When you are trying to conceive you will begin to see your body in a whole new light. Things you never noticed a day before in your life are now going to become your worst obsession. When you first begin to see these pregnancy symptoms crop up, your mind will immediately begin to think you must be pregnant, as you have never felt this way before. The truth is that many of the symptoms that you are experiencing you did have, but never noticed.
Each month your body goes through a series of hormonal changes that allow for an egg to grow, mature, be released, and have the capacity to implant in the uterus. Each one of these hormonal signals triggers specific symptoms that you feel. The best way to know if these are symptoms are part of your normal cycle or possibly something else, you should chart your cycles using a program like MyCycleDiary. This will allow you to see if what you are experiencing is merely the natural process of your body each month or if the symptoms are different and might indicate that you are pregnant.
The Follicular Phase
The first stage of the menstrual cycle is called the follicular phase. It is when you get your period and lasts until you ovulate. The actual amount of days can vary from woman to woman. What makes this phase last a different amount of time for different women is the amount of FSH – follicle stimulating hormone – that she makes. Women with the proper amount of FSH will begin follicle stimulation the first day of her period and tends to ovulate regularly and approximately 14 days prior to the onset of her next menses.
Most women do not feel pregnant during this phase of the cycle. Others have an array of symptoms leading up to ovulation that make them wonder if they are. Quite often the symptoms will include an increase in sex drive, tingling in the breasts, and increased cervical mucus. While these are also common in early pregnancy, the consistency is different.
The breast tingles are usually from estrogen increasing and not the same as the tenderness and soreness experienced later. The increase in sex drive is due to impending ovulation. It is also driven by large amounts of the female sex hormone, estrogen. The more estrogen made leading up to ovulation, the more a woman desires sex. It is Mother Nature’s way of ensuring she has sex at the right time to get pregnant. Women who experience an increase in sex drive while pregnant do so due to the increased blood flow to the vagina. It causes the vulva to swell and become more enhanced and sensitive. Cervical mucus prior to ovulation gets more abundant and thinner. This is what allows the sperm to live and find their way to the egg. When a woman is not ovulating her cervical mucus is scant and sticky. This blocks the cervix and makes it harder for the sperm to travel and survive. When a woman is pregnant, her cervical mucus will also increase. The difference is that she will notice it is a while, thicker, and lotion-like texture. This is what helps to make the mucus plug. It acts as a barrier so that nothing bad can get into the uterus and hurt the growing baby.
An easy way to know what time of the cycle you are in is to use an ovulation monitor like Ovatel. This in conjunction with charting can help you to recognize and not confuse the ovulation portion of your cycle.
This is the phase of the cycle that starts the day after ovulation and lasts until your period comes or you get pregnant. Once ovulation takes place, estrogen drops and progesterone rises fast. The hormone progesterone is the one responsible for all those pesky pregnancy and PMS symptoms. In fact, it is very hard to determine if one is pregnant or simply has a case of PMS. Progesterone causes a rise in body temperature, it tells the lining of the uterus to grow, and is what facilitates implantation.
Usually the first thing a woman will notice after ovulation is that her breasts begin to hurt. She may find that even wearing a bra is uncomfortable. This is a common issue during early pregnancy as the breast tissue is affected by the progesterone increase. Since the body is preparing for the impeding embryo during the late stage of the cycle, it is common to feel as if you are already pregnant even if it is not even possible.
Headaches are also a common early pregnancy symptom. The body’s reaction to the increase in progesterone is usually more blood flow. This can cause headaches. Some women will suffer from severe headaches all through pregnancy, while others only have them in the early stages while they get used to the new hormones. This is a very common pre-period symptom as well and usually clears up after the onset of the woman’s period.
One of the major symptoms during PMS and early pregnancy is fatigue. Feeling tired is the effect of the progesterone surge the body undergoes after ovulation. The body is preparing to carry a new life. The hormones are meant to slow you down and force you to get extra rest. This will help to keep you well and allow the body to focus on the baby. If you do not get pregnant that cycle, you will regain your energy after the progesterone levels fall to lead up your period coming.
Some other symptoms will include light bleeding that is not your period, backaches, frequent urination, stuffy nose, and darkening of the areolas. All are due to progesterone and will either go away once your period comes or will continue during pregnancy. Make sure to chart them all so you can tell what is normal for you and what might actually be a real symptom of pregnancy for you.