Early pregnancy is a time of incredible change, both mentally and physically. Especially if it's your first pregnancy, you're bound to question every change, feeling or symptom and wonder, "Is this normal?" We spoke with Dr. Iffath Hoskins of NYU Langone Health for more information on early pregnancy symptoms.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Iffath Hoskins is a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at NYU Langone Health.
Seeing blood in any form while pregnant can be quite alarming, but, Dr. Hoskins says, approximately 20% of pregnant women experience spotting, cramping, and bleeding in the first trimester, and half of them go on to have normal outcomes. A cause for concern would be if spotting is dark red, and associated with cramps and pain, or if it continues for days, such as a week or so. Under these circumstances, seek medical care. Hoskins adds that most likely, spotting can be due to the implantation of pregnancy into the uterine wall.
Similar to spotting, nearly 20% of pregnant women may experience cramps and pelvic pain, but also half will go on to have normal outcomes. Hoskins explains that pelvic pain "can also be due to fibroids (an effect of pregnancy hormones), and may be due to the uterus 'growing out of the pelvis' and thus putting the supporting ligaments on stretch or pull."
Dr. Hoskins advises that if the pain is severe (whatever you perceive that to mean), persistent (over more than a couple of hours), or associated with bleeding or leaking of fluid, to seek medical care because it could potentially be a miscarriage.
Good ole' morning sickness, right? Most likely. Hoskins says, "It is very common to have nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. This is due to the surge in pregnancy hormones. In general, this will subside by the third month." However, if the problem causes severe weight loss (think 4 to 5 pounds over a week), and/or if you experience fainting, seek medical care.
Being sleepy can also be chalked up to the pregnancy hormone, however, if you become bedridden and can't perform normal day to day activities, it's important to see your doctor.
Pregnancy can be tough, especially early on as your body is rapidly adjusting to its new state. If you're experiencing muscle aches, Hoskins says that this may be more a sensation of fatigue. It could also be due to the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, causing your muscles to feel "relaxed and flaccid." If ever your muscle aches are accompanied by fever, again, seek medical care.
Lots of women recall that this was one of the first signs of pregnancy. "This is due to pregnancy hormones affecting breast tissue (muscle and glands) as preparation for later breastfeeding," explains Hoskins. If you experience specific areas of heat, redness, or pain, especially if associated with a fever, seek medical care.
Throbbing headaches can also be attributed to the pregnancy hormone. For some relief, try some simple remedies including increasing your fluids intake and resting in a dark and quiet area. Hoskins advises you should seek medical care if your headache is accompanied by vision changes, balance issues, changes in consciousness, seizure, etc.
Again, thanks to the pregnancy hormone, you might be experiencing swift changes in mood. For some relief, you might try acupuncture, meditation, or any other non-medicinal aids to elevate your mood. If the mood swings are ever associated with insomnia, suicidal ideation, panic, or anxiety, be sure to seek prompt medical attention.
Dr. Hoskins adds that sometimes patients might feel winded. Again, due to the hormones, your breathing and air in your lungs are now affected so that maximum oxygen goes to the growing baby. If you can't breathe or feel that you might pass out, seek care. Feeling flushed is another common symptom some patients report, and this is attributed to an increase in blood flow to supply for your baby's needs, as well as "the baby's growth and development generating heat within the mother," explains Hoskins. If ever this is accompanied by a high fever, shaking or chills, be sure to see your doctor.
*Note: These comments all address the early stages of pregnancy. Most of the above-mentioned symptoms in later pregnancy would have different connotations.