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Pregnancy

Unusual Early Pregnancy Symptoms: A Checklist

Written By
Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula

Some early pregnancy symptoms are familiar to most of us, and others can seem downright bizarre, but most of them are quite common! If you don’t know what to look for and think you might be pregnant, use this guide to see if your symptoms are normal or cause for concern.

Early pregnancy symptoms you’ve probably heard of

These are the “classics”, typical markers that someone may have conceived and the metabolic and chemical changes of pregnancy are starting to take place. Some of these are less pleasant than others, but understanding first trimester pregnancy symptoms may help you deal with temporary discomfort and even enjoy the process!

  • A missed period when you were expecting to menstruate: This could mean your uterus is now home to a fertilized egg, so it won’t shed it’s lining like it usually does.
  • Peeing more frequently than usual, even in small amounts: Increased blood flow and hormones hype up your bladder.
  • Being really really tired, even when you slept the night before: Take naps, you deserve it and you can blame the hormones!!
  • Finding it impossible to sleep: On the other hand, your brain and hormonal system could go the other way and keep you up at night.
  • Nausea upon waking or through the day, and food or smell aversions: “Morning sickness” can happen anytime, and nausea is more likely on an empty stomach or when something is unpleasant to your other senses...
  • A super sensitive nose, as in, “I can smell your breath from across the room...”: This is a nifty way your body alerts you to rotten food that could make you sick, but it comes with some unfortunate side effects...
  • Heartburn, indigestion, constipation, oh my! Hormones relax the digestive system, slowing things down even before your pregnancy grows and takes up more space.
  • Bizarre food cravings: Usually harmless, sometimes a craving can indicate a nutritional deficiency. If you are craving sweets in particular, try eating protein first. If you crave non-food items, like soil, chalk or coins, you may have a condition called “pica” and should contact your healthcare provider.
  • Swollen, tender, changing breasts, including nipple color changes, sensitivity and visible veins: Mammals typically breastfeed their young, so your chest is a part of the hormone party preparing for a baby!
  • Cramping or aches: Period-like cramping, lower back pain, and aches around your pelvis or even limbs may be due uterine activity and pressure as well as softer ligaments and joints.

Seemingly unusual early pregnancy symptoms that are totally normal

These signs typical of early pregnancy may seem a little weird, but they are all related to the changing hormones, fluid volume, and energy output required of pregnancy. If you experience one or more of those listed here and above, and it’s possible you could be pregnant, you might want to take a pregnancy test!

  • Metallic taste in your mouth, or food tasting “funny”: A taste like aluminum or pennies that lingers is called “dysgeusia” and is influenced by estrogen levels.
  • Excess saliva: Drooling can be a response to the other weird smells and tastes happening, is an oral response to acid reflux, and is also triggered by extra sensitive pregnancy nerves.
  • Dry mouth: Your pregnant body requires consistent hydration, and a lack of fluids could contribute to this hormonal side effect; occasionally it can be a sign of gestational diabetes so mention it to your care provider if you have any concerns.
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding or sore gums: An overall increase in blood volume puts more pressure on your blood vessels and nerves tend to be more sensitive.
  • Congestion: Overall fluid buildup and mucus output can lead to a stuffy nose!
  • Increased vaginal discharge, sometimes combined with a high libido: This can be a pleasant side effect for one person and uncomfortable for another.  Many people are surprised to find just how sexy they can feel during pregnancy, but it kind of makes sense considering that the “feel good” hormones of bonding and connection are also very active in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding...that and your body makes more fluids and mucus in general, so do what feels good and wear a panty liner if needed. If your discharge has a foul odor or strange color, chat with your healthcare provider.
  • Light spotting: About a fifth of pregnancies include some light bleeding in early pregnancy - it’s usually a sign of “implantation”, or the fertilized egg attaching to the wall of the uterus to gain protection and nutrients. If it’s anything more than a light streak or a few drops of blood, or if you aren’t sure, it’s worth checking with your care provider.
  • Skin changes from acne to varicose veins and darker color at your areola and vulva: Hormonal fluctuations can cause breakouts - or miraculously clear skin - while changes in circulation can bring blood vessels to the surface or darken skin tone in erogenous zones.
  • Dizziness, shortness of breath: Cardiovascular changes may affect your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing, but if you experience these symptoms with any pain, or for more than a few moments, contact your care provider.
  • Hot flashes or feeling chilly: You might notice some internal temperature shifts or sensitivity quite soon after conception, due to shifts in your central nervous system, organs, and yes, hormones.
  • Mood changes, feeling sentimental, sensitive, or grumpy: Feeling tearful? Let it out, your tears will help you release excess hormone buildup.
  • Vivid dreams: Many pregnant people report intensely detailed, surreal or strange dreams - considered a psychological response to all the feelings, changes, memories and new brain activity that pregnancy can bring up.
  • Increased mind-body awareness: All the activity of neurotransmitters, hormones, and subtle internal changes can make someone feel “different” or more aware in their body.

Pregnancy symptoms that are signs of concern

The following symptoms include some unique danger signs, as well as more severe versions of the symptoms above that require your attention and possibly medical care. If any symptom is combined with sudden, severe or persistent pain, or if your instincts tell you something isn’t right, contact your medical care provider(s) immediately.

  • Sudden swelling in the hands, feet or face
  • Vision changes, blurred vision
  • Persistent headaches or migraines that you don’t usually experience
  • Severe dizziness and fainting, or a quickening pulse accompanied by sudden pain
  • Bleeding beyond the light spotting described above
  • Ongoing vomiting or diarrhea
  • Fever over 102℉ or other signs of infection
  • Itchy, soreness and pain at vagina, especially combined with thick discharge, or pain or bleeding when you pee; possible other signs of urinary and/or sexually transmitted diseases could include painful lesions, unfamiliar bumps or discoloration, and odorous or unusually colored vaginal discharge
  • Severe or prolonged mood change, especially affecting your ability to take care of yourself or others, or causing significant distress

Jessalyn Ballerano
Certified Childbirth Educator & Doula
Jessalyn (she/her) is a Childbirth Educator and Doula serving families in the San Francisco Bay Area, nationwide, and in her new home of Eugene, Oregon. She started studying birth in 2010 as an anthropologist, and often brings a systemic approach to helping birthing people to understand their options, experiences and possibilities. She integrates evidence-based training and research with a holistic mindset and an activist’s passion for reproductive empowerment. Jessalyn serves on the board for the Oakland Better Birth Foundation, where birthworkers, birthing people, and care providers work together to end preventable maternal and infant mortality and address racial disparities in health care. Jessalyn is a CAPPA-Certified Childbirth Educator, SMC Full-Circle Doula.
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