The Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and its Symptoms

This guide vividly explains all about pregnancy, its signs and symptoms by weeks and months, the different types of pregnancies, testing for pregnancy, the different ways of getting pregnant faster, and how to prevent pregnancies.

A guide to pregnancy and its symptoms

Table of Contents

1. How to get pregnant faster

There are various things you can change in your life to maximize fertility and conceive in a shorter while. The following is a list of what to do to get pregnant faster:

  1. Avoid Drug use: Drug and substance abuse is known to affect your fertility in various ways. Alcohol use and cigarette smoking will both reduce your fertility and lead to a poor-quality baby when you get one. Cigarette smoking in particular has been known to reduce a man’s sperm density by 15.3 % and sperm count by 17.5% which reduces your chances of getting a pregnancy faster from such a man.  Even though some studies suggest that caffeine may not significantly affect fertility, it’s prudent to proceed with caution on caffeine and limit intake to less than 100mg per day.
  2. Reduce strenuous exercise: more than 5 hours per week of strenuous exercise is associated with decreased ovulation.
  3. Reduce or maintain a normal weight: being obese or obese, overweight, or underweight increases your chances of having ovulation disorders. This means you may experience missed ovulation or delayed ovulation, reducing your chances of getting pregnant faster.
  4. Have regular sex – having sex every other day, every day, or closer to ovulation increases the chances of the sperm meeting the ovum when it’s released.
  5. Avoid stress: being stressed changes different hormone levels and can alter your ability to ovulate, hence reducing your fertility. Stress also influences your libido and your ability to have sex frequently enough.
  6. See a gynecologist or fertility expert when you feel you are not conceiving quickly enough

2. Types of pregnancy

Normal pregnancy

A normal pregnancy is when a viable fetus is in the uterus and the woman is experiencing normal expected body changes of pregnancy leading to a live birth at approximately 40 weeks or 280 days. The signs and symptoms of a normal pregnancy are discussed below.

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when the fetus is implanted and grows outside the uterus in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, on the ligament that holds the womb (broad ligament), in the cervix, or within the abdomen. This is a life-threatening form of pregnancy that requires urgent medical attention when discovered.  Rupture of an ectopic pregnancy in the fallopian tubes for example can lead to massive bleeding that can cause death quickly.

How to know you have an ectopic pregnancy

A positive pregnancy test and an ultrasound scan confirming the location of the fetus outside the uterus is the surest way of knowing you have an ectopic pregnancy. Symptoms such as sudden onset of dizziness, difficulty in breathing, spotting or bleeding, and pain when putting some pressure on your lower abdomen are common in ectopic pregnancies. You may need an urgent ultrasound scan of your pelvis when you experience these symptoms.

Cryptic pregnancy

A cryptic pregnancy, also known as a hidden or stealth pregnancy refers to where a woman does not know she is pregnant until after 20 weeks of pregnancy, labor begins, or after delivery. The Signs and symptoms of a hidden pregnancy are:

  1. A missed period – if your periods are irregular, you may not realize you are pregnant because it is difficult for you to know if you have missed a period.
  2. False negative pregnancy test – tests done too early after conception, especially before 10 days after fertilization may show a negative test result on a urine pregnancy test. Faulty test kits may also give false negatives making the pregnancy go undetected. Getting a pregnancy test from a medical professional can help detect a cryptic pregnancy.
  3. A swollen abdomen and weight gain – in a cryptic pregnancy, your abdomen still swells, and weight increases as the pregnancy grows.
  4. Lack of knowledge of symptoms and signs of pregnancy – The pregnant woman will therefore be unaware that they are pregnant
  5. Undetected fetal movements especially when the placenta is in the front of your womb. Some women may mistake fetal movements for bowel movements.
  6.  Light bleeding or spotting – some women will mistake light spotting in pregnancy for a menstrual period.
  7. Nausea – it is commonly mistaken for a dirty meal or another illness.

