Just as no two women are alike, not every mother-to-be exhibits the same signs or experiences the same symptoms of pregnancy. Even during subsequent pregnancies, the changes a woman undergoes can be altogether different. While some women will feel differently as early as one week following conception, there are others who might go months before feeling its effects. Incredibly, some women are unaffected by pregnancy altogether.
Perhaps the most significant sign that a woman is pregnant is a missed period, which generally occurs during the cycle directly following conception. In the same vein, a newly-pregnant woman might also experience implantation bleeding, which is the result of the embryo implanting on the uterine wall, usually 7 to 14 days after fertilization. It’s easy for a woman to mistakenly believe she is not pregnant, however, because implantation bleeding can cause similar signs and symptoms of a period, such as light bleeding and cramping.
Another definite symptom of pregnancy is morning sickness, a feeling of nausea often accompanied by vomiting. According to the American Pregnancy Association, morning sickness occurs in more than half of all pregnant women. On average, it presents around 6 weeks gestation and lasts until the end of the first trimester. Some women might even experience some degree of morning sickness throughout their entire pregnancy. A minority of women will experience extreme morning sickness, known as hyperemis gravidarum, which requires medical intervention to prevent and control dehydration.
Aches and Pains
As early as 7 to 14 days following conception, some women might notice that their breasts feel tender and appear swollen, thanks to an increase of hormones. Likewise, they might experience a general “achy” feeling, particularly in their lower back. Pregnant women might also experience frequent headaches early on, due to increased blood flow and circulation.
Almost immediately after conception, many women feel exhausted. This is due to increased levels of progesterone and overall blood supply, making women feel drained of energy. In the earliest, undiagnosed weeks of pregnancy, it’s easy for women to blame their fatigue on stress or lack of sleep. Especially if they are experiencing subtle symptoms of morning sickness, some women might simply believe they are ill with the cold or flu.
While some women form aversions to particular foods during pregnancy, others crave them. Although probably not the stereotypical pickles and ice cream associated with being pregnant, it’s not uncommon for women to crave strictly sweet or salty food items. Some pregnant women even develop pica, a craving for non-edible foodstuffs such as crayons or dirt. Food cravings are generally thought to be a sign that the woman’s diet is lacking in certain vitamins and minerals.
Although all pregnant women are different with regards to when they begin to “show,” most become visibly pregnant at some point during the second trimester. Women who have previously been pregnant might begin to look pregnant even earlier, as their uterine and abdominal muscles are not as toned. Conversely, athletic and well-toned women might not begin to show until well into the second trimester, or even into the third.