The Early Warning Signs of Pregnancy

Updated on March 30, 2018
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Christina is a pharmacy technician with an interest in women's health related to pregnancy.

Are you anxious knowing that it is too soon to have a urinary pregnancy test taken? Well, pregnancy is one of the most precious moments in a woman's life. Whether you are anxious with nerves or with hope, this article will help you learn what the earliest signs and symptoms are of being pregnant.

There are a variety of early clues that you are expecting.
There are a variety of early clues that you are expecting.

Are Cravings an Early Sign of Pregnancy?

"Cravings typically occur by the end of the first trimester and peak in the second trimester," says Dr. Mark P. Trolice, director of Fertility C.A.R.E at the IVF Center in Winter Park, Florida. "Approximately 50-90 % of women have these cravings, most commonly for dairy and sweet foods and less commonly for spicy or salty foods." According to New Kids Center, cravings can potentially occur as soon as a week after conceiving, so they can be an early sign of pregnancy. They can disappear by the second trimester after peaking.

The exact reason for cravings is unknown. "A hypothesis for cravings involves changes in hormones, nutritional deficits, and cultural influences, but a specific cause is unknown," says Dr. Trolice. Changing hormones impact your sense of taste and smell, which could cause some food aversions and cravings. While the body demanding some type of nutrition it's lacking is a strong theory, Dr. Judith Brown says that there is no solid data that supports that idea. Your favorite food may even make you feel sick or nauseated during your pregnancy.

Below are some possible theories as to why women get cravings for certain foods.

What Does It Mean When You Crave Spicy Food?

Food like curry or peppers can make you sweat, which can actually cool you down. You may feel overheated while pregnant so spicy food may be helpful. You should be cautious of things like heartburn and indigestion if you consume a lot of spicy food during pregnancy.

Some women will be craving steak during their pregnancy.
Some women will be craving steak during their pregnancy.

What Does It Mean When You Crave Red Meat?

A craving for steaks and burgers may indicate a deficiency of iron or protein. According to Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, you could eat beans and dried fruit to get iron in your system. You should also stick to lean meats like sirloin. Vitamin C can help the body in absorbing iron so you should also consume lots of citrus.

What Does It Mean When You Crave Sugar?

You may be experiencing drops in blood sugar levels if you are craving sweets. It may also be a symptom of gestational diabetes; you can read more about that condition here. It is important to maintain a nutritious diet during pregnancy, so you could fulfill your cravings with some fruit or juice. You may also consider taking chromium supplements to combat sugar cravings since it helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Possible Meanings of Other Cravings

  • Ice: While not exactly food, some women do have a craving to chew or suck on ice. Some women may do this because they are suffering from anemia; a common symptom of this is inflammation in the mouth or tongue.
  • Chocolate: An urge for chocolate may indicate a magnesium deficiency since chocolate is rich in that. You should obviously limit your intake to light amounts, ideally with dark chocolate. Foods like nuts and fish are also high in magnesium.
  • Salty food: According to Livestrong, a craving for salt may be the body demanding more sodium to allow it to retain more water. The rise of progesterone levels can also cause you to lose sodium through your urine. You should stick to table salt since salty processed food can have other bad ingredients.
  • Beans and vegetables: You may be lacking in magnesium and fiber if you are craving more healthy food.
  • Cheese: A craving for cheese or pizza may mean you have a fatty acid deficiency. Fish and walnuts can serve as healthy supplements of fatty acids.

Giving in to cravings is fine in moderation, but remember to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
Giving in to cravings is fine in moderation, but remember to maintain a healthy and balanced diet.

How to Handle Cravings During Pregnancy

In a perfect world, we would be craving healthy food during pregnancy. However, as seen above, you will more likely have the urge to eat stuff found in the candy aisle. While it is ok to indulge in some cravings, you should still maintain a healthy and balanced diet. You should also avoid an excessive amount of unhealthy food if that is what you're craving. Studies have shown that 40 to 60 percent of women gain too much weight during pregnancies. This is the biggest contributor to postpartum weight retention. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you have unhealthy cravings.