Molar pregnancy

A molar pregnancy is a type of pregnancy where growths, tumors, or fluid-filled sacs develop in your womb instead of a placenta. It is also called a mole or a hydatidiform mole and is part of the spectrum of diseases medically referred to as Gestational Trophoblastic Disease.

Molar pregnancies are caused by either fertilization of an ovum by two sperms or fertilization of an ovum that contains no genetic material leading to abnormal amounts of male and female genetic material after fertilization.

A molar pregnancy occurs when there is an error in fertilization of the ovum by the sperm leading to abnormal growth of cells instead of a placenta. It starts forming from week 1 of pregnancy immediately after fertilization and is mostly diagnosed by the 12th week of pregnancy.

People who are at risk for molar pregnancy include those with a previous molar pregnancy, advanced age (more than 25 years) or younger age (below 20 years) when they get pregnant, a family history of a molar pregnancy, low levels of vitamin A and beta carotene in a diet and blood Group AB and A.

Diagnosis of a molar pregnancy

To know if you have a molar pregnancy, you will need a pregnancy test such as a urine or blood test, and an ultrasound scan that will show a “snowstorm” appearance of a tumor in your womb.

The following are the common signs and symptoms of molar pregnancy:

  • Vaginal bleeding consisting of bright red or dark brown blood is the commonest sign or symptom of pregnancy.
  • Severe nausea and vomiting (morning sickness) compared to a normal pregnancy
  • Belly size larger than a normal pregnancy with the same number of weeks
  • Passage of grape-like cysts through the vagina
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • High blood pressure that arises during the pregnancy
  • Fluid-filled sacs (cysts) in the ovaries
  • An overly reactive thyroid leads to elevated thyroid hormones.

Treatment of a molar pregnancy

The best treatment involves the use of a small suction tube to remove the molar pregnancy tissues from the uterus. A sharp instrument may also be used to remove the tissues from the uterus in theater, also called Dilatation and Curettage.

Though uncommon, molar pregnancy can also be removed by medication. The drug may be put under your tongue and in your vagina, causing some cramping pains as your womb squeezes the pregnancy out.

Prevention of a molar pregnancy

Folic acid has been found to help prevent the development of molar pregnancies.

Attending a preconception clinic before getting pregnant will enable one to get a check-up and be put on preventive measures for a molar pregnancy.

After treatment for molar pregnancy, you can still become pregnant with a normal pregnancy and give birth to a normal baby.

3. The Signs and symptoms of pregnancy

Signs and symptoms of pregnancy during the first 72 hours

Within the first 3 days after fertilization, everything feels normal. The pregnancy is too small to cause any signs and symptoms. Even a pregnancy test at this time will turn up negative.

Signs and symptoms of pregnancy by weeks and months.

Since doctors calculate the age of your pregnancy from the first day of your last normal menstrual period, week 1 medically begins from the first day of your last period before you got pregnant.

Week 1 Pregnancy signs and symptoms

  • Mood swings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Abdominal cramping pain
  • Vaginal bleeding because you are having menses

Week 2 of pregnancy (ovulation week)

  • Increased basal body temperature
  • Slippery vaginal discharge
  • Breast tenderness

Week 3 of pregnancy (Implantation week)

  • Mild abdominal cramping pain
  • Mild spotting or bleeding (reach a doctor immediately if the bleeding is more than a few spots or soaks the pad)

Week 4 of pregnancy (Early signs of pregnancy) – 1 month

  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Mild cramping
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Food cravings
  • A pregnancy test at home can turn positive during this week

Signs and Symptoms at 2 months of pregnancy

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting may be present or absent
  • Breast tenderness
  • Heartburn
  • Fast heart rate

Signs and Symptoms at Month 3 of Pregnancy

  • Increased acne breakouts
  • Darkening of the areola (the dark area around your nipple)
  • An early pregnancy line on your abdomen, dark in color may be present. It’s medically called the “linea nigra”. It’s a harmless line that forms during pregnancy.
  • Reduction in nausea and vomiting if present

