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Health & Pregnancy

8 Early Signs of Pregnancy

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You haven't missed your period yet, but something seems different. Are there other clues that you're pregnant?

Some women notice changes in their energy level, mood, or breasts -- a lot like having PMS. Other signs might take you by surprise, like fainting, a shift in your sense of smell, or more bathroom visits.

Your changing hormones kick into gear, even before you take that pregnancy test. 

Tender Breasts

One of the first signs is often achy, tender breasts. They may feel fuller and heavier. You might even notice the area around your nipple getting bigger and darker.

Most early pregnancy symptoms, including tender breasts, are related to rising levels of the hormone progesterone, says Treesa McLean, a licensed midwife. Another reason your breasts swell is that your body keeps more water during pregnancy, which can make you feel bloated, too.

"Wear a good supportive bra, especially when exercising," McLean says.

Fatigue

"Women who have never been able to nap before often suddenly start needing naps during the first trimester," says Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD. At this point, it's the extra progesterone that's making you feel wiped out.

You can look forward to a bit of an energy boost in your second trimester, but expect the exhaustion to creep back as you enter the home stretch, she says. The best thing to do is go with it: Head to bed earlier, and steal the chance to snooze when you can.

Mood Swings

Those hormone changes that make you emotional during your monthly cycle stick around for early pregnancy, too.

And once you know you're pregnant, you might get stressed out about the idea of becoming a parent. "Even if it's planned, there can be a lot of fear," Conry says. "We see the positive pregnancy test and have the baby's life -- and the rest of our lives -- planned in a moment."

Fatigue and hunger can make mood swings worse, McLean says, so try to find time to rest and eat small snacks throughout the day.

You're likely to feel better by 14 to 16 weeks, Conry says. If you don't, bring it up with your OB or midwife. She can recommend someone to provide support through the pregnancy and after.

Feeling Lightheaded

Some women get very lightheaded or dizzy during early pregnancy. Some even have fainting spells. It could be hormones, or it might low blood pressure, McLean says.

See your OB or midwife to get a better idea of what's going on. If your blood sugar is low, try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day.

For many women, the spacey feeling gets better after the first trimester, she says.

Nausea and Vomiting

Queasiness can start early on, although full-blown nausea and vomiting usually don't usually show up until 7 to 9 weeks, Conry says. Small, frequent, protein-rich meals can help control your uneasy stomach. Staying hydrated can, too.

To help fluids go down easily, McLean suggests adding cucumber slices or strawberries to water. Diluted fruit juice, ginger tea, or a basic pregnancy tea (they usually contain red raspberry leaf and nettles) are also good options. Mint tea can help with nausea, but she warns it can make heartburn, another common pregnancy symptom, worse.

A snack before bed, like a small piece of cheese and some nuts, can help steady your blood sugar overnight so you don't wake up feeling very sick.

Nausea usually disappears by 12 weeks, though some people find it lasts through 16 weeks, and it doesn't go away for others. Check in with your doctor or midwife if you're vomiting so much you're not keeping anything down or you're losing weight, McLean says. There are medications that help extreme morning sickness.

Disgusted by Specific Foods

Can't stand the smell -- much less the taste -- of certain foods? Some women find that one of their first signs of pregnancy is a heightened sense of smell. It makes scents they were OK with before absolutely sickening. Other women develop a funny taste in their mouth that they just can't get rid of, McLean says.

If whole groups of foods are literally off the table because they make you feel like you're going to heave, don't worry about the baby. "The baby is so good at absorbing nutrients from the mom at this stage. It's the mom that suffers, not the fetus," Conry says.

Take a prenatal vitamin to make sure you're getting nutrients and folic acid, which you need to prevent certain birth defects. Drink lots of liquids, too. As long as you avoid getting dehydrated, you should get through this phase just fine, she says. You'll likely lose your disgust as you head into your second trimester.

Peeing Often

Your kidneys have to process more urine during pregnancy. Plus, your uterus getting bigger puts pressure on your bladder. Together, that's a lot of trips to the bathroom.

"Some women who don't know that they're pregnant think they have a bladder infection," Conry says.

Having to get up in the middle of the night to pee may be annoying, but don't cut back on how much you're drinking, says McLean. You need extra fluids to keep enough water in your body.

Spotting and Cramping

Cramping or a bit of blood starting a little earlier than you expect your period may be a sign that the fertilized egg is getting attached in the uterus.

Even bleeding that continues to your sixth or seventh week can be normal. At that point, Conroy says, your doctor can do an ultrasound to make sure the baby is developing normally.

Reviewed on August 07, 2014

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