All About You
Am I Really Pregnant?
Some early pregnancy signs like bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, and mood swings may feel more like those of your period. In fact, you may even think that you've had a light period—many women notice some blood when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. And soon you may have plenty more symptoms to confirm you're pregnant!
The Start of Pregnancy
Some moms-to-be swear they can tell from day one that they're pregnant, others may not feel any signs of impending motherhood for weeks. Either way, your body is working hard to make your baby-to-be at home.
- Increased hormone levels: After fertilization, the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) floods your system with estrogen and progesterone. These hormones spark reproductive organs to begin preparing for motherhood. HCG is the same hormone that at-home pregnancy tests detect. Although many tests claim 99 percent accuracy, hCG levels may be too low to pick up early in your pregnancy. Chances are, you'll need to take a pregnancy test more than once.
- Loosening ligaments: One pregnancy hormone, called relaxin, works on ligaments and muscles to—as the name implies—relax them, explains Dr. William Camann, coauthor of Easy Labor: Every Woman's Guide to Choosing Less Pain and More Joy During Childbirth. Your body will need to become more pliable to make room for your baby.
- Breast tenderness: Pregnancy hormones trigger the breasts to change in preparation for feeding your baby. At about the three-month mark in your pregnancy, you'll begin producing colostrum (some women experience some leaking at this time), and shortly after birth your milk will come in. But now, in the early stages of your pregnancy, milk-producing cells and milk ducts are beginning to form. This, along with the increased blood flow to your breasts (brought about by the sharp rise in pregnancy hormones), causes your breasts to grow and become sensitive. Extra layers of fat will also begin to develop underneath your breasts, contributing to size changes. (A supportive pregnancy or nursing bra can help alleviate breast tenderness.)
- Higher blood volume: Your body needs to provide oxygen and nutrients to support your baby-to-be. As a result, your blood volume increases dramatically during pregnancy. Higher blood volume has several interesting side effects. "Increased blood volume may account for the pregnancy glow," says Dr. Camann. More blood is pulsing through your body, and your face, giving you more color. Also, more blood means you need to pee frequently, advises Dr. Camann. Your kidneys are working hard to filter your blood of any impurities, and as a by-product you have more urine—and more trips to the bathroom.
- Feeling tired: You may be fatigued for a variety of reasons. First, your heart is working harder to pump the increased blood throughout your body. Nausea may limit your food choices so that your energy is low. And, as Dr. Camann points out, "Progesterone has a sedative effect," meaning that the pregnancy hormones racing through your body make you sleepy.