Signs and Symptoms at Month 4 of Pregnancy

  • Faster heart rate
  • Dizziness or breathlessness
  • Nosebleeds or bleeding gum due to extra blood from increased blood volume
  • Constipation
  • Mild back pain
  • Formation of a small baby bump

Signs and Symptoms at Month 5 of Pregnancy

  • Baby movements and kicks begin, though mild
  • Increasing breast size
  • Heartburn
  • Constipation
  • Mild shortness of breath

Signs and Symptoms at Month 6 of Pregnancy

  • Increased baby movements
  • Occasional production of colostrum (occasional first watery milk from the nipples)
  • Increased constipation
  • Bleeding gums
  • Increasing baby bump on your belly
  • Snoring
  • Reducing libido
  • Decreased sleep
  • Abdominal, hip, and groin pain

Signs and Symptoms at Month 7 of Pregnancy

  • Baby bump larger than week 6
  • Constipation
  • A faster heart rate
  • Itchiness in both hands
  • Hemorrhoids, also called piles

Signs and Symptoms at Month 8 of Pregnancy

  • Increasing stretch marks
  • Leaky breasts
  • Fatigue
  • False contractions as cramping pain (see the doctor if you feel any contractions)
  • More regular fetal movements
  • Mild general discomfort 

Signs and Symptoms at Month 9 of Pregnancy

  • Increased fetal kicks and movements
  • False contractions (Braxton Hicks contractions)
  • More pelvic pain due to baby decent
  • Abdominal pressure
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Spotting after sexual activity
  • Loss of mucus plug

Signs of labor which include on-and-off crumping (contractions) that increase in frequency and severity, back pain, restlessness, breaking of the waters, and an urge to visit the toilet may begin. Call your doctor or midwife immediately if you see any of these signs.

Vaginal bleeding, reduction in baby movements, and breaking of waters are potential emergencies. Call the emergency services if you cannot reach your doctor or midwife in time.

4. Pregnancy tests

You can test for pregnancy as soon as 10 days after unprotected sex. For more accurate test results, a urine pregnancy test can confirm pregnancy after 14 days from the date of conception. This is the time you will have noticed you missed your menstrual period and the urine pregnancy test will read positive.

If you forgot or don’t know when your next period will come, do the urine pregnancy test 21 days after your last unprotected sexual intercourse.

How to use a pregnancy test kit

A step by step process:

  • Collect midstream urine into a clean container
  • Remove or pull the plastic cap from the test kit to expose the sample application window or area
  • Dip half the sample application area into the urine for 7 to 10 seconds
  • Return the plastic cap and place the test device horizontally on a flat surface
  • Wait for 5 minutes for the results to be processed.
  • Read the results and discard the test kit in a safe container. Urine is a biohazard.

Reading and Interpreting pregnancy test results

Two lines (one at the Control (C) region and another at the Test (T) region mean a positive pregnancy test. One line at the Control (C) region shows a negative test and one at the Test (T region) means invalid results and the test should be repeated with a different kit.

A positive pregnancy test

The Test (T)line is usually slightly faint compared to the Control (C) line depending on HCG hormone levels. Therefore, a faint line on a pregnancy test kit at the Test (T) region is a positive pregnancy test as long as the Control (C) line is also present.

How to use a Pregnancy Test Strip

  • Collect midstream urine in a clean and dry container
  • Remove the pregnancy test strip from the sealed package.
  • Place the test strip into the urine sample by the side marked “sample” making sure the urine does not go above the maximum level marked.
  • Leave the test strip in the urine sample for the recommended 10 seconds
  • Remove the test strip and place it on a flat dry surface
  • Wait for colored lines or bands to appear. A positive result can be seen in about 1 minute. However, wait for up to 5 minutes to confirm a negative pregnancy test.

How to read and interpret pregnancy test strip results

Two lines, both the control line and test line show a positive test result. A control (C ) line alone means a negative result while a lack of a control line shows invalid results and the test should be repeated with a different test strip. 

A positive pregnancy test strip result
A negative pregnancy test result

The clear blue pregnancy test

The clear blue pregnancy test kit is a modern digital test kit that shows a plus (+) or Minus (-) sign to denote a positive and negative pregnancy test respectively within 3 minutes as early as 5 days before the expected period.

