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Early Pregnancy Symptoms FAQs

Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

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Q:What is often the first sign of pregnancy?

A:A missed menstrual period. Missed menstrual period is most often the first sign of pregnancy. Sometimes a woman who is pregnant may still experience some bleeding or spotting around the time of the expected period. When it occurs, this is so called “implantation bleeding.”

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Q:Nausea and vomiting or “morning sickness” may be due to elevations in levels of what?

A:Estrogens. Elevations in estrogen that occur early in pregnancy are thought to slow the emptying of the stomach and may be related to the development of nausea.

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Q:Abdominal enlargement or bloating in the early stages of pregnancy are due to weight gain. True or False?

A:False. Some women may experience feelings of abdominal enlargement or bloating, but there is usually only a small amount of weight gain in the first trimester of pregnancy. In this early stage of pregnancy, a weight gain of about one pound per month is typical.

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Q:In the early stages of pregnancy a woman may urinate frequently, and may leak urine with a cough, sneeze, or laugh. True or False?

A:True. A woman in the early stages of pregnancy may feel she has to urinate frequently, especially at nighttime, and she may leak urine with a cough, sneeze, or laugh. The increased desire to urinate may have both physical and hormonal causes. Once the embryo has implanted in the uterus, it begins to produce the hormone known as human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is believed to stimulate frequent urination.

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Q:Fatigue and tiredness, symptoms of pregnancy are believed to be related to the rising levels of what substance?

A:Progesterone. Fatigue and tiredness are symptoms experienced by many women in the early stages of pregnancy. The cause of this fatigue has not been fully determined, but it is believed to be related to rising levels of the hormone progesterone.

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Q:Elevated basal body temperature beyond the time of the expected menstrual period is another sign of early pregnancy. True or False?

A:True. A persistently elevated basal body temperature (the oral temperature measured first thing in the morning, before arising from bed) is another characteristic sign of early pregnancy. Persistence of the elevated basal body temperature beyond the time of the expected menstrual period is another sign of early pregnancy.

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Q:The “mask of pregnancy” is also referred to as what?

A:Melasma. Some women may develop melasma, a so-called "mask of pregnancy" in the first trimester. The "mask" refers to a darkening of the skin on the forehead, bridge of the nose, upper lip, or cheeks. The darkened skin is typically present on both sides of the face. Doctors refer to this condition as melasma or chloasma, and it is more common in darker-skinned women than those with lighter skin.

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Q:The café au lait line occurs during pregnancy and descends from the middle of the abdomen to the pubic area. True or False?

A:False. Women may notice a dark line going down from the middle of the central abdomen area to the pubic area (known as the linea nigra, not the café au lait line). The linea nigra typically disappears in the months following delivery of the baby.

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Q:When do feelings of breast swelling, tenderness, or pain can begin in some women?

A:Two weeks after conception. Feelings of breast swelling, tenderness, or pain are also commonly associated with early pregnancy. These symptoms are sometimes similar to the sensations in the breasts in the days before an expected menstrual period. Women may also describe a feeling of heaviness or fullness in the breasts. These symptoms can begin in some women as early as one to two weeks after conception.

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Q:The following has been found to be the most accurate HPT on the first day of a missed period?

A:First Response® Early Result Pregnancy Test. In a 2004 study, researchers tested the accuracy of 18 HPTs sold in retail stores. They found that only one brand consistently detected the low levels of hCG usually present on the first day of the missed period. This was the First Response® Early Result Pregnancy Test. The other tests missed up to 85% of pregnancies on the first day of the missed period. Most tests accurately confirmed pregnancies one week after the missed period.

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Q:A pink, gray, or white material discharge from the vagina that does not look like a blood clot is normal in pregnancy. True or False?

A:False. Passing pink, gray, or white material from the vagina that does not look like a blood clot could be a sign of a serious condition. The woman who is pregnant should take the material to the hospital.

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Q:What are common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

A:Abdominal pain, weakness, and dizziness are symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, which can occur 6 to 8 weeks after the last normal menstrual period, but may occur later during the pregnancy. Medical attention should be sought should a woman feels she is pregnant and experiencing these symptoms.

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Q:Darkening of the areola occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. True or False?

A:True. Women may notice a deepening of the color of the area surrounding the nipple, called the areola. Some degree of darkening of the areola persists after pregnancy in many women.

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Q:Fetal movement may typically be perceived after how many weeks for new mothers?

A:20 weeks. Fetal movement may be perceived after 20 weeks for new mothers.

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