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Missed periodA missed period is one of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy (and maybe the most classic one). However, a missed period doesn’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant, especially if your cycle tends to be irregular. There are many health conditions other than pregnancy that can cause a late or missed period.
HeadacheHeadaches are common in early pregnancy. They’re usually caused by altered hormone levels and increased blood volume. Contact your doctor if your headaches don’t go away or are especially painful.
SpottingSome women may experience light bleeding and spotting in early pregnancy. This bleeding is most often the result of implantation. Implantation usually occurs one to two weeks after fertilization. Early pregnancy bleeding can also result from relatively minor conditions such as an infection or irritation. The latter often affects the surface of the cervix (which is very sensitive during pregnancy). Bleeding can also sometimes signal a serious pregnancy complication, such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or placenta previa. Always contact your doctor if you’re concerned.
Weight gainYou can expect to gain between 1 and 4 pounds in your first few months of pregnancy. Weight gain becomes more noticeable toward the beginning of your second trimester.
Pregnancy-induced hypertensionHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, sometimes develops during pregnancy. A number of factors can increase your risk, including:
- being overweight or obese
- having a prior history or a family history of pregnancy-induced hypertension
HeartburnHormones released during pregnancy can sometimes relax the valve between your stomach and esophagus. When stomach acid leaks out, this can result in heartburn.
ConstipationHormone changes during early pregnancy can slow down your digestive system. As a result, you may become constipated.
CrampsAs the muscles in your uterus begin to stretch and expand, you may feel a pulling sensation that resembles menstrual cramps. If spotting or bleeding occurs alongside your cramps, it could signal a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
Back painHormones and stress on the muscles are the biggest causes of back pain in early pregnancy. Later on, your increased weight and shifted center of gravity may add to your back pain. Around half of all pregnant women report back pain during their pregnancy.
AnemiaPregnant women have an increased risk of anemia, which causes symptoms such as lightheadedness and dizziness. The condition can lead to premature birth and low birth weight. Prenatal care usually involves screening for anemia.
DepressionBetween 14 and 23 percent of all pregnant women develop depression during their pregnancy. The many biological and emotional changes you experience can be contributing causes. Be sure to tell your doctor if you don’t feel like your usual self.
InsomniaInsomnia is another common symptom of early pregnancy. Stress, physical discomfort, and hormonal changes can be contributing causes. A balanced diet, good sleep habits, and yoga stretches can all help you get a good night’s sleep.
Breast changesBreast changes are one of the first noticeable signs of pregnancy. Even before you’re far enough along for a positive test, your breasts may begin to feel tender, swollen, and generally heavy or full. Your nipples may also become larger and more sensitive, and the areolae may darken.
AcneBecause of increased androgen hormones, many women experience acne in early pregnancy. These hormones can make your skin oilier, which can clog pores. Pregnancy acne is usually temporary and clears up after the baby is born.
VomitingVomiting is a component of “morning sickness,” a common symptom that usually appears within the first four months. Morning sickness is often the first sign that you’re pregnant. Increased hormones during early pregnancy are the main cause.
Hip painHip pain is common during pregnancy and tends to increase in late pregnancy. It can have a variety of causes, including:
DiarrheaDiarrhea and other digestive difficulties occur frequently during pregnancy. Hormone changes, a different diet, and added stress are all possible explanations. If diarrhea lasts more than a few days, contact your doctor to make sure you don’t become dehydrated.
Stress and pregnancyWhile pregnancy is usually a happy time, it can also be a source of stress. A new baby means big changes to your body, your personal relationships, and even your finances. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help if you begin to feel overwhelmed.
The bottom lineIf you think you may be pregnant, you shouldn’t rely solely on these signs and symptoms for confirmation. Taking a home pregnancy test or seeing your doctor for lab testing can confirm a possible pregnancy. Many of these signs and symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Learn more about the early symptoms of pregnancy — such as how soon they’ll appear after you miss your period.
First trimesterA baby grows rapidly during the first trimester (weeks 1 to 12). The fetus begins developing their brain, spinal cord, and organs. The baby’s heart will also begin to beat. During the first trimester, the probability of a miscarriage is relatively high. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it’s estimated that about 1 in 10 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and that about 85 percent of these occur in the first trimester. Seek immediate help if you experience the symptoms of miscarriage.
Second trimesterDuring the second trimester of pregnancy (weeks 13 to 27), your healthcare provider will likely perform an anatomy scan ultrasound. This test checks the fetus’s body for any developmental abnormalities. The test results can also reveal the sex of your baby, if you wish to find out before the baby is born. You’ll probably begin to feel your baby move, kick, and punch inside of your uterus. After 23 weeks, a baby in utero is considered “viable.” This means that it could survive living outside of your womb. Babies born this early often have serious medical issues. Your baby has a much better chance of being born healthy the longer you are able to carry the pregnancy.
Third trimesterDuring the third trimester (weeks 28 to 40), your weight gain will accelerate, and you may feel more tired. Your baby can now sense light as well as open and close their eyes. Their bones are also formed. As labor approaches, you may feel pelvic discomfort, and your feet may swell. Contractions that don’t lead to labor, known as Braxton-Hicks contractions, may start to occur in the weeks before you deliver.