  • According to psychologist Jon May, it can help to think of something else when your craving pops in your head. Ideally you could perform a visual task, like play video games.
  • You should keep your kitchen stocked with healthy foods and snacks. That will make it so that those are your only options when your cravings hit.
  • You should not go grocery shopping when you are hungry. The temptation to pick up your cravings may be too great to overcome.
  • A diet rich in fiber and lean protein can be very filling, potentially squashing your cravings.
  • Be sure to get plenty of sleep. Women who are sleep deprived will often crave junk food more than healthy food.
  • Be sure to avoid things like sushi, raw eggs, or undercooked meat. These could potentially carry bacteria that could be harmful to your baby. Consider reading this article on foods to avoid while pregnant.

Fatigue

Feeling exhausted during the first trimester is quite common. According to the University of Rochester, the rising levels of hormones like progesterone and the increase of blood supply to the developing placenta and fetus circulation is the main culprit behind feeling tired. Your body is telling you that major changes are happening and you need to slow down for it to adjust. While this is usually relegated during the early stages, you may feel tired later on if you have an iron deficiency.

You can check out this article for tips on dealing with pregnancy fatigue.

Sips of water throughout the day could help fight nausea.
Sips of water throughout the day could help fight nausea.

Nausea

Nausea and vomiting can often be the first sign of pregnancy. It can begin as early as two weeks following gestation. According to researchers, more than half of all pregnant women will experience morning sickness. Nausea can intensify during weeks eight and 12 but can settle down a bit afterwards. It is generally believed that the rise of human chorionic gonadotropin is responsible for this symptom.

Here are some tips to help alleviate nausea during your pregnancy.

  • Eat small meals and snacks throughout the day. Be sure to eat slowly as well. Foods with high protein and complex carbohydrates are the most beneficial.
  • Avoid lying down after eating.
  • You should get out of bed slowly in the morning. Sit up and gather yourself first instead of quickly hopping out of bed.
  • You may want to avoid food that could irritate your digestive system. This includes anything spicy or fried.
  • Be sure to sip water throughout the day to keep hydrated.

Be sure to read this article for natural methods to alleviate morning sickness.

Heartburn

You may be experiencing a burning sensation from the bottom of the breast bone all the way up to the lower throat. According to BabyCenter, this is a very common symptom during the second and third trimester, but it can occur early during the first trimester. During a pregnancy, the hormone progesterone is produced by the placenta. This is responsible for relaxing the valve that separates the esophagus and the stomach. This relaxation could cause acid to float up into the esophagus, which would irritate the liner of your stomach, causing you to feel heartburn.

You may not be able to get rid of heartburn completely, however, there are certain things that you could do to possibly reduce it.

  • Ask your doctor about any kind of medication you may take. They can likely offer you an antacid like Tums.
  • Avoid big meals. Try eating multiple small meals throughout the day. Eat slowly and try not to consume so much, even though it is tempting.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that may contain high acid or citrus levels such as carbonated drinks, caffeine, chocolate, fruits, juices, spicy food, and really fattening food. These are very likely to upset your stomach.
  • Try to chew gum after meals. This could help because when you chew gum it stimulates your salivary glands, which could help neutralize acid.
  • Wear loose clothing. Try to avoid tight clothing around your stomach and waist area.

Sore Breasts

You may suddenly experience tenderness in your breasts. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, this is due to the hormonal changes that are happening throughout your pregnancy. Women can notice their breasts feeling sore or heavier as early as a week after conception. This is due to increased blood volume. Some women experience even more tenderness in the areola area. It is also common for the areolas to become darkened in color.

To avoid breast tenderness, it is suggested that you wear a supportive bra. A warm bath can soothe sore breasts as well.

Frequent Urination

This common symptom can start as early as the second week after conception. According to Dr. Thomas Ruiz, most women will notice more frequent urination at around 10 to 13 weeks. This is because the uterus will begin pushing against the bladder. Frequent urination is caused by the spike in hormones such as hCG and progesterone. The increase in blood volume also means that extra fluid is getting processed by the kidneys, which leads to your bladder. You may also experience frequent trips to the bathroom while you are sleeping. This happens because when you lay down at night, blood flow from your lower body can easily flow back up into your kidneys, thus processing more fluids.

This symptom is unavoidable during pregnancy. However, there are some simple ways to try to reduce the number of bathroom visits you have to take.

