If you're newly pregnant, you might wish for a window into your uterus so you could see that your baby is doing okay. By seven weeks gestation — just three weeks after you miss your period — you certainly don't look pregnant to anyone else, but the signs are there, if you know what to look for. Most of the symptoms of early pregnancy occur because of hormone changes. These symptoms are a good sign that your pregnancy is progressing well, although they're not a guarantee.
Absence of Menstruation
When your period doesn't start on time, you might suspect that you're pregnant. An increase in progesterone, a hormone produced by the corpus luteum, the leftover shell of the ovulated egg, keeps your menses from starting. Progesterone supports the buildup of the thickened uterine lining, which allows the embryo to implant and grow. Around the time of your period, you might notice a small amount of cramping and bleeding, called implantation bleeding. This occurs as the embryo burrows into the lining. By week seven, this has usually subsided, although around 20 to 30 percent of women experience a small amount of bleeding in early pregnancy. Of those, around 50 percent will miscarry.
The rest of the world might not notice, but you will almost certainly notice breast changes in a healthy early pregnancy. These changes, which are caused by rising estrogen levels, are often more pronounced if you're in your first pregnancy. The areola — the dark area around the nipple — and the nipple itself often darken. The veins in your breasts become more prominent, and your breasts and nipples might tingle or itch. You might go up a cup size or two as your breasts enlarge.
It's the most classic symptom of early pregnancy and one that nearly everyone recognizes — morning sickness. Morning sickness usually begins a week or so after you miss your period and is in full swing by week seven. At least one study has indicated that morning sickness — which may or may not include vomiting but generally includes nausea and often aversions to certain smells or tastes — is a positive sign of a healthy pregnancy, especially in women over age 30. Rising levels of human chorionic growth hormone, better known as hCG, produced by the growing placenta, as well as the hormones estrogen and progesterone, all contribute to morning sickness. If you don't have morning sickness, it doesn't necessarily mean your baby isn't healthy, however.
In early pregnancy, it's common to find that your get up and go has got up and gone. Progesterone is the culprit in causing fatigue. As you adjust to rising hormone levels, feelings of fatigue will fade, but at week seven, taking an afternoon nap might be your deepest desire and the only way you can get through the day.
If you're afraid to get too far from the bathroom at seven weeks, your growing uterus isn't really the cause. Because your blood volume increases by 30 to 50 percent during pregnancy, more blood flows to your kidneys, which increases your urine output. Later in pregnancy, your enlarged uterus will reduce bladder capacity and make frequent urination even more of a problem.
Increased Salivation/Metallic Taste
Two annoying but reassuring early pregnancy symptoms affect your mouth: an increase in saliva production and a metallic taste in your mouth. Increased salivation often occurs in conjunction with nausea and vomiting; known by the unattractive medical term ptyalism, this symptom is at its worst during early pregnancy. It might be nature's way of neutralizing the increase in stomach acid production that causes heartburn in both early and late pregnancy.
Just after ovulation, your temperature rises slightly and remains that way until your menstrual period starts. If you're pregnant, your temperature will remain slightly elevated. No, your baby isn't giving off heat at this early stage; it's the rise in progesterone that makes your temperature rise and stay elevated.
Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. She also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. She has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.