If your period is late, do you ever find yourself constantly wondering if you're pregnant? Or if you get to the office and complain to a colleague that you're feeling a bit nauseous, do they jump to the conclusion that you'll be hearing the pitter patter of tiny feet soon? That's because these symptoms are the absolute classic pregnancy symptoms. Along with swollen, tender breasts and aversions to smells and tastes you once loved, these symptoms have become the famous telltale signs that you might have a bun in the oven.
Interestingly, these symptoms are not always the first to appear, and if you're actively trying to conceive and are symptom-spotting at every opportunity (come on, own up, we've all done it!), there may be some signs your body is giving you that you don't recognize as being related to early pregnancy.
1. Extra Oily Hair
When you become pregnant, you experience a massive increase in hormones. These extra hormones are vital as they help your baby to grow and develop, they activate the milk glands in the breasts to allow for breastfeeding (if you choose to do so) and they keep the wall of the uterus strong and thick, helping to protect the fetus. Unfortunately, these additional hormones are also what cause the infamous pregnancy mood swings!
Did you ever suffer with acne when you were a teenager? Although acne can also affect adults, it is more common during puberty, when the hormone levels in the body are changing. This is because hormones stimulate and enlarge the body's sebaceous glands, producing a larger quantity of sebum; that's the stuff that makes your hair and skin feel greasy and dirty. Hormones affect the sebaceous glands in this way because these glands are also needed to produce vernix caseosa; an oily substance that coats a baby's skin to protect it from the amniotic waters. Think about the last time you had a bath. After an hour you probably started to turn a bit wrinkly, didn't you? If your baby didn't have this protective coating, just imagine what they'd look like after that nine month long soak!
Therefore, the sudden increase in hormones that occurs when you get pregnant means that more sebum will be being produced. This seeps out of hair follicles all over the body, making our hair greasy and our skin spotty. But don't worry, these effects are usually short-lived and hormone levels will return to normal following the birth.
If you're trying to get pregnant, noticing a small amount of blood can be rather disheartening as it usually means you haven't been successful in conceiving that month. However, if you notice that your period is much lighter or shorter than normal, it may not be your period after all.
When an egg is fertilized, instead of being flushed out as part of the menstrual flow, it attaches itself to the thick wall of your uterus. In doing so, some of the uterine lining can become dislodged and can break off. This small amount of blood will then present in much the same way as normal menstruation, but there will be a much smaller quantity and it may be light pink or even brown in color rather than bright red. This is known as implantation bleeding.
Some women don't experience any signs of implantation at all, whereas others not only have the bleeding but also feel cramping similar to the cramps you may usually feel during your time of the month. It is estimated that about 30% of pregnant women will experience implantation bleeding around nine days after ovulation; earlier than many home pregnancy tests will be able to detect the presence of pregnancy hormones.
However, it's important to remember that bleeding during pregnancy is not always normal. If you experience bleeding and think you may be pregnant it is always best to visit your Doctor.
3. Cold and Flu Symptoms
A blocked up nose, a headache, sore muscles, fatigue, a fever and hot flushes. You must be coming down with a cold or flu virus, right? Not necessarily! In some cases, these signs may all be caused by that tiny speck of a baby you've just created.
Once again, it all comes down to those pesky pregnancy hormones. Sebaceous glands are not the only thing to be put into serious overdrive during pregnancy, the mucous membranes are too. And what happens when the mucous membranes are operating full steam ahead? That's right - we end up with a nose that's running like a leaky faucet. The membranes in the nasal passages are particularly sensitive and are prone to swelling and inflammation which provides the alternating periods of that bunged-up, can't breathe feeling.
This isn't just a nasty trick played on you by your body, though. Sadly, it's an unfortunate side effect of your body trying to do what's best for the baby. The membrane stimulation is a by product of increasing blood flow. This is essential as the body not only has to supply blood to you, but also to your growing placenta which is vital for the healthy growth and development of the fetus.
So if you're keeping an eye out for signs you may be pregnant, be sure to add the above symptoms to your list. But keep in mind that symptom spotting is only intended to be a bit of fun, and the only reliable methods to tell if you are pregnant are good brands of home pregnancy test, a blood test that can be done at your Doctor's office, or an abdominal ultrasound. If you suspect you may be pregnant and have any unusual symptoms it is always best to have a chat with a healthcare professional to rule out any potential risks.