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Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms

Pregnancy signs and symptoms may vary during the different stages of pregnancy. This article examines key signs and symptoms that occur in each of the three trimesters of pregnancy. Keep reading for more information on pregnancy signs and symptoms.

Various signs and symptoms are associated with different stages of pregnancy. With pregnancies lasting about nine months, these stages are set out in three sections, each lasting three months. These stages are referred to as trimesters.

Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms of the First Trimester

The first trimester can bring some fairly dramatic pregnancy signs and symptoms as a woman’s body adjusts to the demands of nourishing a developing baby. Changes triggered by hormones create physical changes, and the growing baby itself creates other changes.

An early pregnancy sign or symptom is tenderness of the breasts because of hormone changes. Wearing a supportive bra is recommended to limit these symptoms. Nausea, which can occur at any time of day, although it is popularly referred to as morning sickness is another symptom that seems related to hormonal shifts. There is actually a wide range of responses, with some pregnant women having no issues, some feeling merely a little queasy, and others vomiting daily or several times a day. A diet of low-fat, easy-to-digest foods and avoidance of strong smells and foods that increase feelings of unease can help. Another hormone-induced change can be the feeling of being on a roller coaster of emotions. It’s important to know that this is normal.

Physical changes and new dietary needs can lead to a sudden increase in fatigue. This may need to be addressed by making sure that nutrition is sufficient to support both mother and child and by getting sufficient rest. Another sign or symptom of pregnancy caused by a physical change is increased urination because the growing uterus may press on the bladder. The pressure may also lead to the release of a small amount of urine when a pregnant woman sneezes or coughs. It may be possible to try to adjust one’s fluid intake to earlier in the day to minimize trips to the bathroom that interrupt sleep.

Pregnancy signs and symptoms can also appear in the mother’s digestive and circulatory systems. Slowing of the passage and absorption of food through the digestive tract , while allowing for greater absorption of nutrients, also can cause constipation and heartburn. Frequent, small meals, and the avoidance of citrus, spices, and fried foods can help to ease these symptoms. Changes in the circulatory system can result in dizziness, or even fainting spells. To minimize these, a pregnant woman should be sure that she is well-nourished, gets sufficient rest, avoids stress as much as possible, and avoids standing for long periods. Changing positions slowly can also reduce the incidence of dizziness.

Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms during the Second Trimester

By the second semester, a mother-to-be’s body has usually made some adjustments to the new balance of hormones coursing through it, however, certain other  hormonally-induced changes may begin. This is also a time during which the baby is growing and physical signs and sypmtoms of pregnancy continue.

The growth of the baby and the uterus will lead to abdominal expansion for the mother. The larger uterus may interfere with excretory functions, bringing an increased likelihood of bladder and/or kidney infections as the pregnancy progresses, any signs of which should be reported to a health professional immediately. The uterus can also press against veins that bring blood from the legs to the heart, which may lead to leg cramps.

The coursing of hormones will lead to the enlargement of glands in the breasts that produce milk, leading to the breasts also getting larger. Hormones can also begin causing Braxton Hicks contractions, the name of the “practice” contractions that help strengthen the uterus for labor.

Circulatory changes can lead to a variety of symptoms. Increased bloodflow in the mucous membranes can lead to swelling that causes congestion in the nose and softness of the gums, and both areas may bleed more easily than usual. In the second trimester, blood vessel dilation when blood volume does not keep up can lead to dizziness. Increased circulation to the skin can lead to darkening of the skin and increasingly sensitive to sun exposure. Other normal changes can include stretch marks, shortness of breath, and vaginal discharge.

Pregnancy Signs Symptoms during the Third Trimester

Some third trimester symptoms are “more of the same” carried over from the second trimester:

  • Frequent urination, shortness of breath, and heartburn may continue, as my Braxton Hicks contractions and vaginal discharge.
  • Breasts continue to grow in size and may begin to secrete colostrum, the precursor of breast milk.
  • Pregnancy weight gain and abdominal expansion continue but, "in tandem with the relaxation of joints caused by the hormones of pregnancy" can now lead to backaches and hip pain.
  • Shortness of breath may worsen as the uterus expands into the area normally reserved for the diaphragm.
  • Swelling of the feet and legs may be accompanied by puffy face and eyelids.
  • New circulation issues may arise, including the appearance of spider and varicose veins, and for some women, hemorrhoids.

For most women, at some point in the third trimester, the Braxton Hicks contractions will give way to the contractions of labor and delivery, and the birth of their baby will signal the beginning of the end for most of these pregnancy signs and symptoms.

Related Article: Pregnancy by Trimester >>