Significant hormonal changes take place during pregnancy. These hormonal changes can cause a wide range of symptoms. While some women may experience all the symptoms of pregnancy while others only have a few, others may experience many.
Early pregnancy symptoms include missed periods and breast changes, fatigue, frequent urination, nausea and vomiting (morning sick). These symptoms could be due to other factors, and they do not necessarily indicate that you are pregnant. If you think you might have an early pregnancy, take a home test and consult your GP.
In the latter stages of pregnancy, there are many changes that can happen in your body, such as backache, headaches, leg cramps or veins, itching or tingling and haemorrhoids, constipation, haemorrhoids, indigestion, vaginal discharge or vaginal bleeding, mood changes, depression, or vaginal infections.
Talk to your GP if you have any questions. If you have symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, breaking waters, chronic pain or severe headaches, consult your GP immediately.
Signs of pregnancy
Early pregnancy signs can include:
- Missed period
- Nausea and vomiting, also known as’morning sickness’ or’morning sickness’, can happen at any time.
- Breast tenderness and breast enlargement
- Particularly at night, you pass urine more often than usual.
- Dysgeusia is a condition where you feel compelled to eat certain foods or have a strong desire to eat them.
Stress or illness can cause many signs of pregnancy such as a missed period (amenorrhoea), nausea, or tiredness.
Sometimes, the first sign of possible pregnancies is a missed period. Some women may experience light bleeding at the time of their period.
Nausea and vomiting
More than half of pregnant women suffer from’morning sickness’. You may experience nausea, vomiting, and loss in appetite. Morning sickness symptoms aren’t only experienced in the morning by most women, they can also be felt throughout the day.
Morning sickness is most common in the fourth-to sixth week of pregnancy. It can resolve by week 12, but it can last longer and return around 32 weeks.
Breasts can become larger, more tender, and swollen during pregnancy. These changes are similar in appearance to the ones you noticed in the days leading up to your period. The skin around the nipple gets darker during pregnancy and the veins in your breasts become more visible.
Early pregnancy is characterized by fatigue and excessive sleepiness. The massive rise in progesterone, the sex hormone, is likely to be the cause. While progesterone is necessary to keep the pregnancy alive and to help the baby grow, it can also slow down your metabolism.
During this stage, try to get more sleep and rest. When the placenta has established itself, your energy levels will likely rise again around the fourth month.
Anaemia is a condition that causes tiredness in pregnancy. It is most often caused by iron deficiency. Iron-rich foods are important for preventing iron deficiency anaemia in pregnancy. Iron supplements are used to treat anaemia during pregnancy.
Pregnancy can cause an increase in body fluid levels and greater kidney efficiency. The bladder is also affected by the pressure caused by the swelling of the uterus. Most women notice a greater frequency of urination after becoming pregnant.
You have food cravings
Pregnancy is not uncommon for cravings for certain foods, especially those that are rich in calcium and energy, like milk or other dairy products. It is possible to suddenly dislike foods that you used to love.
Women can even have an unusual taste in non-food items like soil and paper. This is known as ‘pica’, and could indicate a nutrient shortage. If this happens, please consult your GP or midwife.
Other signs and symptoms of pregnancy
These symptoms could also indicate other conditions. If in doubt, see your GP.
- Back ache
- Haemorrhoids (piles).
- Heartburn and indigestion
- itchy skin
- leg cramps
- Mood changes (such as unexplained crying).
- Tingling or numbness in the hands
- vaginal discharge
- Varicose veins, leg swelling (oedema)
More than one third of pregnant women experience back pain. This can be caused by a loosening or changing of posture as a result of a growing baby.
Flat heeled shoes can be worn during pregnancy to reduce back pain. Water exercise can help reduce back pain during pregnancy. Physiotherapy and acupuncture might also be helpful.
Your lung capacity increases at the beginning of pregnancy thanks to the hormone progesterone. This allows you to deliver more oxygen to your baby, and eliminate waste products like carbon dioxide. You inhale and exhale more air each time you take a deep breath. This can cause you to feel short of breath.
Additionally, your breathing can feel less labored as you approach term due to the increased pressure from your diaphragm and enlarging baby.
If you have sudden breathlessness, consult your doctor or midwife.
- palpitations (heart pounding)
- extreme tiredness
Constipation is a condition that causes infrequent, difficult bowel movements and makes it difficult for people to pass. Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. It can be caused by pregnancy hormones that slow down your gastrointestinal movements, or the pressure on your rectum by your growing uterus.
You should seek medical attention if you have constipation while pregnant.
- Get plenty of water each day.
- You can increase your intake of dietary fiber (such as bran and wheat, fresh fruits and vegetables).
- Do gentle, low-impact exercise like swimming, walking, or yoga.