  • You can reduce drinking fluids before going to bed to avoid nighttime bathroom visits. Be sure to remain properly hydrated throughout the day.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee. They actually increase your need to visit the restroom.
  • Sitting or laying down could relieve pressure from your bladder.

Another restroom-related problem you may suffer is constipation. You could check out this article which covers that dilemma during pregnancy as well as some additional early symptoms.

Headaches

According to the American Pregnancy Association, this is likely another result of the changes in your hormones and increased blood volume. Tension headaches are the most common kind and women usually experience them during their first trimester. If you are trying to stray away from caffeine during your pregnancy (which you should!), then a tension headache may be the result of the abrupt lack of caffeine. Other things that can aggravate headaches include lack of sleep, sinus congestion, and stress.

Here are some ways to treat and prevent headaches during pregnancy.

  • Get plenty of sleep and rest.
  • Use a warm compress for tension headaches and a cool one for migraines.
  • A warm shower can soothe a tension headache. A cold shower can bring some relief for a migraine.
  • Eating frequent small meals can keep your blood sugar levels up, which can help prevent headaches. Staying hydrated helps as well.
  • You can consult your doctor over possibly taking some medication. Acetaminophen will likely be allowed. Do not take aspirin or ibuprofen unless approved by a doctor.
  • Regular exercise can reduce stress, which contributes to tension headaches.

Backaches

Most pregnant women will experience backaches during the first trimester. According to researchers, this is due to the typical 15 to 20 percent weight gain. This puts more of a burden on tendons and joints. The increase in estrogen also loosens ligaments, making them easier to injure. The growing volume of the uterus and breasts also moves your center of gravity more forward. This could create spinal issues related to poor posture.

Fortunately, there are several ways to ease backaches during your pregnancy.

  • Performing exercise approved by a doctor could help strengthen back muscles.
  • When picking things off of the ground, always bend at your knees and not at your waist. Pull up with your legs instead of your back.
  • Elevate your legs when you are lying down.
  • Avoid shoes that don't offer much support such as high heels.
  • Consider wearing a support belt.
  • Try not to gain more weight than what is recommended. More weight means more strain on the back.

Cramping

Cramping can be one of the first signs of pregnancy. According to Dr Chad Klauser, cramping in the first trimester is caused the embryo implanting into the uterine wall. It's also caused by the rapid growth of the uterus during this period. Mild cramping can be expected during the first 16 weeks.

To avoid cramping during pregnancy, try to stay well hydrated. Stretching exercises can also ease the pain of cramping. Taking warm showers and getting off your feet is helpful as well. Be sure to check out this article for more information on early pregnancy camps.

Mood Swings

According to the American Pregnancy Association, mood swings during pregnancy can be caused by a variety of reasons such as physical stress, fatigue, changes in metabolism levels, and rising hormone levels. You may experience a wide variety of different moods such as being excited, depressed, or anxious. Mood swings can be detected around 6 to 10 weeks into your pregnancy.

Try to avoid stress by taking it easy. Get plenty of rest and be sure to talk things out with your partner or a close friend.

Increased Sense of Smell

Around two-thirds of pregnant women report that their sense of smell became more powerful during pregnancy. They also become more sensitive to various odors. According to Dr. Jordan Gaines Lewis, there is no real hard evidence of pregnant women having a stronger sense of smell. However, research has shown that they may be better at identifying smells. It is believed that hormonal changes are affecting parts of the brain that affect the perception of odors. Pregnant women will often find things like cigarette smoke to be more repugnant than usual. It is believed this is how the body protects itself from things that may harm the baby.

Positive Pregnancy Test

According to WebMD, the best time to take a pregnancy test is when your period is late. This may give you the most accurate result. Once you have received confirmation that you are in fact pregnant, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Enjoy the next nine glorious months of headaches, backaches, nausea, heartburn, cravings, constantly being tired, super smell, and mood swings! Remember, it's all worth it in the end when you're pushing.

I hope for the best for you and your baby. May all of your children be born healthy and well.

