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Pregnant – yes or no? The first signs of pregnancy

Whether you fall pregnant naturally or with the support of a fertility clinic, if you are trying to conceive, there is a great deal of stress with every cycle – has it worked? Only a positive pregnancy test provides certainty. Sometimes it becomes apparent even before a woman misses a period. This is not surprising – when an egg is fertilized, the woman’s entire body adjusts to accommodate the preservation and growth of new life.
The hormone balance in particular changes vastly during the early stage of pregnancy – and the first signs of pregnancy are similar to typical menstrual complaints: you may feel tired or have mood swings, your breasts may be tender and you might experience tightness in your abdomen. A pregnancy test will produce a reliable result only after a period has been missed: from the fifth week of pregnancy, the body produces more and more of the “pregnancy hormone” hCG, which is verified with the pregnancy test.

Progression of the pregnancy and typical pregnancy symptoms

A pregnancy is calculated from the first day of a complete cycle. Purely for reasons of calculation, since ovulation takes place in the middle of the cycle (for example after the first two weeks of the cycle), a pregnancy is considered to start with the third week of pregnancy. 

The first trimester – weeks 1–12

The first three months of pregnancy are considered to be the critical time. The reason for this is that all the baby’s organs and its entire nervous system are formed in the first trimester. The child’s gender is already determined during implantation of the embryo in the uterus. Between the fourth and eighth week of pregnancy, the embryo’s neck, head and extremities are formed, as are the structures for the inner organs, the brain and the nervous system. By the end of the first trimester, the fingers, toes, eyes, ears and nose are fully formed. At the same time, the muscles and nervous system have developed to such an extent that the foetus can execute specific movements in the womb.

Typical symptoms in the first trimester:

  • Constant fatigue, irritability
  • Constipation: the increase of the yellow body hormone progesterone slows down the metabolism, so that many women now feel listless and suffer from constipation.
  • Nausea: the infamous pregnancy nausea, triggered by the increased hCG levels in the blood, often starts from the 5th or 6th week of pregnancy.
  • Dizziness due to the significantly increased blood production to nourish the placenta and the embryo.
  • Mood swings as a result of the massive hormonal changes. 
  • Sensitivity to certain smells. 

The second trimester – weeks 13–26

During the fourth month of pregnancy, the unpleasant symptoms of early pregnancy go away. The body parts of the foetus are now fully formed and the focus is now on “precision work”: the metabolism is developing, as well as the sucking and swallowing reflex and respiratory motion. The baby is very active in the womb and exercises the muscles and nervous system. The heart can now also be heard clearly during an examination. By the end of the fifth month of pregnancy, the child’s gender can usually be determined by ultrasound. Now the “quickening” phase starts, during which movements and sensations develop further in the foetus.

Typical symptoms in the second trimester:

  • The abdomen becomes round, breasts grow significantly
  • First movements of the baby are felt between weeks 16 and 18 of the pregnancy
  • Increased frequency of urination, since the growing uterus presses on the bladder
  • Shortness of breath due to increased blood volume
  • Heartburn, since the growing uterus restricts the stomach
  • Possible production of so-called colostrum (the first form of breast milk), triggered by increased levels of prolactin

The third trimester – weeks 27-40+

In the seventh month of pregnancy, the foetus opens its eyes and nostrils. The immune system as well as the bronchial system begin to work independently – among other things, the foetus breathes amniotic fluid in and out to “practice”. Thanks to modern medicine, the child now has a good chance of survival in the event of premature birth. From the eighth month of pregnancy, development centres mainly on growing a protective layer of fat; the weight of the foetus now increases by approximately250 g per week. Since there is less and less space in the uterus, the baby finally assumes the typical foetal position with arms folded in front of the body.

Typical symptoms in the third trimester:

  • The abdomen and breasts keep growing substantially
  • Increased frequency of urination, since the growing uterus presses on the bladder
  • Back pain, mostly due to loose ligaments and the additional weight 
  • Numbness or tingling in the feet when the baby is in supine position and presses against the vena cava.
  • Sleep disorders 
  • First false labour pains start

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