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8 Pregnancy Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

pregnancy symptoms

Is this normal? Every expectant mom has asked this question, sometimes more than once.

Relax, we’ve got the answers.

In the coming paragraphs, we’ll highlight eight pregnancy symptoms that are red flags you shouldn’t ignore. 

Ready for some peace of mind? Let’s dive in.

A missed period is frequently the first sign that might suggest pregnancy, commonly known among the plethora of pregnancy symptoms1. However, it’s essential to note that not all individuals experience this symptom, especially those with irregular menstrual cycles, signaling the complexity of detecting pregnancy symptoms1. Interpreting the symptoms of being pregnant involves a nuanced understanding of one’s body, with variations in the manifestation of these signs, from pregnancy weight gain calculator insights to ovulation calculator predictions1.

Apart from the initial cues, a diverse array of indicators can surface, hinting at the potential of pregnancy1. These symptoms encompass alterations in breast sensitivity to adjustments in everyday activities that may call for tailored pregnancy exercises or adjustments in sleep positions during pregnancy1. Early recognition of these symptoms can play a pivotal role in ensuring timely and suitable healthcare interventions, underscoring the significance of staying attuned to the body’s signals amid hectic schedules1. If you’re keen on understanding pregnancy symptoms beyond the obvious signs, recognizing these subtle changes is essential for proactive healthcare management.1.

Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle and Missed Periods

Understanding the menstrual cycle is pivotal in recognizing pregnancy symptoms, especially when periods are missed or irregular. The cycle spans from the first day of menstruation to the day before the next period starts, typically ranging between 23 to 35 days, with an average cycle lasting 28 days 2. Key phases include:

  • Menstruation: The shedding of the uterine lining.
  • Follicular Phase: Leading up to the release of an egg.
  • Fertile Window (Ovulation): Approximately 10 to 16 days before the next period, marking the release of an egg from the ovary 2.
  • Luteal Phase: After ovulation, when fertilization can occur 2.

When it comes to pregnancy symptoms, irregularities in the length of your menstrual cycle can make it challenging to predict ovulation and evaluate fertility. Additionally, the use of contraceptives can impact menstrual cycles, potentially causing a delay in returning to regular cycles after discontinuation. It’s important to note that despite ovulation typically occurring about two weeks after the first day of the last menstrual period, this date is crucial for calculating pregnancy due dates. To ensure a more precise estimation of the due date, it’s advisable to undergo ultrasound scans around 11 to 14 weeks into the pregnancy. If you want to learn more about pregnancy symptoms and menstrual irregularities, this information can be invaluable.

Understanding these cycles and changes can provide insight into pregnancy symptoms, including missed periods and spotting, which, while common and usually not serious, should prompt consultation with a healthcare professional for assessment 2.

Physical Changes and Discomforts

In the initial stages of pregnancy symptoms, women may undergo a range of physical changes and discomforts as their bodies adapt to accommodate the developing fetus, driven by hormonal fluctuations and bodily adjustments. These alterations typically serve as the primary signs of pregnancy and can differ significantly in strength and duration from woman to woman. If you’re curious about pregnancy symptoms and the physical changes that accompany early pregnancy, it’s essential to recognize these variations and understand their potential impact.

  • Common Early Symptoms:
    • Increased fatigue as the body adjusts to pregnancy 10.
    • Tender and enlarged breasts due to increased blood flow 3.
    • Nausea, food aversions, and frequent urination as early signs 3.
    • Implantation may cause sensations similar to menstrual cramps 3.
  • Trimester-Specific Changes:
    • First Trimester: Notable for the beginning of increased plasma and blood volume, alongside the decreased risk of miscarriage as all major structures start forming 11.
    • Second Trimester: Characterized by the uterus expanding, breasts enlarging further, and the initial movements of the fetus being felt 11.
    • Third Trimester: Marked by rapid fetal growth, significant weight gain for the mother, and a higher risk of blood clots 1112.
  • Other Notable Physical Changes:
    • Skin stretching may lead to stretch marks and melasma 13.
    • Diastasis Recti, a condition where the abdominal wall splits, affects approximately two-thirds of pregnant women 13.
    • Increased vaginal discharge due to cervical and vaginal changes 14.
    • Hormonal fluctuations can also lead to dizziness, headaches, backaches, and cramps 148.
    • Leg cramps may occur due to electrolyte imbalance or changes in calcium processing 1417.

Unusual Symptoms and Cravings

Pregnancy brings a myriad of changes, some of which can be quite unexpected. Among these are unusual cravings and symptoms that might seem peculiar but are a part of the pregnancy journey for many women.

