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Pregnancy

Symptoms and feelings in early weeks

In the first few weeks of pregnancy, various physical symptoms and new emotions arise. Although many women felt some anxiety during these early weeks, and some found it hard to believe it was really happening to them, there was also joy and excitement. (See also 'Discovering you are pregnant and telling other people').

Unpleasant physical symptoms affected people's feelings in the early weeks of pregnancy. Nausea and sometimes vomiting is well known as 'morning sickness', but these symptoms can happen all day, and can occasionally be very severe. Because this is so common, it has a separate section on the website (see 'Sickness and hyperemesis').

Another common symptom is feeling tired or run down. Some people are surprised to feel so exhausted. Others include getting a strange taste in your mouth, having tender breasts, feeling dizzy or faint, and abdominal cramps or twinges. To some people it felt a bit like premenstrual tension at first. But some women we talked to felt physically fine during the first few weeks, or noticed only minor changes.

 

In the first months of pregnancy she felt completely exhausted and needed lots of sleep. (Read by...

In the first months of pregnancy she felt completely exhausted and needed lots of sleep. (Read by...

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
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Physically I didn't feel that much different in terms of how I looked, or, or feel that I looked any different. I felt exhausted and the first three months, or the first - it was more like the third month was I think the most exhausting month of my life, I've never been so tired. I couldn't get out of bed some days because I'd just wake up, eat some food, sleep all day, eat some food and go back to sleep again. And that was difficult, and I found that no-one understood that at all because - I don't know whether it was, it was because I was slightly stressed about the situation, maybe, and that the best way I dealt with it was by sleeping through everything - but I really, I was just exhausted all the time. Yeah, but my appearance I didn't worry about too much at the time.

 

The early symptoms of pregnancy felt like pre-menstrual symptoms. She was worried by abdominal...

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The early symptoms of pregnancy felt like pre-menstrual symptoms. She was worried by abdominal...

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Female
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Actually, going back to the symptoms that I had - symptoms, it's not an illness - but, you know, the feelings that I had when I first was thinking, 'I wonder if I am pregnant?' As I said, I felt really, really pre-menstrual. I mean, my breasts were really sore, I had cramps, crampy sort of pains that, you know, really I would get at the start of my period, which actually worried me slightly. And in none of the information do you actually get that that is - and I actually found on one of the BBC-i pages that as an indication of pregnancy. But nobody had actually said that to me. And I actually said, 'You know, I really do feel like my period could start.' And I think that went on for probably about three weeks to a month, you know, after me knowing. And I did keep thinking, you know, go to the toilet and think, 'Is there going to be blood there?' And my sort of rational mind was saying, 'Well, you know, no, there won't be.' But still thinking, 'God, you know, there might be.' And then that all just stopped. But for somebody who maybe isn't as well informed, I think that could be quite a frightening thing to have.

 

She noticed changes in her breasts in early pregnancy, and things began to taste strange. At...

She noticed changes in her breasts in early pregnancy, and things began to taste strange. At...

Age at interview: 30
Sex: Female
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I kept on wondering if my boobs had gotten bigger. I sort of felt like a little bit, like I looked in the mirror and just thought, “My tits have gotten bigger. Have they've gotten bigger?” I was just feeling a bit like that. And I was asking, asking my partner at the time, “Is my -?” - you know, I asked him, “Are they? Do you reckon? Do you think they are?” I was feeling a little bit like that, really. And also because I usually do get PMT as well so - and I had sort of PMT symptoms which had disappeared. So that was another thing as well. I didn't actually, you know what I mean? I was feeling very stressed out, but I wasn't feeling as stressed as I had been a couple of weeks earlier, so I thought maybe that was something. I wasn't feeling particularly stressed. Things were tasting funny when I was eating. I didn't like, I mean I didn't associate it to be, associate it at the time and think I was pregnant, but if I had a drink I just sort of didn't feel like drinking it any more, it tasted a bit funny. And because I smoked at the time as well, cigarettes tasted a bit funny as well. And it was just the boob thing and the fact that I realised I'd had no period since quite a few weeks that I thought I'd better go and check this. You just felt that there's something going on here. So [laughs].

Many women get some minor abdominal cramping in early pregnancy, but as one noted (Interview 44 above), there is little information about it. In some cases it is a sign that something is wrong (such as a miscarriage starting, or an ectopic pregnancy, when the embryo implants and develops in the fallopian tube rather than the womb). If you are at all worried you should contact your GP.

One woman experienced bloating, sharp pains and sickness in the early weeks as a side effect of IVF. She had developed ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, where the fertility drugs used have over-stimulated the ovaries. In rare cases this can be serious, but she recovered well after a stay in hospital.

