Adapted from The Offical Lamaze Guide: Giving Birth with Confidence
Early on in pregnancy, symptoms can be subtle. Is it a missed period? Does your belly just feel sort of busy? Or have you been a little more emotional lately? Eventually, you ask yourself, Could I be pregnant?
Many women pick up on an early sign of pregnancy before they head to the clinic or the drugstore for a test. They simply know by observing their bodies closely and noticing that something is different. It's just the first of the many opportunities that pregnancy offers you to be mindful and pay close attention to your body, your environment and your instincts.
During early pregnancy, symptoms you experience are your body's way of alerting you to the drama that is happening inside. From the very moment of conception (when egg and sperm join), your body undergoes an avalanche of change in a very short time. Even before the embryo (what your baby is called through 8 weeks gestation) implants in your uterus, HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, the hormone detected by pregnancy tests) levels rise. This is the beginning of hormonal changes that continue through out pregnancy and breastfeeding. These shifts, and your growing baby, change your body in amazing ways.
Take a quiet moment to stand before the mirror after a bath and you might note some changes in your breasts: They might be darker or bigger; your nipples may be bumpier; there could be some blood vessels you don't remember seeing before; or you may feel a tenderness or heaviness. This early sign of pregnancy is the first of many developments your breasts will make in preparation for milk production.
Of all the pregnancy symptoms, nausea can be the most unpleasant. It varies from woman to woman, and you may be experiencing morning sickness when you wake up, at mealtimes or more often throughout the day. Eat and drink whatever you think might help you deal with it. Try small, regular snacks that seem comforting and digestible, and take note of what goes down easily. For many women it's carbohydrates.
Research shows that about two-thirds of all pregnant women have some nausea, and it may actually serve an important purpose: protecting mother and baby from harmful chemicals and food-borne illness. Certain foods are common triggers for pregnancy nausea. Many expectant mothers feel sick when they consume or smell eggs, poultry, fish, meat, alcohol or caffeinated drinks. Your body might perceive these items as threats to the embryo, which hasn't finished making a good, strong attachment. In the same way, your body might crave certain foods because it needs those nutrients.
The first weeks of pregnancy are a time of deep tiredness for lots of women. One remembers wanting to crawl under her desk at work for 10 a.m. naps. Those mornings, I'd long to curl up and sleep - just out of the blue, she recalls. It suddenly occurred to me that I'd never needed to sleep like that! That was my first real attention-grabber. Since her periods had never really been regular, tiredness was the first sign that she should look for changes in her body.
Some women's emotions send strong signals. You might find yourself snapping back in reply to a casual comment or crying over some small matter. This sensitivity is a message from your baby: Listen up! We've got work to do together, and I need your attention.
Your body's signals are valuable as information suppliers and bond builders, whether it is an early sign of pregnancy or at the start of labor. Learning to read those pregnancy symptoms is the first of many intuitive developments you will make throughout your pregnancy and into motherhood. [It's] not necessarily an automatic process of nature, says Pam England, CNM, MA, author of Birthing from Within(Partera Press) If you want this to happen, you'll have to play an active part. So listen and respond to your baby's message. The bond you will have with your childhas already begun to form. It is only the start of a lifetime of conversation and learning together.