Early signs of pregnancy
The only way nature permits the creation of a human life is by the union of a sperm and an egg, and the nurturing of the product of this union can only take place in the most ideal of environments; the womb. Pregnancy is the most critical physiological (normal) process that a woman would ever go through. In fact, it is the commonest reason why a woman visits a hospital, whether for antenatal booking/clinic, child delivery, treatment of illnesses specific to pregnancy, or even to seek medical solutions to infertility. The process lasts for approximately nine months, divided into three trimesters, each lasting about 13 weeks. Gestational (pregnancy) age is calculated from the 1st day of the Last Normal Mentrual Period, which is actually approximately two weeks before conception actually occurs. Hence, many women only get to confirm their pregnancies after about 4-6 weeks, when the monthly visitor fails to show up or other symptoms begin to creep in.
The experience varies amongst different individuals; while some people don’t feel so much stress, such that they don’t mind going through the process as much as ten times, a good number just can’t wait to get it done with. The symptoms can be so disturbing to the point of terminating the pregnancy. Although, pregnancy is a very stressful event, most people will go through the entire process without any serious complications, and have normal, uneventful and timely vaginal delivery at the end. Most of the symptoms subside, or more accurately put, become less disturbing as the pregnancy advances. Do you wake every morning trying to figure out why your usual body mechanism has become disorganized? Or you do you just feel unwell?
You might be pregnant!! Read on, as we unravel the early signs of pregnancy.
This is the most invariable of all the symptoms, experienced by all pregnant women in the immediate circle after fertilization has occurred. According to medical science, it is impossible to menstruate while pregnant, and this is only reasonable, because menstruation involves the periodical shedding of the Endometrium (lining of the womb). Therefore, erosion of the Endometrium would inadvertently wash the implanted product of conception down the reproductive tract. However, I have seen women have their usual 28-day period while pregnant. The most recent I came across was a woman who was already three months pregnant and still had her usual cycle, with the baby developing as expected, according to some clinical parameters and test reports. Just before you start querying the veracity of my claims, there might only be a reduction in the volume and/or duration of the flow during early pregnancy, and not necessarily an outright cessation. So, just as the absence of menses doesn’t always mean pregnancy, also, the fact that your monthly visitor came as expected doesn’t totally rule out the possibility of the “9 months phenomenon.” The only way to clear all this confusion is by carrying out a pregnancy test. The timeline for resumption of the normal menstrual cycle varies amongst different women. However, most people begin to menstruate within two months after they cease to exclusively breastfeed their babies.
One of the earliest signs, and affects almost all women. In the 1st few weeks of pregnancy, many things make pregnant women unnecessarily tired, easily fatigued, physically exhausted and sleepy. These include; a low blood (haemoglobin) level, increased hormones (progesterone), low blood pressure and low blood sugar. It is commoner during the 1st pregnancy, not necessarily because the causative factors have been eliminated. A good way to look at it is that, as people become experienced in child-bearing, they know what to expect and prepare their minds adequately for it. You should try to eat frequently, and force yourself to be a little active in spite of this fatigue. Also, your doctor will likely place you on some blood-boosters during your antenatal clinic visit.
Nausea and vomiting
Almost all women suffer this symptoms in the few weeks after conception, and this would’ve resolved almost completely by the end of the 1st trimester (13 weeks). It is commonly termed “Morning Sickness” when it occurs mostly at the start of the day and is associated with poor appetite, anxiety, low mood and malaise (feeling unwell). The Gastrointestinal tract becomes increasingly irritable early in pregnacy, resulting in nausea, with or without vomiting. It is said to be due to an increase in some hormones, particularly HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) and Oestrogen. Apart from this chemical factors, a low blood pressure, low blood sugar, alteration in metabolism and other micronutrient deficiencies all contribute to Morning Sickness. If the vomiting is persistent and frequent, it is called Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which can lead to problems in the woman as well as the developing fetus. Extreme cases of this symptom, although very rare, can be an indication for therapeutic termination of pregnancy.
There’s a decrease in gut motility as a result of increased blood progesterone levels seen in pregnancy, which could result in constipation. Reduced fluid intake due to nausea could also worsen this symptom. An increase in water intake, and consumption of fruits, vegetables and high fibre meals will go a long way in ameliorating or even preventing this symptom.
There is usually an increase in the volume of vaginal discharge during pregnancy. However, a whitish, foul-smelling, and itchy discharge might suggest that infection has set in and you might need to see a doctor on that account. There might also be spotting of blood early on in pregnancy, probably due to the implantation of the product of conception few days to two weeks after fertilization.
Medically termed Ptyalism. It can be a very annoying occurrence with associated spitting. This is due to hormonal changes that occur early in pregnancy. It is often worsened by concomitant nausea, and in turn makes Morning Sickness extremely unpleasant. Some women have been able to cope with it by chewing gum, taking mint sweets and brushing their teeth multiple times in a day.
Light headedness and dizziness
Some people experience dizziness, especially when trying to stand from a chair or bed (postural). This could be due to some earlier mentioned factors; a decrease in blood pressure, low blood sugar. Headaches are also not infrequent and this might be as a result of an increase in the caliber of blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow. Not all pain killers are safe for your baby, so you should see your doctor if the headaches become unbearable.
Asides the aforementioned symptoms, people just feel unwell during pregnancy, without being able to pinpoint any particular feeling or attribute it to any cause. It becomes less troubling for a good number of women as pregnancy progresses.
Loss of appetite/cravings
The sense of taste often alters early in pregnancy, with reduction in appetite. It might be associated with cravings, and some people may even binge on a particular type/group of food.
Women may become anxious early in pregnancy, with a reduction in mood and lack of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable. This often occurs as a part of “Morning Sickness” but can also exist independently at any time of the day. The stress of
Abdominal and low back cramps, and breast pain are other things you might feel in the 1st few weeks of pregnancy. The body temperature could also be slightly higher than usual.
The list is not exhaustive, as there are many other experiences which vary between individuals. It is also worthy of note to state that, although these symptoms are frequently encountered by pregnant women, they are not specific to pregnancy. Other health conditions can present themselves in a similar way. It therefore only makes sense that you visit your doctor so that appropriate steps could be taken.