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Physical changes in early pregnancy

Physical changes in early pregnancy


From conception to birth, a woman's body undertakes the most amazing process of fertilisation, implantation and the development and growth of her baby (or babies).

Her body is her baby's home for the next nine months (or around 40 weeks) and the experience of pregnancy becomes a journey of many new physical sensations. Whether this is your first, second, third (or more) pregnancy, your body will react differently to each individual pregnancy.

The changes can be subtle

During the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (also known as the '1st trimester' ), a woman's body changes to provide a nurturing and protective environment for her baby in which to grow and develop. These changes can be obvious or quite subtle. In many cases, the signs only become clearer in retrospect, after the pregnancy is confirmed. (In other words, "That is why I've been feeling so sick or tired!"). Many women will not know they are pregnant until their menstrual period is quite a few weeks overdue. Others will begin to wonder if they could be pregnant, soon after their period is missed. A few will feel they know they are pregnant, even before missing a period, because they feel 'unusual', have a hunch, or suspect that something is different.

Fatigue, bloating and spotting are common

Occasionally, the early signs of pregnancy can make a woman feel confused. This may be because many of the physical signs of early pregnancy (such as swollen tender breasts, feeling tired, 'bloated' and possibly experiencing cramping and/or pelvic discomfort), can be similar to normal pre-menstrual signs, in the days just before a period starts. Pregnancy signs can also seem puzzling if a woman experiences an 'implantation bleed' and/or light bleeds or 'spotting' during the first few weeks of her pregnancy. These may be mistaken for normal periods. 

You can still fall pregnant while breastfeeding

Also, a woman who is currently breastfeeding and has not yet had a normal menstrual period may not have the 'tell tale' sign of a missed period (because many women will not have periods until their baby is partially or fully weaned off the breast - perhaps 6 to12 months or more). It is possible for a woman to be fertile and conceive a subsequent baby about 8 weeks after giving birth. Breastfeeding (as an only form of contraception) tends to be only reliable for about 30% of women, especially after their baby is 3 to 4 months old. Breastfeeding women who conceive a subsequent baby may notice they become incredibly tired and exhausted (more so than they already are!) and possibly notice an increased sensitivity to their nipples (particularly when their baby latches and suckles at the breasts). They may also feel nauseated or sick, due to morning sickness. The taste of breast milk often changes when a woman is pregnant again, usually being more 'salty'. This change can cause some babies to fuss at the breast when feeding, or they may temporarily (or permanently) refuse to breastfeed.

Is it normal?

It is not unusual to feel unsure about what is 'normal' during the early stages of pregnancy development, and unfamiliar signs or sensations may trigger concerns about your health, or that of your baby. A few women will also become concerned if they do not experience any 'typical' pregnancy signs and symptoms, and only 'know' they are pregnant because they have missed a period and/or have had a positive pregnancy test. This can also be very normal. Bear in mind that every woman's body will react differently to being pregnant. Sometimes the changes will be obvious, but this does not always have to be the case, and you do not have to experience all of the possible pregnancy changes. For example, some women will find they experience morning sickness, but have plenty of energy, while other women do not feel sick, but feel extremely tired

Many women find their early pregnancy symptoms very difficult to cope with, both at work and socially. More so if the pregnancy has not been announced to others. It can be hard to keep your pregnancy a secret if you are regularly heaving up in the toilet!

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