Pregnancy signs and symptoms
Here we look at the following pregnancy symptoms and signs:
- Change of appetite or changes in your food preference
- Feelings of sickness, nausea and sometimes periods of vomiting or retching
- A strange taste in your mouth
- Frequency of urination
- Breast changes
- Mood swings
- Bleeding/light spotting
- Cramping/tummy aches
The first reliable sign of early pregnancy is a missed period together with a positive pregnancy test – today’s tests are accurate and give a reliable result shortly after conception.
Most women also have other early signs of being pregnant in the first weeks and months, in addition to their periods stopping. Here we outline the most common symptoms.
Pregnancy cravings for certain foods typically happen later on but you may develop them early on. The cause of these cravings is not well understood, though it’s sometimes suggested that they reflect the body’s needs for particular nutrients.
Unfortunately, it isn’t clear what causes sickness during pregnancy. Various explanations have been put forward, including changing levels of hormones; lack of vitamin B6; and your body trying to protect you and the baby from things like caffeine or petrol fumes (smells often make you feel worse).
If your symptoms are severe and you feel very poorly, or your sickness becomes difficult to cope with, or you are unable to eat or drink normally, then seek advice from your midwife.
You may have a metallic taste in your mouth. You may also notice smells and tastes more strongly, as well as developing an aversion for foods you used to like, or equally, start enjoying foods you used to dislike. This is one of the more common pregnancy symptoms. Just as with cravings, there is no formal explanation, but it does seem that hormones affect your sense of taste when you are pregnant.
The hormonal changes in pregnancy, which encourage parts of your body to relax and make room for the baby, also make constipation more likely. You may notice you become more constipated early on, before many other changes appear. It can also happen later on as the uterus enlarges and presses on the bowel.
If you are constipated, try changes to your diet, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, and drinking lots of fluids. Your midwife or GP will be able to help with other suggestions, and you can ask your chemist for safe remedies you can try.
You may find yourself needing to go to the loo more often in the early weeks and months, and often later, too. This is caused by a combination of pregnancy hormones, particularly human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), which increases the blood supply to the pelvis, and later, the way your uterus changes shape and position, pressing on your bladder.
This varies between women, but it’s normal to gain a small amount of weight in the first three months. Average weight gain in the first 12 weeks is between two and three and a half kilograms (four and a half to seven pounds).
You may notice these in the first three months or so, and the changes may continue to develop all the way through pregnancy. Your nipples may darken in colour; veins on your breasts may appear more obvious; you may be aware of greater sensitivity and a tingling sensation. This is because the pregnancy hormones are preparing your breasts for feeding.
Feelings of tiredness can take you by surprise early on. You may feel exhausted in the early evening and long for an early night. Try to get rest if you can in the day – and don’t push yourself to do more than you feel you can cope with. Usually, tiredness improves after the first few months, returning towards the end when you are carrying the extra weight of your baby.
Speak to your midwife or GP if your tiredness is hard to cope with, and don’t be shy about asking your partner, family, friends and employer to make life a little easier for you, if you need it.
A combination of hormones, plus the understandable excitement, concern and anxiety you may feel at the prospect of being pregnant and motherhood, could mean you feel emotional and stressed at times. Rest should help, and also seek support and encouragement from your partner, family and close friends – a bit of understanding and TLC can help a lot.
While it is common to have slight spotting (light bleeding during pregnancy from the vagina, which shows up as small dots of blood or light streaks on your underwear), or even a bleed at any time when you are pregnant, you should report it to your midwife or GP. It may mean you are at risk, and the midwife or GP may suggest you are examined – but bear in mind bleeding can happen prior to a normal, healthy birth.
If you experience tummy pains, with or without bleeding, then let the midwife or GP know about these, too.
Mild cramping is common in pregnancy; however, some women get these pains at odd times throughout.
Your experience will be different to anyone else’s as your body adapts and changes over the following months. If you are concerned or worried about anything, contact your GP or midwife.
Page last reviewed: 24 February 2014
Our helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of the antenatal phase, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new child.
The HER Foundation provides information about hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).