  • Unusual Cravings:
    • Common Cravings: Sweets, savory carbohydrates, animal protein, fruit, dairy, vegetables, and fast food are among the most reported cravings 18.
    • Pica: A condition where non-food items like dirt, clay, and laundry starch are craved. This can be harmful and is less common, experienced by about 25-30% of children and even fewer pregnant women 20.
    • Management: Informing healthcare providers, monitoring iron and vitamin intake, and finding healthy substitutes are recommended strategies for managing pica 20.
  • Unexpected Symptoms:
    • Physical Changes: Swelling in unexpected places, balance problems due to a growing baby bump, and bigger feet as ligaments stretch are notable 13.
    • Sensory Changes: Increased sensitivity to odors and changes in taste may occur, often leading to food aversions 219.

Understanding these symptoms, including unusual cravings, is essential for a healthy pregnancy journey. While moderate indulgence in cravings is generally safe, consulting a healthcare provider regarding significant or unusual pregnancy symptoms and cravings, especially those involving non-food items 1820, is crucial for ensuring the well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Noticing Changes in Bodily Functions

Pregnancy introduces a myriad of changes in bodily functions, significantly impacting daily life. Here, we explore these alterations in a structured manner for better understanding:

  • Cardiovascular Adjustments:
    • Increased heart rate and cardiac output, coupled with decreased vascular resistance, accommodate the growing fetal demands 22.
    • These changes may result in feelings of lightheadedness or increased heart palpitations.
  • Renal and Urinary Modifications:
    • The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and renal plasma flow (RPF) see a notable increase, leading to frequent urination due to the body’s effort to eliminate waste more efficiently 22.
    • This heightened activity can disrupt sleep patterns, contributing to fatigue 10.
  • Digestive System Changes:
    • Gastrointestinal: The risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) spikes due to the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), making heartburn a common complaint 22.
    • Constipation and Bloating: Hormonal changes slow down the digestive system, resulting in constipation and bloating, adding to discomfort 219.
  • Respiratory Shifts:
    • Pregnancy can cause a decrease in functional residual capacity (FRC) while increasing tidal volume and minute ventilation, which may explain the shortness of breath experienced by many pregnant women 22.
  • Hormonal and Metabolic Fluctuations:
    • Elevated levels of progesterone and estrogen, along with the production of human placental lactogen, play a crucial role in supporting pregnancy but can lead to various symptoms like nasal congestion and changes in taste or smell 1221.

Understanding these changes can help expectant mothers prepare for and manage the physical demands of pregnancy, ensuring both maternal and fetal health.

Changes in Breast Sensitivity

In the realm of early pregnancy symptoms, changes in breast sensitivity and appearance are among the most notable and widely experienced. These changes are primarily driven by hormonal shifts that prepare the body for breastfeeding:

  • Breast Sensitivity and Growth:
    • Tender and swollen breasts may signal early pregnancy, often occurring as soon as one to two weeks after conception 7.
    • The increase in size and fullness is noticeable, with breasts possibly growing a cup size or two, especially during a first pregnancy 24.
    • Hormonal changes lead to increased blood flow, causing the breasts to feel tender, appear bigger, and nipples to become particularly sensitive 37.
  • Visible Changes:
    • The appearance of blue veins and the darkening of areolas are common as blood flow increases 725.
    • Montgomery’s tubercles, tiny bumps on the areolas, may become more pronounced 725.
    • Colostrum leakage, the immune-boosting milk for newborns, can occur during the second and third trimesters 725.
  • Management of Discomfort:
    • Wearing a good supportive bra, including a sleep bra or a sports bra during exercise, can help ease breast pain 23.
    • It’s important to note that while breast pain is an early sign of pregnancy, it is not definitive and can be challenging to differentiate from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 7.

Understanding these changes can assist expectant mothers in navigating the physical demands of pregnancy, ensuring comfort and preparation for the changes their bodies undergo.

Increased Fatigue

Increased fatigue is a hallmark of early pregnancy, catching many women off guard with its intensity. Several factors contribute to this overwhelming tiredness:

  • Hormonal Influences: The spike in progesterone levels is a primary culprit behind the fatigue experienced in the first trimester. This hormone, crucial for maintaining pregnancy, can induce drowsiness and a significant drop in energy levels 2610.
  • Physical Adjustments: The body undergoes several adaptations during pregnancy, including increased blood volume to support the developing fetus. This leads to faster heart and breathing rates, placing additional strain on the body and contributing to feelings of exhaustion 26. Additionally, the metabolic demands of supporting a growing fetus can further sap energy 10.

To combat fatigue, several strategies can be effective:

  • Nutrition: Opt for small, frequent, and healthy meals to maintain energy levels and manage nausea 26.
  • Exercise: Gentle activities like stretching, deep breathing, and walking can boost energy and improve sleep quality 27.
  • Rest: Prioritize sleep by adapting habits, such as taking naps and going to bed earlier, to help alleviate tiredness 2627.