Bibliography

  • Bird, B. (2017, June 13). Salt Cravings in Early Pregnancy. From Livestrong.
  • Chan, R. L., Olshan, A. F., Savitz, D. A., Herring, A. H., Daniels, J. L., Peterson, H. B., & Martin, S. L. (2011). Maternal Influences on Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 15(1), 122–127.
  • Cook, M. S. (2017, February 4). What Your Cravings Mean. From Care 2.
  • First Trimester Fatigue. From University of Rochester Medical Center.
  • Food cravings and what they mean. (2017, December 18). From BabyCenter.
  • Headaches During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment. (2017, March 14). From American Pregnancy Association.
  • Heartburn during pregnancy: Why it happens and how to get relief. (2017, December 18). From BabyCenter.
  • Lewis, J. G. (2018, March 05). What happens to your brain when you're pregnant – morning sickness, smell and forgetfulness? From The Conversation.
  • Miller, K. (2014, August 19). This Is Why You Need to Pee All the Time While Pregnant. From The Bump.
  • Miller, S. G. (2016, April 01). The Science of Hunger: How to Control It and Fight Cravings. From Live Science.
  • Miller, S. G. (2016, June 3). Why Pregnant Women Shouldn't Give In to Food Cravings. From Live Science.
  • Mood Swings During Pregnancy: Causes and Treatment. (2017, July 20). From American Pregnancy Association.
  • Orloff, N. C., & Hormes, J. M. (2014). Pickles and ice cream! Food cravings in pregnancy: hypotheses, preliminary evidence, and directions for future research. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1076.
  • Pregnancy Tests. From WebMD.
  • Rope, K. (2017, December 06). Cramping During Pregnancy. From Parents.
  • Schröder, G., Kundt, G., Otte, M., Wendig, D., & Schober, H.-C. (2016). Impact of pregnancy on back pain and body posture in women. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28(4), 1199–1207.
  • What are some common signs of pregnancy? From National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
  • When Will Cravings Start After Pregnancy? From New Kids Center.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Kim 

      3 days ago

      I have all the pregnancy symptoms and I've taken a test and it came back negative, i remembered when i was pregnant with my first child i was already 4 months pregnant and my pregnancy tests use to come back negative, and suggestion on this situation

    • profile image

      Cody ray 

      6 months ago

      Wat is the best test to use? My gf has all these symtoms but a urinary test comes back negative...which we used the same brand 4 times...any suggestions?

    • profile image

      Tasha 

      9 months ago

      For more than 3 weeks now I have been experiencing diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, heartburn and I’m always hungry! However I haven’t missed my period as it will be due soon.. But what if I come on my period.. What else explains having similar symptoms to pregnancy?

    • profile image

      Kendall 

      10 months ago

      For a week now I have been feeling so tired, feeling very hungry still after big meals, I have noticed I’ve got mood swings and my breasts are kinda sore and kinda sensitive, does this mean I’m pregnant?

    • profile image

      Marilyn 

      10 months ago

      I have been experiencing headache, cramps,nausea,dizziness/fatigue and discomfort in stomach.. Experiencing symptoms since 6 days..It has been 32 days.. My cycle is exactly at 28 days. But home pregnancy tests (3 times) are being negative and dont know wat it is

    • profile image

      Di 

      20 months ago

      I have been experiencing headache, cramps,nausea,dizziness/fatigue and discomfort in stomach.. Experiencing symptoms since 6 days..It has been 32 days.. My cycle is exactly at 28 days. But home pregnancy tests (3 times) are being negative..

    • profile image

      Ann 

      6 years ago

      Am feeling de signs of my maturation, but i aven't seen by flow. My partner didn't ejaculated inside of me, I did de PT and it was positive, is de PG test tube 100% sure, am i pregnant.

    • profile image

      Chrissie 

      6 years ago

      im 19 and ashamed to be pregnant what will my parents say ??? im frightened and scared

    • profile image

      gogirl 

      6 years ago

      I hope and pray that one day I will be that lucky girl to see those two pink lines on a pregnancy test. But I do know one thing, my breasts are so sore. My period should be here by another week and a half.

    • ershruti304 profile image

      ershruti304 

      7 years ago from Shimla

      Really a nice and in depth information about pregnancy and its symptoms

    • profile image

      brooklynn 

      7 years ago

      i am really late n sore breasts so i went n bought 3 tests n thr all possitve..is this really happening?

    • moneycop profile image

      moneycop 

      7 years ago from JABALPUR

      great post..good!

    • tasksgirl profile image

      tasksgirl 

      7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great article but do you have to call them "warnings" lol

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