Do not take any over-the-counter laxatives before consulting your GP or midwife. Your GP can recommend a safe laxative for pregnancy if you make changes in your lifestyle and diet.
Haemorrhoids, also known as piles, can occur from straining from constipation and the pressure on your baby’s head. You can be assured that most symptoms will resolve quickly after birth.
It is recommended to seek medical attention if you are experiencing bleeding due to haemorrhoids, itching or other discomfort.
- Increase your water intake and fiber intake to prevent or alleviate constipation.
- Warm salty water is best for 15 minutes after a bowel movement.
- Apply haemorrhoid lotion.
Talk to your GP or midwife if the bleeding continues or you feel pain.
If you experience headaches during pregnancy, consult your GP or midwife immediately.
Pre-eclampsia, a condition that affects your kidneys and can cause persistent headaches. This condition can also increase blood pressure and reduce blood flow to your baby.
Indigestion and heartburn
Indigestion, also known as heartburn or reflux, is the sensation of acid entering the oesophagus and causing discomfort.
Due to the increased pressure on the abdominal organs and the action hormone progesterone, which relaxes the muscles between the stomach and oesophagus, indigestive problems are more common during pregnancy.
It is recommended to consult a doctor if you have heartburn, reflux, or indigestion.
- Take small, frequent meals.
- Do not eat before you go to bed.
- You can elevate your head by using extra pillows while you sleep.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes
- Avoid food and fluids that can exacerbate symptoms, such as fatty foods, fatty meats, and pastry, spicy foods (including chilli and curry), and alcohol and caffeine (including teas, coffees, chocolates, and cola).
- Before you take antacids, consult your doctor.
These strategies may not be effective in relieving your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a medication to safely lower the acid secretion.
Itching all over the body is uncommon during pregnancy. It can cause distress and interfere with your ability to sleep or enjoyment of pregnancy. Itching may not be obvious. Rarely, it could be due to liver disease. A blood test can check this.
Leg cramps are caused by an acid buildup that causes involuntary contractions of affected muscles. These cramps can be experienced by as many as half of pregnant women. They usually occur at night. The second and third trimesters are more susceptible to leg cramps.
Leg cramps can be caused by leg cramps.
- Take a walk around.
- Massage the affected muscles to release the acids.
- Warm up the affected muscles.
Talk to your doctor or midwife if cramps are a problem.
Changes in mood
Newly pregnant women may experience mood changes, such as irritability and agitation. Some women who are pregnant experience feelings of joy. The hormones of pregnancy influence brain chemicals, which can cause mood changes.
One in 10 pregnant women suffer from depression. Depression can be treated. It is important to seek help if you feel depressed or down during pregnancy. As soon as you feel depressed, please contact your doctor, midwife, or maternal and infant health nurse.
Carpal tunnel syndrome: Tingling and numbness in the hands
Carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes tingling and numbness to the hands, can affect up to 60% of pregnant women. The result is due to compression of the median nerve caused by an increase in tissue fluids during pregnancy.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be mild, severe, or intermittently painful. It may result in partial paralysis or loss of sensation. Most symptoms resolve quickly after birth.
Your doctor should be notified if you feel tingling or numbness in the hands. Your doctor may recommend that you have corticosteroid injections, or even surgical treatment in severe cases.
A common pregnancy change is an increase in vaginal fluid. Itchy, painful, or a persistent odour, then this could be a sign of infection. Get treatment from your GP.
Vaginal inflammation is a common complaint that many women experience. It’s more common during pregnancy. It can be caused by vaginal yeast, bacteria vaginosis or trichomoniasis. For diagnosis and treatment, consult your GP.
Varicose veins, leg swelling (oedema)
Varicose veins in the legs are quite common during pregnancy. This is due to a combination factors including an increased volume of blood and the pressure on larger veins by the pregnant uterus. Oedema, which is an increase in pressure on the veins, can cause swelling and pain.
It is recommended to treat varicose veins.
- Support stockings are a must-have
- Do not stand for too long.
- Walking or swimming is a gentle and regular exercise.
- When you are able, lie down with your feet raised.
- Try massaging your legs.
- At your next visit to the doctor or midwife, tell them.
How to recognize signs and symptoms of pregnancy.
If you are concerned or have any of these symptoms during pregnancy, it is a good idea to contact your doctor or carer.
- Vaginal bleeding
- Your baby will move less than normal
- severe stomach pain
- Pain that won’t go away
- Leakage of amniotic fluid (that’s, if your waters burst)
- High temperatures
- You can’t stop vomiting
- A headache that won’t go away
- Vision loss or blurred vision
- Itching and scaling of the skin is common
- Sudden swelling of the face, hands, and feet
Where can I get help?
- Call 000 for an ambulance in an emergency
- Your GP
- Your midwife
- Your obstetrician
- Maternity hospital
- Your pharmacist