Family and friends who have already gone through pregnancy, pregnancy 411 books, and web sites and online communities can be very helpful in providing explanations on the weird and unexpected changes that happen during pregnancy. Some I was prepared for, but others were a surprise.
I will try to avoid going into any extremely personal details, but be warned that this post will contain details on natural bodily functions and changes that occur during the earlier stages of pregnancy. This post is intended to be informative for those who have not had children or, like me, are first-timers and often find ourselves thinking: “Is this normal?”
So to begin! I have a fairly regular cycle of 28 days and a period length of about 6 days. There have been a few times where my period came slightly late or heavier than usual, but for the most part over the last four years of charting my cycle carefully, it has been quite regular.
Side note: Ladies, I highly encourage – whether you are single or engaged or married, teen or young adult or mid-thirties – to get a calendar, chart or free app and start tracking your cycles. There are so many benefits to being familiar with your body and how it changes throughout your monthly cycle. Though some women only start tracking their cycles to either avoid or to improve the changes of conception, the greater benefit is knowing what is normal for your body and so staying on top of your health. Knowing your body can help you detect changes in your health early on that you may need to discuss with your doctor or health professional.
Because I track my cycle and know my body fairly well, the week my period was due I began noticing some changes. Very early pregnancy symptoms can sometimes be confused with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) signs, as many are nearly identical: sore or tender breasts, changes in eating habits or food cravings, cramps or abdominal discomfort, bloating, etc. The only PMS sign I typically get is bloating and some slight abdominal discomfort, so when my breasts began feeling unusually sore and tender, even somewhat heavy, and my stomach seemed a bit too queasy, I knew things were not normal.
Then my period was late. As I mentioned before, I have had the occasional late period so I had to force myself to patiently wait a few days before taking a home pregnancy test. The test was positive! Because it is difficult to determine the exact date of conception, the way modern medical science reckons the length of pregnancies is to go all the way to the beginning of your last period. So according to the charts, I was about five weeks!
During Weeks 5 and 6 there were noticeable changes to my body. I was not expecting my breasts to hurt as much as they did so early on. They grew half a cup size in just two weeks, and I had to buy larger bras to accommodate. Also, there is a significant increase in the blood flow to a woman’s uterus and lower abdomen as her body begins to build the placenta – the life-support system for the baby. I quickly discovered that this meant being highly uncomfortable “down there” due to swelling. It was not fun. Probably somewhat related to that, I was not quite prepared for the discharge, which continues sporadically even today (Week 16). The discharge is similar to what happens in the middle of a normal cycle, nothing heavy or abnormal, but uncomfortable when it happens without warning. I have started wearing panty-liners everyday, and you can pick up a small pack at the 99¢ Store.
I was prepared for morning sickness. I heard some terrifying horror stories about it, but my experience was actually quite mild. I had bouts of nausea that came and went throughout the day and then stomachaches in the evening that kept me from eating dinner a few nights a week. I also felt completely exhausted, and would just collapse on the couch after work.
The nausea gradually lessened and faded away towards the end of the first trimester (about Week 11 and 12), and Week 13 my energy began to return. I was beginning to feel “normal” again! What a relief. I finally had the energy to wash dishes or clean the bathrooms again.
I have to share how amazing my husband is. He does half of the chores anyway – vacuuming, laundry, etc. – but he was so helpful during the first trimester when I was not feeling well. There were many evenings when I could not muster enough energy to even microwave a quick meal, and he would make me whatever I wanted for dinner… even if it was just peanut butter on toast! He also makes the best cup of tea in the world, and peppermint tea is so soothing for upset tummies.
I am so very blessed to be married to such a wonderful man.