EARLY SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF PREGNANCY (C) UJAHEALTH-WOMEN’S HEALTH

The loss of menses or a missed period is often associated with pregnancy. It is important to know that a missed period might not necessarily translate to being pregnant. It might be a symptom of another medical condition. In another article, I will address the causes of menstrual loss other than pregnancy. For the purpose of this article, I will be discussing how you will feel or the changes you might notice when your loss of menses is due to pregnancy. The knowledge of being pregnant gives off different feelings amongst women. While some might greet it with joy and cannot wait to start their antenatal care, others might not. This article will take you through the questions your health care provider might ask you before pregnancy is suspected. Only then will you be tested to confirm the suspicion of pregnancy.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR TO SUSPECT PREGNANCY

Before I go into the symptoms and signs of early pregnancy, I will like you to know that pregnancy is divided into 3 phases of 3 months each called trimester. Some of the feelings you will experience and signs you will observe in the first trimester will persist into the third trimester. You will also experience some symptoms different from the earlier ones as the pregnancy progresses. What to look out for to suspect pregnancy are as follows;

TIREDNESS; extreme tiredness is one of the early symptoms of pregnancy and it resolves with time.

MISSED PERIOD; The womb every month, prepares for pregnancy, if it does not occur, it sheds its upper layer. This is responsible for the blood you see through your vagina every month. The womb weeps monthly in frustration for not meeting its objective.

 VOMITING; You may start feeling like you want to vomit with increase in saliva production or even start vomiting. This is more common in the morning and often referred to as “morning sickness”. It is caused by a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin and it usually resolves in the second trimester of pregnancy. It is also important to note that excessive vomiting might be a symptom of another disease complicating the pregnancy. You should see your health care provider when it becomes excessive.

BREAST CHANGES; Your breast will become tender, increase in size and in the second trimester of pregnancy start secreting breast milk.

TEMPERATURE CHANGE; You must have noticed that you feel a little warmer than you used to at some point in your menstrual cycle. This is due to the effect of the pregnancy hormone called progesterone. This usually resolves with your menses but persists when you miss your period which is suggestive of pregnancy.

INCREASED VAGINAL DISCAHRGE; This is usually white and does not have an unpleasant smell. However, you should seek health care when this vaginal discharge is associated with fever, pain on urinating, itching, unpleasant smell and change in color as these are signs of infection and can cause you problems in the pregnancy.

SPOTTING OF BLOOD VIA THE VAGINA; Some women might spot blood just about the time they are expecting their menses. This happens when fertilized egg developing into a baby gets implanted in the womb. This is of shorter duration and smaller volume compare to your normal menstrual flow.

Other symptoms might include diarrhoea, bloating, lower abdominal cramps, moody, food craving. For some women, there is no distinction between what they feel before they see their menses and some of the early symptoms of pregnancy.

You do not need to have all the above symptoms to suspect pregnancy. A missed period with either one or two of the above symptoms should qualify you for a confirmation test.

HOW TO CONFIRM YOUR PREGNANCY.

Pregnancy confirmation depends on the age of the pregnancy. What will confirm a pregnancy in the third trimester will not confirm it in the early first trimester. Pregnancy test and ultrasound scan are the most common means of confirming a pregnancy. The pregnancy test can be done with your urine or blood in the hospital. You can also have a home pregnancy test with a test kit using your urine. The diagnosis of pregnancy is made when there is a missed period with a positive pregnancy. Ultrasound scan confirmation of pregnancy is far superior to a pregnancy test. This is why your health care provider will request for an ultrasound scan after your pregnancy test is positive. Apart from confirming a pregnancy, ultrasound scan will reveal if the pregnancy is in the womb where it is supposed to be and not outside the womb, a condition called ectopic pregnancy. It can also reveal if it is a single baby or more than one babies in the womb. Also, it can reveal if the pregnancy is viable or not. Other ways your healthcare provider can confirm your pregnancy is by examining your belly to feel for your womb and also listen to the baby’s heart beat in the womb using an instrument.

HOW OLD IS MY PREGNANCY?

This is usually the next question that follows after confirming a pregnancy. The age of the pregnancy expressed in weeks called the gestational age (GA) can be estimated from the following;

LAST MENSTRUAL PERIOD(LMP); it is cheap, it uses the date you saw your last menses starting from the first day to calculate the age of your pregnancy and the expected date of delivery (EDD). There are several online calculators to help you with this. You can also use your calendar to check how many weeks old your pregnancy is from the date of your last menses. To calculate your EDD; add 7 to the day and 9 to the month if your LMP falls within the first 3 calendar months or add 7 to the day, subtract 3 from the month and add 1 to the year if your LMP is within the fourth month and above. This is sometimes a challenge as some women cannot remember the exact date they last saw their menses. In this case, the ultrasound scan becomes very useful.

ULTRASOUND SCAN; highly recommended for estimating the age of the pregnancy especially when done in the first trimester. It has other advantages which has already been mentioned above.

HEIGHT OF THE WOMB; your health care provider can measure the height of your womb from the uppermost point of the womb to the top of the pubic bone called the “symphysiofundal height”. It is measured in centimeters using a tape rule and after 20 weeks the height of the womb measured in centimeters corresponds to the gestational age in weeks. You will have this measurement checked anytime you go for antenatal care, it can also be used as an estimate to know if the baby is growing well.

MOVEMENT OF THE BABY; the period when you start feeling the movement of your baby is called “quickening”. It occurs at about 18 to 20 weeks in first time pregnancies and 14 to 18 weeks in subsequent pregnancies. This can be used to estimate the age of the pregnancy though not very accurate.

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