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Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms - Week by Week

And so, you are pregnant; congratulations!
Or, maybe, you are hoping to be pregnant or just wanting detailed information about what signs and symptoms of pregnancy you can expect. This in-depth article details exactly what happens throughout a typical pregnancy, week by week. Every woman is different, though, and every pregnancy can be different, so take this information simply as a guide.

Early pregnancy symptoms and signs are frequently missed as they may be mild or could be put down to some other condition. Because of this, many doctors won't confirm a pregnancy before the second period is missed. Having said that, women who have been pregnant before can often tell they are pregnant again by these very subtle changes; sometimes it is their partner who notices something is different.

The earliest signs that you might be pregnant include a missed period, nausea or vomiting in the morning or other times, tender or swollen breasts. However, these symptoms can also be caused by hormone fluctuations during your normal menstrual cycle and so they may not be an accurate guide. To have a pregnancy confirmed, you need to see your doctor for a pregnancy test at 6 to 8 weeks, even if you have already done a test at home.

These are some common signs and symptoms that may appear throughout the pregnancy:

  • A "knowing" that you are pregnant, even when it is way too early to tell. This is more common in subsequent pregnancies than the first. A woman knows her own body better than anyone and she is sometimes aware of even miniscule changes.

  • Nausea and even vomiting is usually only experienced during the first trimester, though some women have it longer. It can occur at any time of the day, not just in the morning.

  • Fatigue that is unrelated to the amount of activity or work you have been doing especially in early pregnancy. Indulge in a nap if you need it, go to bed early or just take it a bit easy for a while.

  • Frequent urination - this symptom can be present from very early in pregnancy.

  • Repulsion of certain foods and smells. Suddenly that perfume you have always loved smells like last week's trash. You used to love eating fish but now the smell of any seafood sends you running for the bathroom.

  • Incredible appetite, often for weird combinations or foods. You might start eating more often; you might want to eat chicken with chocolate sauce or something equally strange; your partner might be forever looking for all-night stores to buy your latest favorite food.

  • You used to love to sleep on your tummy but now you can't get comfortable. It could be your breasts are tender, making it uncomfortable, or maybe you can't isolate a reason. Many women express the delight in finally being able to lie on their tummy after giving birth!

  • The area around your nipples becomes darker in color in early pregnancy.

  • Dizziness and feeling faint can be caused by lower blood pressure or low blood sugar levels. Try to avoid sudden movement, especially when standing up or getting out of bed. Eat small healthy snacks through the day to keep your blood sugar even. Carry a small container of almonds or dried fruit with you, to nibble on through the day.

  • Heartburn is fairly common and may be a problem throughout the nine months. It is caused by the uterus pushing against the stomach and raised hormone levels which can interfere with the digestive process. Eat smaller meals, have a fiber-rich diet to prevent constipation, drink lots of water, eat fresh fruit and include lots of colored vegetables in your meals. Ask your doctor about safe antacids of you feel you need them.

  • Mood swings are very common from early pregnancy due to hormone fluctuations. You might feel suddenly sad or emotional for no reason; this is perfectly normal.

These are the general and common symptoms and signs of pregnancy that you may or may not experience through pregnancy.

Each of the three trimesters come with their own set of possible symptoms, so here is a week by week description, so that you know what and when you can expect.

The First Trimester – to Week 12

Pregnancy is counted in weeks from the date of your last period although, in reality, you didn't conceive until two weeks after this date. This is because you ovulate two weeks after a period and this is when you can conceive. So, Week 1 of your pregnancy sees your uterus preparing for the possibility of receiving a fertilized egg by thickening the lining or endometrium.

You're still not yet pregnant but this is the optimum time for you to conceive. Some women experience mild cramps when they ovulate, which will be towards the end of this week. Your body produces more estrogen at this time.

Fertilization occurs at the beginning of week 3. The fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube towards the uterus, taking between 7 and 10 days, where it implants into the blood-rich lining of the uterus.
This is the start of the pregnancy. There will be no symptoms, although there may have been some implantation bleeding, like spotting.

There are still no outward pregnancy signs as the embryo is very tiny.

You might experience mood swings; this is just your hormones. You would normally have your period during this week and if it doesn't come, you could suspect that you are pregnant. A home test could confirm it, although at this stage, it might still be negative.

The placenta, umbilical cord and the baby's bones and nervous system are starting to form. Towards the end of the week blood vessels are obvious in the fetus and circulation starts.

This is the week when those early pregnancy symptoms may start so you may be nauseous, urinating more frequently, have tender breasts and be unaccountably tired.

The embryo is now just ¼ inch long but rapidly growing. It is in the amniotic sac, the heart is beating and there is some brain development.

You might notice some thickening in your waist, especially if you have been pregnant before. This is when the nausea really kicks in and your aversion to some smells won't help. When feeling nauseous, try nibbling on a salted cracker to ease the queasiness.

Drink lots of fluids and rest to combat the effects of this nasty symptom. Try not to over-eat or have a completely empty stomach as both these can exacerbate nausea. Eat simple, fresh foods rather than processed and sugary foods.

The embryo is now the size of a bean and has arms, legs and facial features.

Morning sickness may still be with you, your skin might have break-outs due to increased progesterone. You still aren't showing that you are pregnant.

