What Are the Symptoms of Pregnancy?

The Most Common Symptoms and When They Happen

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During pregnancy, from the point at which the egg is fertilized all the way to when labor starts, your body will go through many changes and you will experience a variety of symptoms.

Early signs you may be pregnant include a missed period, tender breasts, fatigue, and nausea. As your pregnancy progresses, and your baby grows, your musculoskeletal system will start to be impacted and you may experience back and/or leg pain.

However, not everyone will experience pregnancy in the same way and it is normal to experience different symptoms from others.

Pregnant person reports her symptoms and concerns to a healthcare professional

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Trimesters

Symptoms tend to be more common depending on what stage you are in, though some are common throughout pregnancy.

First Trimester

The first trimester is from conception to week 13. A primary sign you may be pregnant is missing a menstrual period or missing two or more consecutive menstrual periods.

However, you may experience other symptoms before this point. Early symptoms include:

  • Slight bleeding: You may experience slight bleeding or spotting that is lighter in color than your normal menstrual blood. This can happen when the egg is fertilized, but is often seen during the first weeks of pregnancy.
  • Tender, swollen breasts or nipples: As your body experiences changes in its hormones, your breasts may feel sore or tingly. They may also feel fuller or heavier than normal. You may experience this as early as one to two weeks after conception.
  • Tiredness: Early on in your pregnancy, your body produces more of the hormone progesterone. This helps maintain pregnancy and encourages your body to grow milk-producing glands in your breasts. Along with the fact that you are now pumping more blood to carry nutrients to your baby, this hormonal change can make you feel tired.
  • Nausea and/or vomiting: Though this is often referred to as “morning sickness,” it is common to experience nausea and/or vomiting at any time during the day. This symptom can start anywhere from two to eight weeks after conception and can continue throughout pregnancy. 
  • Headaches: These can be triggered by the sudden increase in hormones you experience during the early pregnancy stages, but are common throughout pregnancy. 
  • Changes in mood: Hormonal changes can also trigger sharp changes in mood. These can start as early as a few weeks after conception.
  • Frequent urination: In the first trimester, the body produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin. This increases blood flow to your pelvic region, which may cause you to urinate more often; however, this symptom is also common throughout pregnancy.
  • Vaginal discharge: You may see more vaginal discharge when you are pregnant. Note that you should call your doctor if it is greenish in color, has a foul odor, or causes itchiness or pain.
  • Food cravings or aversions: You may start craving certain foods or developing a sudden dislike for foods you would normally like. This can carry on throughout pregnancy.

Missing a period does not always mean that you are pregnant and may be a sign of something else. You should speak to a doctor if you are experiencing menstrual irregularities or changes to your menstrual cycle, including missed or irregular periods or excessive bleeding.

Second Trimester

The second trimester is from week 14 to week 27. During this period, you may experience less severe symptoms than at other times during your period. For example, morning sickness usually starts to fade at the end of the first trimester.

While most of the symptoms you will experience during this period will be those that are common throughout pregnancy, such as headaches and frequent urination, some symptoms are specific to this trimester.

One of these is lower abdominal pain—mild aching and/or pain in your stomach that lasts for a short period of time. This most often occurs between weeks 18 and 24, as your fetus grows.

Your second trimester is also when you may first start to experience Braxton Hicks contractions. These are also called false labor contractions and are common during pregnancy.

You may feel your abdomen tighten for about half a minute a couple of times a day, or feel it harden and remain tense for several seconds. These contractions can be painful and may be mistaken for labor, but they are not a sign that you are going into active labor.

Call your doctor if you experience severe and constant abdominal pain and if you are bleeding or have a fever. This may indicate more severe problems.

Third Trimester

The third trimester is from week 28 to the end of pregnancy. Common symptoms you may experience during this phase include:

  • Back pain: You might experience back pain at any time in your pregnancy, but it is most common in the last trimester. While most pregnant people will experience some kind of back or musculoskeletal pain, a quarter are thought to experience symptoms that are severe enough to be at least temporarily disabling.
  • Frequent urination: During the third trimester, you will need to urinate more often as you get closer to delivery due to your baby descending into your pelvis.
  • Constipation: This is normal during pregnancy and is caused by hormonal changes slowing your digestive system. You may find constipation gets worse in the third trimester as your uterus puts pressure on your rectum.
  • Swollen legs: As you get closer to giving birth, you may experience swelling in your legs. This is caused by your uterus putting pressure on your veins. You may also notice your veins becoming larger.

Complications

Some symptoms may indicate that you are experiencing complications during your pregnancy.

Depression and Anxiety

You may have heard of postpartum depression, which occurs after the birth of a baby. However, people can also experience mental health conditions during pregnancy, including depression and anxiety.

In these conditions, you may:

  • Feel overwhelmed
  • Feel sad
  • Be severely worried
  • Be agitated
  • Experience fatigue
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Have difficulty sleeping

It is thought that up to 15% of people will experience high levels of depressive symptoms during pregnancy.

Speak to your doctor if you experience these symptoms. Effective treatment is available, and early treatment will increase the chance of successful recovery.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related high blood pressure disorder estimated to occur in 3.4% of pregnancies in the United States. It is not known what causes it.

In preeclampsia, there is an abnormality in the functioning of the placenta and the maternal vascular system. This can result in the fetus getting less oxygen and fewer nutrients. It can also lead to preterm birth and stillbirth.

Signs you may have preeclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Swelling in the hands and face
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Abdominal pain in your upper right side
  • Protein in your urine (detected by a lab test)

Preeclampsia usually happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy. If your blood pressure is high, especially after this point, your doctor will do more tests to diagnose whether you have this disorder. In severe cases, you may be admitted to the hospital so that your doctor can closely monitor you and your condition.

Gestational Diabetes

This is diabetes—high blood sugar—that develops during pregnancy in someone who did not have diabetes before. It involves the hormonal changes your body experiences during pregnancy, causing your body to either not make enough insulin or not use it normally.

Common symptoms of gestational diabetes include:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Swelling in the hands and face

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy ends. However, it does increase your risk of diabetes after pregnancy, so it is very important that you follow up with your doctor to test for this.

Miscarriage

Miscarriage is the term used to describe a pregnancy loss due to natural causes before 20 weeks.

Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Abdominal pain or cramps
  • Clot-like material passing from the vagina

Miscarriage is most common during the first trimester. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy loss during this period happens in about 10% of known pregnancies.

Coping

Dealing with the changes your body experiences during pregnancy can be difficult. You can do things to help relieve the pain or discomfort caused by the increased pressure on your body.

Strategies include:

  • Do regular, gentle exercise, including stretches. Speak to your doctor about exercises specifically for your back if you have bad back pain.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow between your legs.
  • Sit in a chair with good back support.
  • Avoid standing up for too long.
  • Bend your knees when picking things up. Remember not to bend at your waist.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.
  • Use heat or cold on the sore part of your body.
  • Get a massage. If you go to a professional massage therapist, it is important to let them know you are pregnant.

A Word From Verywell

Everyone experiences pregnancy differently, so you may not experience all the symptoms listed. The symptoms you experience can be challenging, but do not feel that you have to go through your pregnancy alone. Seek support from loved ones, and speak to your doctor about your concerns.

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Article Sources
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