Am I? Or not? Each month many women find themselves asking The Question: am I pregnant this month? While the surest answer will come with a pregnancy test, there are a number of possible symptoms that may give the game away earlier.
The common symptoms
- Altered taste: Pregnancy can affect your taste buds, with some women reporting a metallic taste in their mouth, or a sudden aversion to a food or drink they usually love. On the other hand, you may suddenly start to love, or even crave, a certain food – even if it’s something you absolutely couldn’t stand before!
- Smell sensitivity: Along with your changed taste buds, pregnancy can also play havoc with your sense of smell. Scents that have never bothered you before can suddenly drive you crazy, while smells you've never noticed might become quite strong.
- Exhaustion: This symptom can hit almost as soon as the pregnancy begins. Dr Gino Pecoraro, a Brisbane-based obstetrician and gynaecologist, says exhaustion is due to all the hard work your body is doing while making the new life. "Your heart and lungs are working 60 per cent harder than usual," he says. "That means the demand on your body is far more intense." Try to take it easy – after all, you’re in the early stages of making a new life!
- Increased vaginal discharge: It’s one of the less-talked about symptoms of pregnancy, but for many women, increased vaginal discharge is one of the first signs they’re expecting. It happens when the mucous plug starts to form around the opening of the cervix – this is the plug that will help protect your baby during pregnancy – which can lead to a light, milky white discharge that’s odourless or almost odour-free. It’s nothing to worry about, and using a maternity liner can help you feel more comfortable.
- Nausea: Wrongly called "morning sickness", pregnancy-related nausea can strike at any time of the day or night. Try eating small amounts of food throughout the day, drinking ginger tea and getting as much rest as you can to help ease the nausea.
- Bleeding gums: It isn’t something most people associate with pregnancy, but having sore, bleeding gums is a common sign you’re a mum-to-be. "The progesterone caused by the pregnancy increases blood flow to the gums – for some people, this makes them bleed more easily," says Dr Pecoraro. As always, take good care of your gums and teeth by brushing and flossing regularly.
- Tender breasts: Because of changes in your breast tissue and glands, your breasts may become quite tender and your nipples may be more sensitive in the early stages of pregnancy. The skin around your nipples might also be darker in colour. It’s all completely normal.
- Implantation bleeding: Around eight days after ovulation you might notice some spotting or light bleeding. This isn't your period – it can actually be caused by the implantation of the embryo into the lining of your uterus. "Some women claim they don't miss a period when first pregnant, but technically that isn't possible," says Dr Pecoraro. "A period is the shedding of the lining of the uterus, so a period during pregnancy would be a miscarriage." You might like to use a maternity liner for peace of mind.
- Body heat: During the early stages of pregnancy your body may give off more heat – and stay that way. "Again, it's due to the fact that your body is working 60 per cent harder than usual, creating a new life," explains Dr Pecoraro. "It may be a change that your partner notices before you do - it can be really nice snuggling up together in winter, but perhaps not so great in summer!"
Other possible symptoms
- Emotional volatility: It's not surprising - after all, your hormones are fluctuating and your body is working overtime, often with a dose of not-so-fun symptoms thrown in!
- Frequent urination: It's a symptom that will annoy the heck out of you in your third trimester, when the baby is taking up all the available room "down there" and quite possibly pressing on your bladder too, but frequent urination can be a symptom of early pregnancy.
- Cognitive function: If you're having trouble remembering your best friend's phone number or your PIN, you’re not going crazy – it could just be the pregnancy hormones kicking in. "It's an interesting one; studies have indicated that women's cognitive function, with regards to remembering numbers, can be impaired due to pregnancy," says Dr Pecoraro. "The good news is that it's not a permanent change – your cognitive function does return!"
The surest answer will come with a test, but there are a number of symptoms that can indicate you're pregnant before you get the official word
And finally … symptom or not?
- Bleeding: As outlined above, it's not possible to have a period in pregnancy, but implantation bleeding is – and so is any other regular bleeding. "Anything that puts pressure on the cervix can cause bleeding during pregnancy," explains Dr Pecoraro. "So sexual intercourse may trigger some bleeding, as may an infection." Maternity liners can help you monitor any bleeding.
- Sympathy pregnancy: "There's a relatively new phenomenon of men having sympathy pregnancy symptoms," says Dr Pecoraro. "In fact, it's simply the case that any two people living together can be very in tune with the other's health and emotional state. So mood swings in one partner can trigger mood swings in the other, and reduced quality of sleep for one partner can reduce the quality of sleep for the other."