We know you're looking forward to the journey ahead, but you're probably feeling nervous too about the changes your body will be going through. These changes bring about side-effects and symptoms, which may seem alarming at first.
But fret and fear not - if you know what to expect, then you can save yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Though pregnancy symptoms can be a source of discomfort, they're simply the side-effects to your body growing a new life.
It helps to prepare yourself for the next nine months step by step. Let's start with the symptoms you'll have to deal with in the next few weeks. Here's what you can expect in your first trimester, as well as the warning signs that you'll need to watch out for.
First Trimester Symptoms of Pregnancy
The first trimester of pregnancy begins on the first day of your last period.1 It lasts for 12 weeks.
For many pregnant mums, the earliest symptoms of pregnancy show up at weeks 4 to 5. To start with, you're likely to notice these first few symptoms:1-3
Missing your period
If you've recently had unprotected sex, missing your period means fertilisation and implantation of the egg cell in the uterus may have taken place. You can take a pregnancy test on the first day of your missed period to be certain.4
The fertilized egg cell implants in the uterus at weeks 4 to 5. This may cause light spotting, also called "implantation bleeding." Unlike your regular period, implantation bleeding consists of only a few drops of blood. The colour should look light pink to dark brown.5
Hormonal changes - namely, an increase in progesterone - can lead to feeling tired or lacking energy.
Tender, swollen breasts
Your breasts may grow larger and feel tender, the areola or skin around the nipples may grow darker, and veins may be more prominent through the skin.
As your pregnancy progresses, you'll likely see more symptoms crop up, thanks to the increase of pregnancy hormones in your body.
Further Symptoms In Your First Trimester Include1-3:
Nausea (With or Without Vomiting)
Almost 70% of pregnant mums experience nausea, also called morning sickness. Despite the term used, morning sickness can strike at any time of the day.6
Heightened sense of smell
Rising levels of estrogen in the body makes you more sensitive to smells.
Food cravings or aversions
Your nutritional needs change once you get pregnant. Expecting mums may find that they're craving foods rich in calories and calcium. You may also develop a distaste for or aversion to certain foods, even ones you used to like.
By week 7, the embryo will have grown into the size of a grape, and the womb into the size of a lemon.1 The amount of fluid in the body increases and your growing uterus will start to press against your bladder. You will likely find yourself urinating more often than normal.
Other Common Symptoms In The First Trimester
Early pregnancy symptoms vary from one mum to the next. Apart from the common signs and symptoms above, mums-to-be may experience the following1:
- mood swings
- bloating or feeling bloated
- burping or passing gas
- tingling and numbness in the hands
- varicose veins in the legs
- mild swelling in the fingers or legs and feet
- a milky, white discharge from the vagina
- swollen or bleeding gums
- itchy skin
- leg cramps
- a metallic taste in the mouth
- darkened skin or darkened patches on the face
- thicker and shinier hair
These symptoms are considered normal and should cause you no worry, as long as they’re mild and don’t significantly affect your day-to-day activities. Talk to your doctor to learn how you can manage or minimize these symptoms if need be.
Pregnancy Symptoms That Are Not Normal
It's important to stay in tune with how you're feeling. If certain symptoms cause pain or more discomfort than usual, it's best to bring it up with your doctor.
In particular, watch out for the following:
Problems with urination. Pregnant mums tend to pee more often than usual. However, if you feel pain or a burning sensation while you're peeing, or if you see signs of blood in the urine, you may have a urinary tract infection.7
High body temperature. Your core body temperature rises during pregnancy. However, a temperature above 39 degrees Celsius may indicate a fever.8 Take note of any symptoms that came with this rise in temperature and speak to your doctor if it doesn't subside.
Sudden swelling. The amount of fluid in the body increases during pregnancy, which may lead to mild swelling in your fingers, legs, ankles, and feet. However, a sudden increase in swelling, especially in the face and/or hands, may be a symptom of preeclampsia, or high blood pressure caused by pregnancy.9
Feeling constantly weak and faint.10 It's normal to feel fatigue during pregnancy, but if these symptoms are constant, and if they persist in spite of lots of rest, they may be a sign of nutritional deficiency or an underlying condition.
Pregnancy Symptoms That Need Urgent Care
Seek medical care at once should the following symptoms show up:
Heavy bleeding and painful cramps. Up to 80% of miscarriages happen in the first trimester.11 Heavy bleeding accompanied by painful cramps in the lower belly may be signs of a miscarriage.12
Severe nausea and vomiting. If you're feeling extremely nauseous, dizzy, faint, and when you can't seem to keep anything down, you may have a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), a severe form of morning sickness.13
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include severe tummy pain, vaginal bleeding, pain in the shoulder tip, diarrhea and vomiting, and feeling faint and lightheaded.14
Things To Keep In Mind
Symptoms of pregnancy vary from person to person, and from one pregnancy to the next. Some individuals may experience all the common symptoms. Some may experience only a select few. Some may show no symptoms at all.1
If you didn't notice the common symptoms of the first trimester, or if you feel like some symptoms came earlier or later than usual - don't panic. Stay in tune with your body and how you're feeling. If what you feel seems out of the ordinary, talk it over with your doctor.
1Week by week guide to pregnancy - NHS. Accessed December 21, 2021.
2What are some common signs of pregnancy? - National Institutes of Health. Accessed December 21, 2021.
3Pregnancy signs and symptoms - Better Health. Accessed December 21, 2021.
4Doing a pregnancy test - NHS. Accessed December 21, 2021.
5What is Implantation Bleeding? - American Pregnancy Association. Accessed January 9, 2022.
6Morning Sickness - Cleveland Clinic. Accessed December 21, 2021.
7Pregnancy: What's Normal … and What's Not - Stanford Children's Health. Accessed January 9, 2022.
8Body Temperature During Pregnancy - North Florida Women's Care. Accessed January 9, 2022.
9Can Pregnant Women Do Anything to Reduce or Prevent Swollen Ankles? - Kids Health. Accessed January 2, 2022.
10Warning signs during pregnancy - Pregnancy Birth and Baby. Accessed January 9, 2022.
11Miscarriage - NCBI, Accessed December 21, 2021.
12Early Signs of a Miscarriage (and When Not to Panic) - Cleveland Clinic. Accessed December 21, 2021.
13Severe vomiting in pregnancy - NHS. Accessed December 21, 2021.
14Miscarriage Symptoms - NHS. Accessed December 21, 2021.