 

She developed bloating, sharp pain and sickness in early pregnancy. This was caused by ovarian...

She developed bloating, sharp pain and sickness in early pregnancy. This was caused by ovarian...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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We did three cycles of IVF and on the third cycle we were, we were successful.

And then what happened? [laughs]

Right. Well I then, they told me that I would know within, in sort of, ten days whether I was, whether or not I was pregnant and they told me the symptoms to, to look out for and I was suspicious that I might be pregnant because I suddenly started to feel very sick and started vomiting and in fact I was actually working a weekend shift and I was actually at a patient's house visiting them and they had vomiting and diarrhoea and I had to rush to the bathroom and be sick myself which they thought was rather amusing, I think. 

But then I actually started to feel more and more unwell and my stomach got more and more bloated, so I contacted the hospital and they asked me to come up, and they, they examined me and took a pregnancy test which was positive but they took some blood tests and they were concerned that I might have this ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. Because my hormone levels had been very high on that IVF attempt they were aware that it might be a complication, so they told me to go home and just rest. But things got worse over the next few days and I was getting more and more bloated. I had lots and lots of fluid in my stomach and that was irritating the bottom of my lungs which was giving me what we call pleuritic type pain which is a sharp pain going up to your shoulders which is very uncomfortable. And I just couldn't keep any fluids down. So after a few days I was admitted to the hospital and they put up a drip and I was in hospital for several days and then, then the fluid started to go down again, so I was, I was allowed home then. And I felt sick probably for about the first six weeks of the pregnancy and then that eventually just settled down to just to normal morning sickness. And the rest of the pregnancy was straightforward after that. 

Is that complication potentially serious?

It is. I think you can get it in mild, moderate and severe forms and if you have - I had moderate, apparently - but if you have it in the severe form you, you can, you know, you can be very ill and in intensive care and- but that's very rare, it's, you know, it's a rare complication.

Several women we talked to had some vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy. This may be a sign that the pregnancy is going to miscarry, but not always. One woman described quite strong pains with blood loss, which suggested that the pregnancy might be ectopic. It was very frightening at the time, but in the end the baby was fine and the pain and bleeding stopped.

 

At nine weeks, she experienced bleeding and severe pain, and an ectopic pregnancy was suspected....

At nine weeks, she experienced bleeding and severe pain, and an ectopic pregnancy was suspected....

Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
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Once I discovered I was pregnant, in the fourth week from my last period, so it was week four, I then made a doctor's appointment with my local GP and she then referred me to the hospital of my choice within the area; I had a choice of four hospitals. And she confirmed that yes, I was pregnant, and then from there the ball started rolling. I was due for my first scan at twelve weeks, then in fact I went on holiday, weeks seven and eight, to Spain and during those weeks I was absolutely fine. I had no sickness, I felt in brilliant health and there were no problems at all. A little bit of nauseous but other than that I was fine. And I'd been in Spain walking up mountains one week and then came back to England with excruciating pains week 9 of my pregnancy. And they lasted for nearly 24 hours by which time I was at the GP's surgery. And I was sent to A&E to my next hospital, local hospital, where it was discovered after a lot of trauma that they suspected I had an ectopic pregnancy at that time due to the fact that I was in excruciating agony. And I was spotting, so I was losing blood, not a great deal, but enough for concern. And at that stage it was four o'clock in the afternoon and by midnight I was still in A&E awaiting to be seen by a consultant. And a gynaecologist did actually see to me that night and basically, I mean it was a very upsetting time but I had the choice, I was on a drip and ready for theatre, and I had to make a choice whether they wanted to investigate or I could hang on a little bit and see if the pain subsided. By which time I decided to hang on and stick it out, and then it got better and better and better, and by seven o'clock the next morning I was having an internal scan within the hospital. I wasn't allowed to walk, I was taken by wheelchair, I wasn't allowed to get out of bed, I wasn't allowed to eat, I wasn't allowed to drink, all the usual scenario ready for surgery in the case of an emergency. And they then confirmed that there was a heartbeat and that it was all in the right place. So that was a huge relief.

So, did they do any investigations to determine whether or not it was ectopic?

Yes, they can tell by an internal scan. Using an internal scan they can tell very quickly whether it's ectopic or not. If the cells are embedded correctly therefore it is not ectopic. But due to the fact that I had excruciating pain which, to this day, no-one knows why, it's one of those things, and it can be quite common apparently. If you have symptoms that I had, such as spotting and pain, it is usually the case of an ectopic pregnancy but in my case it wasn't. So that was wonderful.

Early miscarriage is unfortunately quite common, and women's experiences of it are explored in more detail in 'Bleeding and miscarriage'.

