A Guide to Pregnancy Symptoms

Article By
Kate
Published On
17 Jul, 2023
Read Time
4 minutes

The truth is, pregnancy symptoms vary greatly for everyone, and not everyone will notice or experience all the symptoms that we're going to cover in this guide.

Remember, if you experience any symptoms that feel worrying, you should speak to your midwife or GP for reassurance. 

Whether you're pregnant for the first time, or a parent already and looking to refresh your memory about pregnancy symptoms, we're here to help! Let's run through some common early pregnancy symptoms and cover some changes you may notice as your pregnancy progresses.

Early pregnancy symptoms

While many people experience symptoms before they know for sure if they're pregnant or not, only a pregnancy test can confirm whether you're pregnant.

Some of the most common early pregnancy symptoms people experience include:

  • Missed period or spotting
  • Sickness and nausea
  • Tiredness or feeling exhausted
  • Tender and swollen breasts
  • Headaches
  • Increased sensitivity to smells
  • Changes in mood
  • Increased discharge
  • Frequent urination
  • Cramping

Let's run through each of them in a little more detail.

A missed or lighter period

This is a common first sign of pregnancy. Some people may not have a period at all, while others will have a lighter than usual period or even just spotting or implantation bleeding.

While missing a period is a tell-tale sign of pregnancy for a lot of people, if you usually have irregular periods, you might not recognise a missed period as an indicator.

Nausea and sickness with or without vomiting

Some people may feel sick or start to be sick. This is commonly referred to as morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day!

If you're sick a lot or can't keep fluids down, you should see your GP.

Fatigue or feeling more tired than usual

Many pregnant people feel very tired during the early stages of pregnancy as their hormone levels fluctuate. 

Tender breasts

Sometimes your boobs may feel larger and tender in the early stages of pregnancy. The colour of your nipples can also change.

Increased sensitivity to smells

Your senses feel heightened in pregnancy and some pregnant people feel extra nauseous when they smell certain smells.

Mood swings

Along with hormone changes, some fluctuations in mood are to be expected during pregnancy. Some people report high emotions and feel that they become angry or upset easily. 

Increased vaginal discharge

You may notice that there's a change in the consistency and volume of your discharge while pregnant.

Needing to urinate more often

For some, this is a symptom that occurs throughout pregnancy from the first to the third trimester. In the later stages, it's mainly due to the baby pushing on the bladder.

Cramping

Some people experience some cramping in the early stages of pregnancy. This can be a sign of implantation very early on.

Other pregnancy symptoms to look out for

Aside from the more common pregnancy symptoms we've covered, there are some rarer ones that some people also experience. Let's run through them one by one.

Excess saliva

The medical term for this is ptyalism gravidarum. This is the body's way of protecting your teeth and mouth from excess stomach acid that can be caused by nausea during pregnancy.

Acne

Hormone surges during pregnancy cause complexion changes and some people develop pregnancy acne, regardless of whether they've dealt with breakouts in the past.

Dizziness

You may feel lightheaded due to increased blood flow and the fact that your body is exerting more energy during pregnancy.

Metallic taste in the mouth

One of the stranger symptoms some people say they get - particularly during the first trimester - is a sour or metallic taste in their mouth almost like blood. The medical term for this is dysgeusia, and it's also often referred to as 'metal mouth'. Again, this is caused by a change in hormones, in particular oestrogen.

Nose bleeds, congestion, and nasal drips

Wider blood vessels and increased blood volume during pregnancy can sometimes contribute to nasal issues - get your tissues ready!

Headaches

Some people report experiencing headaches while pregnant due to hormone fluctuations and increased blood flow.

Constipation

Your digestive system slows down during pregnancy. Again, this is caused by hormone changes.

Pregnancy symptoms you may notice later

As pregnancy progresses, symptoms do generally start to ease, but may be replaced by others.

Remember that as your baby grows, your body is stretching and adapting, and you're using lots of energy to keep yourself and your baby healthy.

As you reach the third trimester and head into the final stretch of your pregnancy, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

Swollen ankles and feet

Increased blood volume and water retention can sometimes lead to swelling in the ankles and feet during pregnancy. This can also lead to varicose veins that are uncomfortable but aren't harmful.

Backache

Back pain and strain on the pelvis in pregnancy are caused by the ligaments in your body naturally becoming softer and stretching to prepare for labour, as well as the growing weight of the baby you're carrying.

Haemorrhoids

Constipation can occur throughout pregnancy, leading to strain and haemorrhoids. Many people get them after birth too.

Heartburn and indigestion

As baby grows, acid from your stomach doesn't have anywhere to go except up. This can lead to heartburn and indigestion that's often worse at night.

Itchy skin

The skin stretches all over the body during pregnancy, making it tight and itchy at times - especially on the stomach, hips, and breasts. This can also be due to increased blood volume and hormones.

If you have itchy hands and feet, have any yellowing of the skin or dark urine, and the itching is worse at night, you should get checked over by your midwife or GP as it could be a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy or ICP.

Darker skin in some places

Sometimes referred to as 'the mask of pregnancy', chloasma is when pigment-producing cells produce more melanin pigments when exposed to the sun. You can become sunburnt more easily when pregnant because of this, so be sure to wear SPF.

When do early pregnancy symptoms start?

Pregnancy symptoms typically start around four to six weeks into a pregnancy.

Morning sickness usually starts around this time and settles around week 12 but can continue for longer or even return later in the pregnancy.

Many people find that early pregnancy symptoms feel like those that they experience before the start of their period. But if you're trying to differentiate between PMS and pregnancy, changes to your areola are usually a good differentiator to look out for, as well as a heightened basal body temperature (BBT).

The first early signs of pregnancy can start a week or two after conception. However, some people don't feel any symptoms until around week four or five or even later in some cases.

The body starts to produce the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) around six days after fertilisation. All pregnancy tests work by detecting this hormone, either in your wee or blood.

HCG is only produced once an embryo has implanted, so for the most accurate results, it's best to wait 21 days after unprotected sex or for the first day of a missed period before you take a pregnancy test.