The Pregnancy Journey - Part 2 - The Early Symptoms

Early Symptoms of Pregnancy

Last month we looked at what to do when you find out you’re pregnant in terms of attending your GP, booking hospital appointments and whether or not to go for an early scan. This month we’ll be looking at the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy and commonly asked questions on bowels , cramps and bleeding.

The signs and symptoms of pregnancy can be divided into, “Possible Signs , Probable Signs and Positive Signs” of pregnancy. Many of you will experience the  “Possible Signs” of pregnancy in the early weeks and months as well as 1 or 2 “Positive Signs”.

Possible Signs of Pregnancy are as follows  

  • Missed / Late Period

  • Unusual or shorter/light period 

  • ‘Feeling’ pregnant 

  • Nausea & Vomiting 

  • Soreness & enlargement of your breasts 

  • Increased frequency in passing urine 

  • Cravings 

  • Tiredness 

  • Skin Changes i.e. Stretch marks 

  • Womb (uterus) getting bigger 

  • Movement 

  • Leaking colostrum from your breasts (16 weeks onwards) 

The reason these signs are said to be ‘Possible’ is because there are other conditions which can cause symptoms either on their own or some of them at the same time. 

Probable Signs of Pregnancy are as follows, 

  • Increasing size of your Abdomen ( tummy) 

  • Change in the shape of your Uterus 

  • Braxton Hicks Contractions 

  • Ability to feel (palpation) of your baby through your abdomen 

By this stage most women will be in their 2nd trimester! As your baby grows, so does your uterus and your abdomen – you start to look pregnant and people can see you as pregnant. Many of you will not feel Braxton Hicks contractions – especially if this is your fist pregnancy! Braxton Hicks are little contractions that your uterus performs hundreds of times a day without endangering you or your baby. It doesn’t mean that you will go into premature labour. As your uterus is a muscle and it is stretching and growing all the time – labour is the “marathon” it’s preparing for! So it needs to exercise itself in preparation for the big day! 

Positive Signs of Pregnancy are as follows 

  • Positive pregnancy test 

  • Presence of your baby’s heart beat 

  • Confirmation of your baby on ultrasound 

Many of you will have confirmed your pregnancy in the first couple of weeks with a positive pregnancy test and generally a lot of you will have had a scan to confirm your pregnancy within the first trimester. 

During the early days and weeks many women can feel frightened if they begin to have cramps and don’t know why. For most women feeling ‘full’ or ‘bloated’ or some women even feel slight cramps – as if they were expecting their period to start , is normal at the very beginning of their pregnancy. These ‘feelings’ account for the fertilized egg taking up room in your womb. It’s also because from very early on, your baby will release a hormone called ‘Relaxin’. Relaxin relaxes everything – from muscles to ligaments so your womb can stretch and grow as your pregnancy progresses. As your ligaments around your womb start to stretch this can cause slight cramping or an uncomfortable feeling in your pelvis.  If you start to experience severe pain or pain that doesn’t go away but increases especially in the first few weeks please attend your doctor or maternity hospital straight away. You may be experiencing an ‘Ectopic Pregnancy’. This is a pregnancy that implants itself in your fallopian tube and the doctor will perform a special scan and blood tests to determine whether this is the case. Some women also suffer from Urinary Tract Infections which can cause similar pains and need treatment. 

A lot of women suffer from constipation in the 1st trimester. This is due to a hormone called progesterone which slows down digestion. 2Litres of water, a healthy balanced diet with fruit and brown bread should help. Stay away from processed food, white bread & fizzy drinks. Never take any over the counter medication for constipation as this can cause bowel spasms which in turn can cause miscarriage. 

Bleeding is another symptom that women may experience during the first trimester. This may indicate anything from an ‘implantation bleed’ to signs of a possible / definite miscarriage. The most important thing to do is visit your Maternity hospital – even if you haven’t booked in yet. A scan will tell them what is happening. 

Next month  we’ll look at your time table for antenatal appointments and supplements you should and should not be taking as well as food to avoid.