The possibility of losing the baby was not the only source of anxiety early in pregnancy. People described various other worries in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Some women who had not intended to become pregnant continued to feel uncertain about whether to go ahead with the pregnancy. One mother described how seeing her baby at the first scan made her feel differently. Another single mother had no doubts about keeping the baby, but still worried about how she would manage financially. For some people, pregnancy led to a break-up in their relationship. This mother briefly considered adoption, but changed her mind.

 

For the first few weeks she felt she did not want the baby, but seeing the baby at the first scan...

For the first few weeks she felt she did not want the baby, but seeing the baby at the first scan...

Age at interview: 20
Sex: Female
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I think it was about two, three weeks before I went for my scan so it was about, I was about, I think it was about three, four weeks I was going on 'Oh, I don't want her, I don't want her, I don't want the baby'. But they were all saying to me, 'Just, just wait, just wait, just, just wait. You'll see how, you'll see how you feel in the next few weeks'. But when I went in for my first scan and I seen it, that was it, I knew that I wanted this baby and I'd love this baby, do you know what I mean? 

But that, that, I think that was the turning point for me then, when I went and actually had my first scan. That was my turning point for me, that this baby was mine and it was growing inside me and I wouldn't have it any other way. I wouldn't have dreamt of hurting it then, do you know what I mean? But I wasn't, I wasn't that keen on it at first, I was saying, 'No, I don't want it'. I think most girls do in places, don't they? But, no, I wouldn't change her now, wouldn't do.

 

Early on, her main worry was how she would manage financially. (Read by an actor.)

Early on, her main worry was how she would manage financially. (Read by an actor.)

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Female
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What sort of hopes and fears did you have in the early weeks, the early part of the pregnancy?

My biggest concern I remember was that I wouldn't be able to support, to bring up the baby because I didn't have any money. I'd just graduated and I didn't have a job and I had thousands of pounds of debts and I felt a bit lost because, because it had been a surprise and because my parents weren't quite sure how to react and my partner wasn't quite sure how to react. And, and so I was determined to go through with the pregnancy but I did feel quite stressed because I knew that emotionally I could give him all the, all that he needed but financially and, and I didn't know how my circumstances were going to, I mean I, I didn't know what was ahead of me. And so that worried me, so I worried about money a lot at the beginning. But I knew that, well I felt like I knew that I could give him all the love that he needed and the support and the, and so I wasn't too worried about that. It's just all the practical things.

How did those things get resolved? I mean did you, were, was it quite, reasonably easy to kind of figure out how you were going to manage and so on?

No, I just it wasn't easy to figure out how I was going to manage. I had to take each step, each day as it came and it was difficult, it was really difficult but I just had to, to know that the next day would be another day and that things would change and I just had to trust in, that, that the whole situation would evolve. And it did and I got through it but it was difficult.

Who supported you through that difficult period? Where did you go for support?

I went to my friends for support initially. Not so much my family because they were getting round the idea as well, and to my partner who, despite being stressed and confused about the situation, was supportive and, yeah. I went to him quite a lot, and my friends.

 

Getting pregnant when she was very young led her to break off the relationship with her boyfriend...

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Getting pregnant when she was very young led her to break off the relationship with her boyfriend...

Age at interview: 16
Sex: Female
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How did you feel when you discovered you were pregnant, what happened?

I was upset. And I dumped my boyfriend because of it.

You dumped him?

Yes.

When you told him that you were pregnant how did he react?

Well, I didn't tell him. My mum told him.

Your mum told him? How come?

Because I didn't want to tell him, because I wasn't speaking to him. So my mum told him. And he didn't speak to us all the way through my pregnancy.

Did you not want his support at all?

No, because he didn't really talk to me while I was going out with him really.

And how did you feel?

I felt weird at first because I didn't really want a baby. But I didn't want to get an abortion because I don't like the sound of it. So I got asked off my auntie if she could have him, because my auntie can't have children. And she didn't know whether I was going to keep him or not, so she asked if she could have him. But I wanted to keep him.

When did you decide that you wanted to keep him rather than give him to your auntie?

When I was about three or four month.

Right. So, at the beginning though, if you can think about how you felt right at the beginning, what kind of thoughts were going through your head then?

I wanted to get him adopted because I was, I felt that, I felt as though I was too young and that I wouldn't be able to cope, and that I'd get called all sorts of names off people. But it all changed once I had him.

Can you remember what changed your mind, what, what it was that made you change your mind?

I think it was feeling him kicking for the first time. I think that's what changed my mind as well. And just feeling him moving around all the time. It's weird.

See also 'Discovering you are pregnant and telling other people' and 'Emotions during pregnancy'.

Last reviewed May 2017.

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