The bottom lineEvery pregnancy is different, but developments will most likely occur within this general time frame. Find out more about the changes you and your baby will undergo throughout the trimesters and sign up for our I’m Expecting newsletter to receive week-by-week pregnancy guidance.
|Birth control method||Effectiveness rate|
|Intrauterine devices (IUDs)||Over 99 percent|
|The pill||99 percent with perfect use; around 91 percent with typical use|
|Male condom||98 percent with perfect use; around |
|Female condom (or internal condom)||95 percent effective with perfect use; around 79 percent with typical use|
|Morning-after pill||Up to 95 percent (taken within one day of sexual contact); 75 to 89 percent (taken within three days)|
|Natural family planning (NFP)||75 percent when used on its own|
Intrauterine devices (IUDs)Intrauterine devices (IUDs) work by mostly by stopping fertilization. They’re currently the most effective form of birth control. The downside is that they don’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The pill and other hormonal birth control methodsBirth control pills, patches and the vaginal ring work by controlling the hormone levels in a woman’s body. They’re available by prescription. Actions that can reduce the effectiveness of these methods include forgetting to use them as prescribed. Effectiveness rates that mention “typical use” account for these types of human errors. Other forms of hormonal birth control include the patch and the vaginal ring. They’re also available by prescription, and their effectiveness rates are similar to those of the pill.
Condoms and other barrier methodsCondoms, diaphragms, and sponges are convenient and inexpensive forms of birth control that can be bought without a prescription. They’re most effective when used correctly every time you have sexual intercourse. If you’re relying on these barrier methods to avoid getting pregnant, also consider using an additional method of contraception such as spermicide or a birth control pill. Other barrier methods include diaphragms and sponges. They can be bought without a prescription.
Emergency contraceptionSeveral morning-after pills are available, both over the counter and by prescription. These pills aren’t intended as regular forms of birth control. Instead, they can act as a backup if you have unprotected sex or forget to use your regular form of birth control. They must be used within 120 hours (five days) of sexual contact to be effective. Some pills are most effective when taken within 72 hours (three days).
Natural family planning (NFP)Natural family planning (NFP), or fertility awareness, is the birth control method with the highest failure rate. With NFP, a woman tracks her menstrual cycle so that she can predict when she’ll ovulate. She’ll then avoid intercourse during her fertile window. Accidental pregnancies can occur because there are many variables affecting a woman’s cycle from month to month.
The bottom lineCondoms are the only birth control method that both prevent pregnancy and protect against STDs. Discover the safest condoms on the market here.
Vitamins and mineralsPregnant women require larger amounts of some vitamins and minerals than women who aren’t pregnant. Folic acid and zinc are just two examples. Once you find out you’re pregnant, you may wish to increase your vitamin and mineral intake with the help of supplements. Be sure to read nutrition labels and seek your doctor’s advice before using any supplements or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Although rare, taking supplements could result in vitamin toxicity or overdose. However, a complete prenatal vitamin will probably contain a good mix of the nutrients that you need for a healthy pregnancy. Try it: Shop for complete prenatal vitamins.
The bottom lineTaking care of yourself is one of the best ways to take care of your growing baby. Discover the 18 vitamins and minerals that lay the foundation for an optimal pregnancy diet.
Essential oilsUsing essential oils during pregnancy is controversial. Some healthcare professionals say that certain oils can be safe and helpful for relaxing and alleviating pain during pregnancy and labor. However, they also warn against using the oils in the first trimester. According to the nonprofit National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, the main point of contention is whether oils used during pregnancy can harm the growing baby if they cross over into the placenta. More research is needed about using essential oils during pregnancy and labor. If you plan to use them, seek guidance from your healthcare provider.
The bottom linePrenatal massage can be a soothing and tranquil part of your pregnancy routine, with or without the essential oils. See how it compares to other types of massage here.
Underlying conditionsUnderlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease will increase your risk of pregnancy complications. Other examples include: miscarriage, poor fetal growth, and birth defects.
Other risk factorsOther factors that can affect an otherwise healthy pregnancy include:
- multiple-birth pregnancies, such as twins or triplets
- infections, including STDs
- being overweight or obese
Pregnancy complicationsPregnancy complications can involve the baby’s health, the mother’s health, or both. They can occur during pregnancy or delivery. Common pregnancy complications include: Know your options when it comes to treating pregnancy complications.
Early laborLabor contractions are generally classified as early labor contractions and active labor contractions. Early labor contractions last between 30 and 45 seconds. They may be far apart at first, but by the end of early labor, contractions will be about five minutes apart. Your water might break early during labor, or your doctor may break it for you later on during your labor. When the cervix begins to open, you’ll see a blood-tinged discharge coating your mucous plug.
Active laborIn active labor, the cervix dilates, and the contractions get closer together and become more intense. If you’re in active labor, you should call your healthcare provider and head to your birth setting. If you’re unsure whether it’s active labor, it’s still a good idea to call and check in.
Labor painPain will be at its height during active labor. Have a discussion with your doctor about your preferred method of dealing with pain. You may choose drug-free measures such as meditation, yoga, or listening to music. If you choose to manage your pain with drugs, your doctor will need to know whether to use analgesics or anesthetics. Analgesics, such as meperidine (Demerol), dull the pain but allow you to retain some feeling. Anesthetics, such as an epidural, prevent certain muscle movement and completely block the pain.
The bottom lineWhether you’re planning for a vaginal or a cesarean delivery, you may feel nervous as your due date approaches. Know what to expect with this guide to the different stages of labor.
- taking a multivitamin
- getting sufficient sleep
- practicing safe sex
- getting a flu shot
- visiting your dentist
- drinking alcohol
- eating raw meat, deli meat, or unpasteurized dairy products
- sitting in a hot tub or sauna
- gaining too much weight