. The tests you buy in the pharmacy are generally pretty much as sensitive as the ones used in the doctors’ surgeries.

The first trimester

The first 3 months (trimester) is a really important time; the baby is developing, the placenta is forming, and your body is adapting to being pregnant. At about 6 – 8 weeks morning sickness tends to kick in. Despite the misleading name, it can occur at, or last, through morning, noon and night. For some, nausea and tiredness can last right through until 20 weeks. It typically calms down by about 13 –14 weeks.

Everyone's experience is different but common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomitting
  • Change is appetitie
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Food aversions or cravings
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation

Managing morning sickness

Morning sickness is different for everyone. Some women might be lucky enough not to feel sick at all, others might have mild nausea and some can feel very unwell. It’s the luck of the draw. It all comes down to the difference in hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy and your sensitivity to those hormonal fluctuations. We do say to people ‘talk to your mum’. A mother’s experience may give an indication of the sort of symptoms and delivery you can expect.

There is no one-size-fits-all cure for morning sickness. It’s down to what works for you. Listen to advice, try different things, but ultimately do what makes you feel better. Some people find eating small amounts often can help manage nausea, others find food makes them feel worse. You can try eating crystallised ginger or taking ginger tablets, which can help to reduce nausea, but if it’s bad enough you may need to take medication. There are medications your GP can prescribe that are quite safe to take in pregnancy.

For some women certain smells, or activities like having to take the bus to work, can make their nausea worse. So it’s about trial and error and moving around in ways that don’t make your nausea worse.

Managing fatigue

It’s just about getting sleep and not pushing yourself too hard. If you want to go to bed at 8.30 pm, go to bed and have a good night’s sleep. Your body is working much harder than it normally does and it needs more rest. There may be mental exhaustion too, so if you have an active job you may find it harder than usual. Keeping mentally fit and rested is really important so make the most of every opportunity to relax.

The second trimester

By the time you get to the 13 –14 week mark your baby will be fully formed, but still very tiny. You’ve also got an established placenta, and a growing  uterus. It’s more about growth than development at this stage, and things  stabilise in the body because of that. Now is the time when baby is growing big enough for organs to develop sufficiently so that he or she can survive out in the world. Typically morning sickness and fatigue tends to ease from about 13–14 weeks and the second trimester tends to be a really nice time.

Mood swings

Throughout pregnancy it’s common for women to experience ups and downs thanks to pregnancy hormones. It’s an exciting time, but hormones can cause emotional variations that are somewhat beyond your control. So if something annoys you, you may find that you are angrier than you would normally be, or if something is a bit sad you may be more likely to cry when otherwise you wouldn’t, and if something is really good you may be more excited than usual.

The third trimester

The third trimester continues the growth phase and your baby bump, which may look and feel like a large basketball at this stage, can start wearing you out. It might be hard to roll over in bed, stand from sitting or do some tasks around the home.

Some common symptoms at this stage include:

  • Fatigue
  • Back ache
  • Varicose veins
  • Sore feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Discomfort in the pelvis and hips
  • Swollen ankles

The tiredness may return and you might find yourself running to the toilet to pee more regularly as the baby’s head can put extra pressure on your  bladder. You might become short of breath as your uterus gets larger and  leaves less room for your lungs to expand.

Try to take it easy during this stage, you’re at an exciting point where you can start thinking about when you’re going to go into labour. Put your feet up  whenever you can, wear flat shoes and try using a heat pack to relieve back pain. It’s important to take care of yourself by eating nutrient rich foods and keeping up some regular gentle exercise. Remember you’re nearly there so do whatever you can to make yourself feel comfortable.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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