Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Particularly in the early stages, symptoms of pregnancy can vary among women. And while the absence of menstrual periods is the classic and hallmark pregnancy symptoms, there are many other changes in the body, even during early pregnancy that result in characteristic signs and symptoms.
A missed period is the hallmark sign of pregnancy. Missing a menstrual period is typical, although many women report having light bleeding or spotting bleeding at the time of the expected period, a phenomenon that has been referred to as "implantation bleeding." If this bleeding occurs and is mistaken for a light menstrual period, it's possible for a woman not to realize that she is pregnant.
Most of the early symptoms of pregnancy develop over the first two to eight weeks. Common symptoms can include breast swelling and tenderness. Food cravings, while typical of later pregnancy stages, can also begin in the early weeks of pregnancy. Morning sickness (nausea and/or vomiting, which can occur at any time of day and not just in the morning) usually begins in the second to eighth week of pregnancy. Tiredness, mood swings, headache, and frequent need to urinate are all symptoms that can begin early in pregnancy.
Changes in skin color can include a darkening of the nipple area and facial skin color changes. The so-called "mask of pregnancy" is sometimes seen, particularly in darker-skinned women, in the first trimester. Medically known as melasma or chloasma, this is a darkening of the skin on the forehead, bridge of the nose, upper lip, or cheeks that usually occurs on both sides of the face.
As the pregnancy progresses, symptoms can occur that are related to the size of the growing uterus. Some women report pressure or pain in the lower back and swelling of the feet and ankles. Frequent urination, heartburn, and indigestion are common in later stages of pregnancy. Sleep disturbances and fatigue can make this time period more difficult.
As the delivery date nears, most women experience what are known as Braxton-Hicks contractions of the uterus. Believed to occur as a preparation for labor, these contractions manifest as a tightening feeling in the uterus that occurs sporadically. Unlike regular labor, Braxton-Hicks contractions do not occur at regular intervals and are shorter in duration and less intense than labor pains.
Causes of pregnancy
Pregnancy is caused by the fertilization of an egg by sperm and implantation of the resulting fertilized egg in the uterus.
Rigby, Fidelma B. "Common Pregnancy Complaints and Questions." Medscape.com. May 31, 2016. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/259724-overview>.
Main Article on Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Boost Your Fertility: Ovulation Calculator, Pregnancy Planning and More
Boost fertility and increase your chances to conceive. Learn about ovulation calendars, diet, aging and other factors that can...
Early Pregnancy Symptoms Quiz
What are early pregnancy symptoms? In some women, symptoms range from a missed period to feeling lightheaded. Others may...
Early Signs & Symptoms of Pregnancy
Read about early signs and symptoms of pregnancy such as nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), bloating, tender breasts, and...
Picture of Tubal Pregnancy
A pregnancy that is not in the usual place within the uterus but is located in the Fallopian tube. See a picture of Tubal...
Pregnancy Myths and Facts Quiz: Test Your Pregnancy IQ
Being pregnant is a delicate time for both mother and baby. Take this quiz to separate the myths and facts about being pregnant,...
Prenatal Workout: Safe Exercises for Pregnant Women
Pregnancy workouts explained. Discover the best safe pregnancy exercises for your workout. Exercise during pregnancy is an...
Stages of Pregnancy: 1st, 2nd, 3rd Trimester Images
See pictures on the various stages of pregnancy. See and learn what changes a woman's body goes through and view fetal images of...
What Not to Eat When Pregnant Pictures: Alcohol, Fish, Fruit Juice, Sushi
Do you know which common foods may be risky during pregnancy? Learn which foods to avoid, while pregnant, such as queso dip,...
Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
Examples of Medications for Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Pregnancy & Newborns Newsletter