Growing a baby is a complex process. Throughout each trimester, your body goes through lots of physical and hormonal changes, which are usually accompanied by various pregnancy symptoms.
While everyone’s experience is unique, some symptoms are more common than others. Here’s what you should know.
What are the most common pregnancy symptoms?
Changing hormones, the development of an entirely new organ (the placenta), weight gain, increased blood volume, and a continuously growing belly can all lead to pregnancy symptoms. We broke down the most common symptoms below.
Nausea: During pregnancy, there’s a good chance you’ll experience some nausea, with or without vomiting. While it’s known as “morning sickness,” it can strike at any time of day — and even in the middle of the night. Many pregnant folks get nauseous on an empty stomach, so eating small snacks throughout the day can help you avoid this symptom. Though nausea during pregnancy is normal, you should let your healthcare provider know if it becomes severe and you are unable to keep food or drink down, or if you throw up frequently beyond the first trimester.
Frequent urination: You’ll probably feel the need to pee more often throughout pregnancy. It can start in the first trimester when your uterus begins expanding and putting pressure on your bladder. Then toward the end of pregnancy, the weight of your growing baby will push down on your bladder, increasing your need to pee often. Urinating several times a day (and even once or twice in the middle of the night) is normal. However, if it becomes painful or you see blood in your urine, contact your healthcare provider ASAP.
Digestive issues: Most pregnant people can expect to experience some digestive issues. Higher levels of the hormone progesterone relax your muscles, which can slow down the digestive system. Some constipation, flatulence, and bloating might be unavoidable, but drinking plenty of water, eating fiber-rich foods, and regular exercise (even just a daily walk) may help.
Heartburn: Heartburn is related to digestion, but we’re giving it its own category because it’s one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. The burning, sometimes painful sensation in your chest happens when the pressure from your growing uterus causes stomach acid to back up in your esophagus. Drinking lots of fluids and avoiding greasy, acidic, and spicy foods might help you avoid heartburn. Certain, pregnancy-safe antacids can help too — just make sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking a new medicine, even if it is available over-the-counter.
Fatigue: Similar to frequent urination, fatigue is usually most common in the first and third trimesters. In the first several weeks of pregnancy, the placenta is forming, hormones are rising, and blood volume is increasing, all of which can make you exhausted and sleepy.Fatigue often comes back in the final weeks as your body works harder to support a growing baby.
Skin changes: During pregnancy, you might notice some changes in your skin. This could include dry skin or itchiness, discoloration, stretch marks, or what’s often called the “pregnancy glow.” Some people experience acne during pregnancy, while others might have clearer skin than they usually do.
Swelling: With more blood flowing through your veins and extra fluid in your body, you might notice swelling in your feet, ankles, and legs. Drinking enough water, elevating your feet, and wearing compression socks can help with this pregnancy symptom. However, swelling accompanied by headaches, changes in vision, or pain in the belly can be a sign of preeclampsia. If this is happening to you, contact your provider right away.
Achiness: Pregnancy hormones relax muscles surrounding your bones, which can cause achiness in your pelvic area and lower back. This can make it hard to find a comfortable sitting and sleeping position, but supportive cushioning and pillows can help.
Other common pregnancy symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Enlarged breasts
- Stuffy nose
- Metallic taste
- Bleeding gums
- Leg cramps
- Increased vaginal discharge
- Shortness of breath
- Spider or varicose veins
- Heightened sense of smell
- Food aversions or cravings
While pregnancy symptoms can be uncomfortable and sometimes alarming, most are normal and not a cause for concern. Having said that, others could be a sign something is out of whack, so it’s good to know about the symptoms you should never ignore. Generally, you should call your healthcare provider if you notice any vaginal bleeding, persistent vomiting past the first trimester, or any other symptoms that are unusually intense.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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- March of Dimes. Common Discomforts of Pregnancy. 2016. Web. https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/common-discomforts-of-pregnancy.aspx
- URMC Health Encyclopedia. Pregnancy: How Your Digestion Changes. University of Rochester Medical Center. 2018. Web. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P09521
- Aguree & Gernand. Plasma volume expansion across healthy pregnancy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2019. Web. https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12884-019-2619-6
- URMC Health Encyclopedia. First Trimester Fatigue. University of Rochester Medical Center. Web. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=134&ContentID=4
- Mayo Clinic Staff. 3rd trimester pregnancy: What to expect. Mayo Clinic. 2020. Web. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20046767