Most doctors are confident about confirming your pregnancy now although you probably already knew.  The baby is around cherry size with a heart rate of between 140 to 150 beats per minute.

Your clothes might be getting too tight even though your uterus is still only the size of a grapefruit. You might feel some bloating and heartburn this week so wear looser clothing, eat small meals more often and drink plenty of water. Carbonated water may help.

Baby is one inch long, has most organs and muscles and looks more like a human.

You will have missed your second period, your waist is definitely bigger but little weight increase has occurred. You could still be very tired so make allowances and rest when you can.

You have reached the quarter-way mark and now will start to see changes to your abdomen. Baby now has all human parts developed; the embryonic stage of the pregnancy has finished and the fetal stage begins.

Many women start to need bigger clothes about now. Some of the early pregnancy symptoms may have eased along with the increased stability of your hormones. Because of the increased volume of blood in your body, you might notice veins become more prominent, especially in your legs. Get into the habit of putting your feet up whenever you can.

The fetus is up to 2½ inches now and the nerves, brain and muscles are beginning to function.

Your uterus can be felt by your doctor because it is now higher than your pelvis. You may notice a line of darker pigmentation appearing between your navel and pubic hair.

The fetus is now the size of a plum and the heartbeat can be heard via a Doppler. It can move its fingers and toes and swallow.

Those maternity clothes are starting to look more comfortable now but the morning sickness may have disappeared, if you are lucky.

The Second Trimester – Weeks 13 to 27

Many women find that these weeks are the easiest of the pregnancy. It is common to experience a sense of wonderful well-being and increased energy as the early pregnancy symptoms disappear.

Your baby bump will start to look like you are pregnant and most women find that they can't wear their regular clothes any more. The ligaments in your abdomen will stretch as your bump grows, which may cause a pulling or cramping sensation. You will probably start to feel the baby's little movements at about 18 weeks, starting as butterfly-like sensations.

Make use of this time to get into preparing for your baby and learning all you can about the birth and looking after a new-born.

Some of the symptoms you might experience during the second trimester include:

  • Increased breast size, due to hormone stimulation and your milk glands expanding the initial tenderness may disappear but your nipple area may still be tender. Make sure you wear a good supportive bra; if you need to buy new ones, get your maternity bras at this time.

  • You will gain some weight but try to keep this under control by eating a healthy diet.

  • Changes to your skin tone and color, with some areas darkening or appearing splotchy. Due to an increased sensitivity to the sun, wear a sunscreen when outdoors.

  • As your abdomen gets bigger, you may notice pinkish-colored lines or marks appearing. These are stretch marks and can also occur on your thighs, arms, breasts or buttocks. Applying a moisturizer helps to relieve any itching or discomfort.

  • Nose bleeds, nasal congestion or snoring – caused by the increase of circulation during pregnancy, taking extra blood to your mucous membranes. Gum sensitivity and minor bleeding may also occur for the same reason.

  • Kidney and bladder infections are more common in pregnancy because of the changes to your urine, caused by hormones. If you experience burning when you urinate, see you doctor as urinary tract infections can cause pre-term labor.

  • Vaginal discharge that is a thin, white substance is common; doctors believe this is the body's defence against bacteria. If the discharge is smelly, or more yellow, accompanied by irritation or redness, see your doctor as this might mean a vaginal infection.

The Third Trimester – from Week 28

As the birth of your baby approaches, you may become anxious and have unpleasant dreams at night. You may be getting tired of being pregnant and your enlarging bump sometimes makes it difficult to get comfortable. The third trimester can be both emotionally and physically draining. Other symptoms may include:

  • Backaches and hip pain are common because of the extra weight of the baby and hormonal changes that relax the joints in the pelvis. Use ice or heat pack to relieve discomfort; wear shoes with low heels, avoid standing for long periods and sit in a supporting chair.

  • Leg cramps can occur, mostly at night, due to the pressure of the uterus on the veins in the legs.

  • Shortness of breath is experienced as the uterus expands towards your diaphragm. You might find it easier to sleep propped up on pillows.

  • Varicose veins, hemorrhoids and spider veins are caused by increased circulation and pressure on the groin by the expanding uterus. For varicose veins, wear supportive stockings and keep your legs elevated whenever possible. Avoid constipation, which can exacerbate hemorrhoids, by eating foods high in dietary fiber and drinking lots of fluids.

  • Swelling of the feet and ankles is caused by pressure on the veins in your legs. Supportive stockings and sitting with your legs raised will help. Ice packs help to reduce the swelling.

  • Frequent urination returns because of the pressure of the uterus on the bladder. You might also experience some leakage, especially when you cough or laugh. See you doctor if you have any pain or burning when you urinate.

  • Breast tissue continues to increase in size and you may find that a little colostrum leaks out as you approach your due date.

  • Increased vaginal discharge is normal towards the end of your pregnancy.

  • Braxton Hicks contractions are your uterus practising for the task ahead. They are weak and intermittent, usually felt in the lower abdomen and groin area.

As your due date approaches, you might experience increased anxiety or you might become quite peaceful and calm. Be kind to yourself, take frequent rests and focus on a light, nutritional diet. Take care of yourself as you approach the exciting conclusion to your pregnancy – holding your beautiful baby in your arms.

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