Symptoms of pregnancy – The good, the bad and the ugly
The vast majority of women will know that they are pregnant by week 5 or 6. This is not so much to do with indications but more to do with the fact that if you miss your period, you are likely to seek an explanation, and, for sexually active women, a pregnancy test will be an inevitable part of this.
However, by week 8 the symptoms of pregnancy are likely to have been clear for some time and, if you are a first time mother-to-be, you may feel a little at sea with it all.
Problems with the word “symptoms”
Merriam-Webster defines the word symptom as “subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance; broadly: something that indicates the presence of bodily disorder.” Of course, pregnancy is not a disease, so to talk in terms of symptoms risks unnecessarily medicalising the body’s most beautiful and natural function: the creation of new life.
Therefore, it’s probably best to consider any mention of the word “symptom” to be in line with one of Merriam-Webster’s secondary definitions of the word: “a slight indication”.
Sure, as you get larger and larger throughout your pregnancy you may consider your primary symptoms as anything but “slight”, but language is imperfect and we will have to make do with the accepted terminology.
Week 8 symptoms
Your body is changing at a faster rate than it has done at any time since… well, since you yourself were a developing foetus inside your own mother’s womb. Your blood flow will increase, which is likely to make you very thirsty; your body will be awash with pregnancy hormones; you will probably feel more tired than usual; your breasts will be feeling tender as they begin to swell; and you may also be subject to the discomfort of abdominal cramping.
Plus there are a raft of other physical symptoms that are likely to be completely unexpected. For example, pregnancy hormones can cause you to create excess saliva which has an unwelcome bitter taste – don’t worry though, this a completely normal part of the pregnancy process and is likely to recede around the time you enter week 12 and the second trimester.
Many women also begin to develop varicose veins during pregnancy – sometimes as early as the second half of the first trimester. Varicose veins are thought to be caused by the increase in blood volume that occurs during pregnancy, putting additional strain on your veins. The risk factor is further increased by the pregnancy hormone progesterone causing the muscular walls of the blood vessels to become more elastic and the pressure your enlarged uterus places on your pelvic area.
Unfortunately, varicose veins do not only affect the legs, they can also affect your rectum area (piles) and your vulva. Fortunately, varicose veins are likely to improve or disappear altogether once you have had your baby, so don’t worry unduly, you are just the next in a long line of billions of mothers who have experienced the same thing before. Talk to your midwife if you are concerned about varicose veins and she will be able to examine you and give you advice.
Another thing progesterone may do is cause you to become constipated. Don’t hate this miracle hormone though – it also causes the endometrium (uterine lining) to thicken so that your baby stays well nourished and protected. From week 8 the placenta will take over from the ovaries as the main progesterone producer.
Support your boobs
By week 8 your breasts will be beginning to swell. As a result, it’s likely that your bras may be ill-fitting and uncomfortable. You might want to do away with your underwired bras at this stage and make an appointment to be fitted for a soft and flexible maternity bra.
Morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum
Chances are that in week 8 you will still be experiencing morning sickness – fortunately this should begin to ease off and may peter out all together from week 10 to week 12.
However, if you are one of the unfortunate 1 percent who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, you will be experiencing extreme morning sickness and may struggle to hold any food or drink down. In this case, you should contact your GP as medical assistance can help you get through this difficult stage.
The good news? If you are one of the 99% of people who don’t experience hyperemesis gravidarum, it is not too long now until the morning sickness period will come to an end.