When a woman becomes pregnant, her body changes in many ways–some good, some bad. Certain symptoms of pregnancy can be misleading because they’re not a guaranteed indicator of pregnancy. Many, in fact, can be attributed to other conditions. Particularly in the case of women who have never been pregnant, it’s easy to mistake such symptoms for those of an actual pregnancy.
There are a handful of early indicators of pregnancy–including missing a period, breast tenderness, extreme fatigue, nausea and vomiting and frequent urination. Because pregnancy symptoms can be vague, they don’t necessarily mean a woman is pregnant. Taking a pregnancy test is a good first step. However, it’s important to remember that false negatives can occur. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to schedule a doctor visit if pregnancy is suspected.
The cessation of the menstrual cycle is one of the first signs of pregnancy. It’s also one of the most misunderstood pregnancy symptoms among women who aren’t really pregnant. There are numerous other factors–stress, not ovulating, or taking birth control pills with low estrogen– that can cause a missed or late period.
According to WebMD.com, morning sickness may happen beginning about a month after conception. Nausea and vomiting also can occur for other reasons–including food poisoning, headaches, stress and eating and anxiety disorders. Although breast tenderness is a common early sign of pregnancy, it also can result from an increase in estrogen, which would likely occur in the case of a missed period (and lack of ovulation). It’s true that pregnancy can cause hormone levels to surge. Mood swings can’t always be considered a pregnancy symptom. They can result from other issues, such as emotional disorders.
Pseudocyesis–or false pregnancy–is a rare but serious psychological condition that’s often believed to stem from a woman’s strong desire to be pregnant. Experts also say stress, anxiety and depression can contribute to symptoms of pseudocyesis. As a result, she’ll experience many of the same symptoms of a woman who is pregnant (cessation of menstruation, nausea and vomiting, cravings and breast tenderness). Pseudocyesis also has been linked to high hormonal levels caused by stress or anxiety, according to neurology of reproductive expert Dr. Mary Erskine, a biologist at Boston University.
What to Do
Anyone who has pregnancy symptoms should start by taking a pregnancy test. If the test is negative but symptoms persist, it’s important to see a doctor because false negatives can occur. Moreover, a doctor visit will help to determine if there’s another underlying cause to the symptoms at hand and help the patient decide what course of treatment to follow.