1 Hot flushes
Hot flushes or sudden flashes or heat can be an early sign of pregnancy.
You can also have hot flushes during your pregnancy. They’re perfectly normal and like many pregnancy symptoms, don’t happen to everyone.
2 Tender, swollen breasts
If you regularly get sore breasts around your period you’ll know the feeling: swollen, tingly, sore and/or a feeling that your bra is just too tight and restrictive. Tender breasts are one of the first signs of pregnancy and occur thanks to rising levels of oestrogen and progesterone, which start to change breast tissue in preparation for the production of milk. This is why breast tenderness, soreness and even itchiness (this includes the nipple area) can start before you even know for sure you are pregnant.
Help yourself… by wearing a well-fitting bra and insisting on having a hands-off policy until you feel less tender.
3 Acute tiredness
This is not just your run of the mill, ‘I’ve had an exhausting day’ tiredness, but the kind of tiredness you get when you’re coming down with flu, where you imagine that if you close your eyes you’ll fall asleep on the spot and not wake up for 24 hours!
Help yourself… by learning to relax. Give yourself time out and take little naps. Going to bed much earlier than usual and not scheduling anything for a few weekends can also help with your energy.
4 And increased sense of smell
If you’re suddenly aware that you’re really sensitive to smells you’d never normally notice, you could very well be pregnant. It’s your pregnancy hormones that are to blame. This heightened sense of smell seems to affect pregnant women most during the early stages of pregnancy and can trigger morning sickness.
Help yourself… by carrying around a tissue doused in an aromatherapy oil that smells ‘clean’ and refreshing. That way you can clamp it to your nose whenever you smell something that doesn’t appeal. Try lavender or peppermint oil, or your favourite perfume or peppermints. If that doesn’t work, opt for fresh air as soon as possible.
5 Nausea and vomiting
Nausea, vomiting and that feeling that the room is swimming – also known as morning sickness, although it can hit you at any time of the day – can begin just a few short weeks into your pregnancy. The culprit – yep, you’ve guessed it – is the rising levels of hormones needed for your baby to grow.
Help yourself… by eating little and often and keeping your meals plain and simple so that you can work with your sensitive stomach.
6 Excessive weeing
Two or three weeks after conception (so basically when you don’t yet realise you’re pregnant), it’s likely that you’ll feel the need to wee all the time. This urge is all down to the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which increases blood flow to your kidneys, helping them to more efficiently rid your body (and eventually, your baby’s growing body) of waste.
Your growing uterus (yes, it’s starting to grow already!) is also beginning to put some pressure on your bladder, leaving less storage space for urine and making you head for the toilet more often than you’d like. Although the need to wee constantly does taper off around weeks 12-14, it makes a return the closer you get to your due date, mostly down to the fact that your baby likes to tap dance in your bladder.
Help yourself… by giving in to it – better out than in! Also, try to lean forwards when you wee, as this helps to empty the bladder completely, giving you a brief respite.
Pregnancy insomnia, especially in the first trimester, is very common. Mostly, it comes in the form of being unable to fall back to sleep after being awakened, probably from having to wee all the time. It’s the result of stress and worry, but overheating can also be another problem, because in the early days of pregnancy you may find yourself suffering from hot flushes. Again, this is normal and the result of an increased heart rate (your resting heart rate rises during pregnancy) as well as hormones. This is very much a first-trimester thing, but as your pregnancy progresses into the third trimester, your sleep will be disturbed as you fight to find a comfortable position, battling against restless legs and calf cramps.
Help yourself… by keeping your room a little cooler than usual and winding down for 20 minutes before bed so that you feel more relaxed.
8 Restless leg syndrome
Over 25% of pregnant women suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS), a horrible creepy-crawly, niggling feeling in your legs that produces an overwhelming urge to move just as you’re nodding off. Exhausting and irritating, it’s a major source of sleep-related anxiety. Experts believe the cause is a nutritional deficiency.
Help yourself… by taking an iron supplement (although seek advice from your doctor before you do this).
You’re not imagining it – that dizzy and light-headed feeling is a recognised physical symptom of pregnancy. It’s brought on by the circulatory changes that are going on in your body.
Help yourself… by getting up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down. Eat regularly and avoid prolonged standing.
That’s lower backache in particular, the kind that sometimes happens before your period. It happens because hormonal changes affect your muscles, making them lax, plus the weight of your bump puts added strain on your back muscles. There are two specific types of lower backache that tend to be linked to pregnancy: lumbar pain, which you will feel over and around your spine at waist level, and posterior pelvic pain, which you feel around your bottom and on the sides or the back of your thighs.
Help yourself… by avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time. Elevate your feet to relieve the pressure. If you have pelvic pain, be careful about how you get off the sofa and out of bed, and limit high-intensity exercise. Gentle stretching can also help, as can a hot water bottle against your back.
Crying when you’re not the crying type, or feeling yourself constantly moved to tears at an advert/cute baby/sad song on the radio, could be a sign that you are pregnant. Pregnancy hormones are to blame, once again, and this, mixed with the usual early-pregnancy anxieties, tends to accelerate the crying process, especially around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Help yourself… by reminding your partner and close friends and family to be gentle with you. Give into it and have a good cry – and remember, it does pass! Don’t forget the tissues…