How to spot the early signs of pregnancy
So you've done a pregnancy test and it's positive. Congratulations!
A woman's body goes through a lot of changes during pregnancy, even from early on. However, symptoms vary from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy, so don't worry if you don't get any symptoms or just a few. As a general rule, you will tend to have similar pregnancies to your mother. Some women will feel emotional as the increased level of hormones circulating in the body can play havoc with emotions.
Now that you're pregnant and you've done your due date calculator, you may be feeling some signs and symptoms of pregnancy. There are several early stages of pregnancy signs that women have. Pregnant women will start to feel these signs from 4-5 weeks of pregnancy onwards. Not all women will experience them; they vary from woman to woman and from each pregnancy. A lot of woman will follow their mother's experiences of pregnancy.
These are around 20 early pregnancy symptoms based on traditional Chinese medicine:
- Abdominal fat
- Hormone changes
- Lower back pain
- Nausea (morning sickness)
- Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) (chronic morning sickness)
- Increased sense of smell
- Food cravings
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Swollen, tender breasts
- Mood swings
- Lower abdominal twinges or cramps
- Pink or brown discharge
- Thick mucus discharge
- Weight gain
- Colour changes
- Genital varicose veins
Initially you might notice an extra band of fat around your abdomen, which acts as a source of food and warmth for your growing baby.
Tiredness is probably the earliest sign and the most common symptom. Even though the foetus is the size of an orange seed, it exerts great demands upon the body. Growing a new internal organ, the placenta takes a lot of energy and blood.
Bloating is actually a new layer of fat on the lower abdomen that helps to keep the uterus warm from the external cold, helping blood flow to the foetus.
It's quite normal to feel twinges and cramps during pregnancy. Even during the early weeks of pregnancy, as the increased blood flow and the growing of the placenta and the foetus sac all cause things within the uterus to move around and this applies pressure on surrounding parts of the body, causing twinges and sometimes pain.
There are many changes in the hormones of pregnant women, especially in the early weeks. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) rises sharply in early pregnancy, see below. hCG continues to maintain the corpus luteum for 3-4 months, thereby ensuring adequate levels of progesterone in conjunction with the placenta. As the placenta develops it starts to take over the production of progesterone from the corpus luteum. hCG levels rise by:
3 weeks 5-50
4 weeks 5-425
5 weeks 20-7,250
6 weeks 1,050-56,500
7-8 weeks 7,500-230,000
9-12 weeks 25,500-290,000
Lower back pain
Lower back pain can be the kidney being drained of essence (jing) as the mother gives some of her essence to her baby.
Nausea (morning sickness) is a well-known sign of pregnancy, however not all women will experience it. Nausea can happen at any time of the day, day or night and not just in the morning. Generally, it stops around 12 weeks, but many women can still experience it after 12 weeks gestation. Eating dry foods every 2 hours will help to reduce this sign.
Chronic morning sickness is called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and can be serious, where it could impact on the pregnancy. It is severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and possibly dehydration. Often pregnant women are hospitalised to treat this problem.
Increased sense of smell
An increased sense of smell is an animalistic sign that would have helped protect pregnant women in the wild thousands of years ago. It can still be used in modern times to help women avoid harmful pollutants such as smoking or chemicals.
Taste in the mouth
Another well known early sign of pregnancy is food cravings. Most women will experience this. A lot of pregnant women will start of well eating healthy foods and then will crave other foods. Some women will crave carbs, which is normal or even junk food. I believe that the body has a memory and will crave certain foods as it needs certain nutrients or minerals contained in them.
Some woman might have a strange tastes in your mouth, like a metallic taste, which is normal. Not all women will experience this.
Swollen, tender breasts
A lot of women will experience swollen, tender breasts when pregnant. This is caused by hormonal changes in the body. Breast sizes can increase a lot in pregnancy, so much so that many women will need to buy a larger size bra. It's best to buy one that doesn't have a wire in it that can cut into you.
Dizziness comes from being too tired. Being dizzy is a sign of weakness so if you feel this sign, rest, eat and sleep. Mood swings also stem from tiredness.
Lower abdominal twinges and cramps are perfectly normal and nothing to be afraid of. A lot of changes are going on in the uterus which can cause twinges and some pain.
Pink discharge is implanting bleeding as the fertilised egg attaches to the uterus wall and is perfectly normal. However, most women won't experience this sign. Some women might even have some light bleeding in pregnancy, which can happen and doesn't always mean that it's a miscarriage.
Brown discharge is old blood being released from the uterus and is perfectly normal. It's actually a good thing as the pregnancy is healing the uterus of old pockets of blood. Don't be alarmed if you get this.
Extra thick mucus is the cervix plug being formed by pregnancy hormones. A plug of thick mucus seals the uterus preventing any foreign bacteria from entering the uterus and harming the foetus.
Women put on average around 12kg of weight during pregnancy. This is normal.
Body colour changes
Nipples can become darker in colour as well as the midline of the stomach (linea nigra).
Around 10% of pregnant women will experience genital varicose veins. This is generally caused by increased blood flow along to the genitals together with some blood stasis. It's more common in a second pregnancy, although some women will still experience it in their first pregnancy. In such cases I would recommend using arnica and witch-hazel balm externally and keep the area cool, for example wear dresses rather than trousers. You can also drink mint tea to help cool you down.