Pregnancy Symptoms (cont.)
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Related to morning sickness, a pregnant woman may find that her dietary preferences have changed. It may be that certain foods or smells aggravate the nausea and vomiting of early pregnancy, or she may experience true food cravings. Food cravings can begin in the first trimester and last throughout the pregnancy.
Fatigue and Tiredness
Fatigue and tiredness are symptoms experienced by many women in the early stages of pregnancy, and some women report feeling fatigued even in the weeks immediately prior to conception. The cause of this fatigue has not been fully determined, but it is believed to be related to rising levels of the hormone progesterone. Of course, fatigue is a very nonspecific symptom that can be related to many causes other than pregnancy.
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 gonadotrophin (hCG), which is believed to stimulate frequent urination. Another cause of frequent urination that develops later is the pressure exerted by the growing uterus on the bladder, but this does not cause frequent urination until the second and third trimesters when the fetus is substantially larger.
Elevated Basal Body Temperature
A persistently elevated basal body temperature (the oral temperature measured first thing in the morning, upon arising from sleep) is another characteristic sign of early pregnancy. An elevation in the basal body temperature occurs shortly after ovulation and persists until the next menstrual period occurs. Persistence of the elevated basal body temperature beyond the time of the expected menstrual period is another sign of early pregnancy.
Changes in Nipple Color
Women may notice a deepening of the color of the area surrounding the nipple, called the areola and/or a dark line going down from the middle of the central abdomen area to the pubic area (known as the linea nigra). Some degree of darkening of the areola persists after pregnancy in many women, but the linea nigra typically disappears in the months following delivery of the baby.
Melasma (Darkening of the Skin)
Some women may develop a so-called "mask of pregnancy" in the first trimester, referring 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. Melasma can also occur in some conditions other than pregnancy. Women who have a family history of melasma are at greater risk of developing this sign of pregnancy.
Pregnancy Symptoms vs. PMS Symptoms
Sometimes, a woman may have symptoms and not be sure whether she is pregnant or not. Many symptoms of early pregnancy, including breast tenderness, fatigue, bloating and mild cramping, can also signal an approaching menstrual period or may be related to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). If you have not had a menstrual period and these symptoms are present, the only way to determine if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/17/2016
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Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs (Week by Week):
Pregnancy Symptoms - Early Symptoms
What were your very first signs and symptoms of pregnancy? Did you suspect you were pregnant before taking a pregnancy test?
Pregnancy Symptoms - Experience
Please describe your experience with early signs and symptoms of being pregnant.
Pregnancy Symptoms - Headaches
If you experienced headaches in the early stages of your pregnancy, what remedies did you find effective?
Pregnancy Symptoms - Week by Week
How did your pregnancy symptoms vary from week to week?
Pregnancy Symptoms - Food Cravings
What foods did you crave early in your pregnancy?
Pregnancy Symptoms - Morning Sickness
What remedies or safe products were effective in treating nausea and vomiting during your pregnancy?