Severe or persistent fatigue warrants medical attention as it may indicate underlying conditions such as anemia or gestational diabetes, underscoring the importance of regular prenatal check-ups 27.

Emotional Shifts and Mental Health

Pregnancy is not only a time of physical changes but also a period of significant emotional shifts and mental health considerations. Understanding and addressing these changes is crucial for the well-being of both the expectant mother and those around her:

  • Emotional Changes and Mental Health Challenges:
    • Emotional stress and anxiety about pregnancy can contribute to overall fatigue, highlighting the intertwined nature of physical and mental health during this period 10.
    • Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression may arise or be exacerbated by the combination of physical, social, and emotional changes during pregnancy. It’s reported that up to one in ten women experience depression during their pregnancy, with a similar prevalence of anxiety disorders 30.
    • Hormonal fluctuations, particularly the increase in levels of progesterone and estrogen, can significantly impact mood, leading to mood swings, feelings of tearfulness, or irritability 31.
  • Support and Management Strategies:
    • For those experiencing mental health challenges, it’s crucial to seek support. Your GP, obstetrician, midwife, or Maternal and Child Health nurse can provide advice on treatments, support, and services 30.
    • Lifestyle adjustments, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and ensuring adequate rest, play a role in managing stress and promoting emotional well-being 1432.

Addressing emotional shifts and mental health during pregnancy is essential for the health of the mother and the developing baby. Early intervention and support can lead to healthier outcomes for both.

When to Take a Pregnancy Test

Deciding when to take a pregnancy test can be a pivotal moment for many. Here’s a straightforward guide to ensure accuracy and understanding:

  • Ideal Timing for Test:
    • First Morning Urine: Opt for the first morning urine sample as it contains the highest concentration of hCG, enhancing test accuracy 33.
    • After a Missed Period: For those with regular cycles, the best time to test is one week after a missed period. However, tests can be used as early as the first day after a missed period 56.
    • Repeat Testing: If the initial test is negative but pregnancy is still suspected, wait a few days and test again. Early-detection tests can detect 71% of pregnancies 6 days before the missed period and 94% 5 days before 633.
  • Accuracy Considerations:
    • Home pregnancy tests are 99% accurate when used correctly, detecting the presence of hCG 3.
    • Ensure the test is not expired and follow instructions carefully to avoid false negatives or positives 433.
    • False negatives are more common than false positives and can occur if the test is taken too early or not according to instructions 33.
  • Next Steps After Testing:
    • Positive Test: Schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider for a follow-up test and to discuss pregnancy options 4.
    • Negative Test but Suspected Pregnancy: Consider a blood test for earlier detection than urine tests, though more expensive 33.
    • Regardless of the result, maintaining healthy habits and starting prenatal vitamins upon a positive result is crucial 33.


Navigating the myriad of signals your body sends during early pregnancy can be a daunting task, yet understanding these signs is crucial for a healthy pregnancy journey. From recognizing the subtle shifts in menstrual cycles and breast sensitivity to acknowledging more pronounced changes such as increased fatigue and emotional fluctuations, the insights shared underscore the importance of attuning to one’s body and seeking timely healthcare advice. These early indicators not only pave the way for a proactive approach to prenatal care but also foster a deeper connection between expectant mothers and the new life stirring within.

As we have explored, the breadth of symptoms ranging from the common to the unusual offers a complex yet fascinating glimpse into the physiological and psychological transformations that accompany pregnancy. The significance of these changes extends beyond individual experience, highlighting the need for supportive networks and informed healthcare guidance. While the journey of pregnancy is uniquely personal, the collective wisdom and shared experiences provide a reassuring sense of community and understanding, essential for navigating the beautiful, transformative path to motherhood.


Q: What pregnancy symptoms should prompt immediate medical attention?

A: You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience changes to your vision, such as flashing lights or blurry eyesight, sudden and severe swelling in your hands, feet, or face, or a headache that persists even after taking pain-relief medication.

Q: Are there any pregnancy pains that are considered warning signs?

A: Yes, certain pains during pregnancy should not be ignored and require contacting a healthcare provider. These include severe vomiting or headache, any vaginal bleeding, contractions before your due date, and leg pain.

Q: What are the alarming signs during pregnancy that one should be aware of?

A: Red flags during pregnancy include symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting, severe abdominal pain, intense back pain, and difficulties or changes in urination.

Q: How can I tell if my pregnancy is progressing well?

A: Signs of a healthy pregnancy include gaining weight at a healthy rate, feeling fetal movement in the belly, experiencing sore and enlarged breasts, noticing an increase in vaginal discharge, observing the correct growth of the fetus and belly, and dealing with fatigue or morning sickness.


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