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Are You Pregnant? | Early Signs of Pregnancy

early pregnancy signs, changes
Your body goes through a number of changes in the earliest stages of pregnancy.
Credit: michaeljung | Shutterstock

Your body goes through a number of changes in the earliest stages of pregnancy. If you are pregnant, here's what has happened so far.

When a male ejaculates, the sperm moves its way through the cervix, into the uterus, and up into the fallopian tubes. If an egg is present, it is fertilized there, where it moves down to the uterus and continues to grow.

Hormonal changes will begin and affect nearly every organ in the woman's body. These hormones include human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin, prolactin and relaxin. Signs and symptoms may appear as early as a week after conception, but this varies from woman to woman. Some signs include:

  • Breast changes: Pregnancy hormones can make breasts tender, sensitive and sore. Breasts may feel enlarged, heavier or fuller. Nipples may also begin to protrude and darken, and veins on the chest may become more pronounced. The flood of progesterone can even cause unwanted hair on your breasts.
  • Fatigue: The first stages of pregnancy can cause shortness of breath, as the growing fetus needs oxygen. Feeling tired and exhausted is another sign of pregnancy, and may progress throughout the pregnancy as the progesterone hormone increases.
  • Morning sickness: Despite the moniker, morning sickness can happen morning, afternoon or night. This usually happens six weeks into a pregnancy, but can happen earlier for some women. Pregnant women may also notice that smells and scents that were previously unnoticed can cause now cause nausea. It is believed that this is caused by the rising HCG levels — women with higher HCG levels tend to have more nausea.
  • Frequent urination: During pregnancy, the body creates extra fluids, meaning increased urination.
  • Headaches: Changing hormones can cause headaches. If you take something for the pain, make sure it's pregnancy-safe acetaminophen instead of ibuprofen. You may also experience dizziness or fainting.
  • Body aches: Thanks to a flood of the hormone relaxin, your body's ligaments begin to loosen in preparation for the baby, causing lower back pains. You may also experience cramps as your uterus begins to stretch.
  • Cravings or aversions: Pregnancy can cause all kinds of food issues, such as cravings or aversions. Hormonal changes can make your once-favorite foods make you nauseous, or foods you once hated may suddenly seem delicious.
  • Digestive issues: Extra progesterone can slow down your digestive system, causing constipation or bloating.
  • Mood swings: The changing hormones can cause an emotional rollercoaster. Apologize to your loved ones in advance and promise them that the mood swings will eventually stop!
  • Bleeding: It may seem like a period, but spotting is a sign of pregnancy. This is lighter than a normal period, and a few days earlier than it may be expected. This is caused by implantation bleeding as the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall, causing slight vaginal bleeding.

Not all signs of pregnancy are bad — some women experience the pregnancy "glow" with radiant skin, thanks to the rising estrogen levels. There are a number of more telling signs, like missed periods, and of course, a positive pregnancy test. However, late periods can be caused by a number of other medical reasons, not just pregnancy. Stress, overexertion, weight problems, or sexually transmitted diseases can cause missed periods. If you miss your period, take a pregnancy test or contact your doctor.

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