The early signs of pregnancy, and what your first steps should be

You know your body better than anyone else, and you’ll know when something feels different or ‘not quite right’. For sexually active women, that could be because you’re pregnant and starting to show the very earliest signs. They can often be put down to other things or passed over as just feeling a bit unwell, but it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to take a test if there’s any chance you might be pregnant.

Planned or unplanned pregnancy influences women in different ways. Some will feel almost none of the symptoms we’ll outline, while others will really struggle with them and need medical help. Whether or not you’ve been trying for a baby, discovering you’re pregnant can be a surprise. Here are the early signs of pregnancy and some advice on what your first steps should be if you find you’re expecting.

What are the most common early signs of pregnancy?

The very earliest signs of pregnancy can, as we’ve said, be mistaken for other things. These early symptoms might include:

  • Missing your regular monthly period
  • Nausea or vomiting, which is commonly referred to as “morning sickness,” can occur at any time of day or night.
  • Tiredness or exhaustion, particularly in the first trimester
  • Enlargement or increased tenderness of your breasts, or changes in the appearance of your nipples
  • An increased need to urinate
  • Going off certain foods or finding yourself craving others
  • An increased sensitivity to smell

Less common signs might also include:

  • Constipation
  • Moodiness or ‘mood swings’
  • Blood spots without a period
  • More vaginal discharge without any irritation or soreness
  • Bloating
  • Nasal congestion

You may experience none, some or all of these symptoms, but the moment you think something has changed in your body and there’s a possibility you’re pregnant, it’s important to take a test to confirm it.

What emotional responses do people have to early pregnancy?

As with the physical symptoms, people’s emotional responses to discovering they’re pregnant will vary. Remember that it’s okay to not be okay. Not everyone is expecting to find out they’re pregnant, and it can even come as a surprise. Others may not feel as thrilled as they thought they would even if the pregnancy was planned. Pregnancy affects our hormones in all sorts of ways, which can mean your emotional response isn’t the one you expected.

Many people will feel an intense sense of joy and excitement, particularly if they have been trying for a baby. For others, there might be mixed emotions for both you and your partner. It can feel as though an incredible weight of responsibility has taken over, that you’re suddenly overwhelmed by the thought of bringing another life into the world. 

However, you feel about discovering you’re pregnant, it’s important that you share those emotions with someone and talk them through. Whether you discuss things with your partner or with a medical professional, sharing your feelings is the best way to decide what your next steps should be.

What should you do next?

If your pregnancy test has come back positive, the first thing you should do is contact your doctor. This first contact gets you into the system and means someone will reach out to you about antenatal appointments. These will continue throughout your pregnancy to check on your health and the health and development of your baby. Blood pressure checks, ultrasound scans, and screening tests will all monitor your baby’s progress and ensure any problems are picked up early on.

Your doctor will almost certainly start you on a course of folic acid for at least the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, to help your baby’s brain and spine develop. After twelve weeks, folic acid can still be taken to help produce red blood cells and minimise the chances of you developing anaemia.

Making some lifestyle changes

One of the first things you need to do is think about making some lifestyle changes. If you’re a smoker, quitting will help protect your baby and lower the chances of complications during pregnancy and birth. Smoking increases the risk of premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in young infants, so giving up cigarettes is one of the best things you can do for your baby.

Alcohol can also impact an unborn child, so it’s best to cut out drinking altogether during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding. Despite decades of research, there is no consensus on a ‘safe’ level of alcohol you can drink when pregnant, so the safest option is to go teetotal to minimise the risk of miscarriage or the condition known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Caffeine may also impact your baby’s birth weight or contribute to a miscarriage. Try to limit yourself to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is about the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee.  Remember that caffeine can also be found in fizzy drinks, chocolate, tea, and green tea, and these should also be factored into that daily intake.

Finally, prioritise healthy eating and mild to moderate exercise. A healthy, well-balanced diet ensures you and your baby get all the nutrients you need, so try to cut back on high-fat, high-sugar foods which have little nutritional benefit. A good mix of fruit and vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, and dairy will give your baby the best start in life. Exercise, too, will benefit you both, as it prepares your body for childbirth. Always check with your doctor to make sure you stay within the safe limits for exercise and don’t exert yourself too much.

Ready to take the next step?

Dubai London Hospital has one of the best obstetrics and gynaecology departments in the region, and we can offer you the very highest standards in maternity care. If you’ve found out you’re expecting and want the best treatment throughout your pregnancy and beyond, you’ve come to the right place. To learn more about our maternity services or to book your appointment, simply get in touch with us today by clicking here or calling us on 800 352.