You can get false positive clear blue test results if there is hCG in your body for the following reasons:

  1. If you were recently pregnant
  2. If you are on fertility medications containing the hCG hormone
  3. If you recently lost a pregnancy without your knowledge
  4. If you have rare ovarian tumors that produce the hCG hormone

A faint positive clear blue pregnancy test result is still an accurate positive result. The line may be faint due to low concentrations of the hCG hormone from drinking too much fluid or doing the test too early in pregnancy.

A positive urine pregnancy test in a man may be a sign of some testicular cancers and a doctor has to be sought immediately in such a case.

5. Sex during pregnancy

Sex during pregnancy is allowed for as long as both partners are comfortable unless the midwife or doctor advises you not to. You can stop sex during pregnancy when labor begins, when there are pregnancy complications that require pelvic rest such as bleeding, or when a medical professional advises so. There is no specific month that a pregnant woman should stop having sex and it can be done up to 9 months when labor begins.

Sexual positions that involve lying on your back should be avoided during pregnancy. Lying on your back makes the heavy uterus press and occlude the large blood vessels in your abdomen reducing blood flow to the pelvis and legs.

It is also important that sex education is provided to all pregnant women to improve sexual health during pregancy and eliminate negative attitude towards sex once pregnancy begins

6. How to tell your Baby’s gender during early pregnancy

There is no sure way of telling the baby’s gender during early pregnancy other than what doctors call “Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT)”.  Early pregnancy refers to approximately the first 3 months of the pregnancy.

You can also know the gender of your baby during in Vitro Fertilization where you can also choose which gender you would like to have.

There are numerous myths regarding the prediction of the baby’s gender which have no scientific basis and have been repeatedly proved wrong. The myths continue to flourish because the probability of one having a certain baby-gender is about 50 % since there are generally 2 genders. This means that whatever myth you are told will turn out true at least 50% of the time.

Dry lips during pregnancy do not predict any gender but instead, predict that you are probably dehydrated and should drink more water. Severe Nausea and vomiting (Morning sickness) may be a sign of the condition doctors call “hyperemesis gravidarum”, or even a molar pregnancy and not a sign that you will have a girl. The myths trying to predict a baby’s gender are way too many and differ from culture to culture.

It is important to wait until late in the second trimester at about 5 to 6 months of pregnancy to find out your baby’s gender by an ultrasound scan.

7. Pregnancy pillow

Pregnancy pillows are a unique kind of pillows designed in a way that aligns the hips, back, and head of the pregnant woman to relieve discomfort while lying in bed. It helps the user keep a more comfortable sleeping position throughout the night. The 2 commonest types of pillows are C-shaped pillows and U-shaped pillows.

How to use a pregnancy pillow

1. Place the C-Shaped Pregnancy pillow behind your back while sleeping on your left side or right side, place one end between the knees, and lay your head on the opposite end. This supports your back.

A c shaped pregnancy pillow

2. To support your front, place the C-shaped pillow in your front alongside your belly. Lay your head on one end and place the other end between your knees.

3. Place the U-curved end under your head for the U-shaped pillow.  Place one limb of the pillow behind your back and the other in front while sleeping on your left or right side.

A U shaped pregnancy pillow

4. For the body pillow, also known as the I-shaped pillow, place it on the side that you want to be supported: the front or back.

Pregnancy pillows are designed to stop you from rolling to a back position when sleeping. You can’t sleep on your back with a pregnancy pillow and you should avoid this position as much as possible, especially in the late second and third trimester.

8. Common Pregnancy complications

  • Early pregnancy bleeding – spotting during early pregnancy can be implantation bleeding but it is safer to confirm with a medical professional for a diagnosis. Bleeding in early pregnancy could also be a sign of an impending miscarriage and urgent medical attention is to be sorted.  
  • Heartburn in pregnancy – heartburn in pregnancy is caused by the relaxation of the opening of the esophagus into the stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) leading to movement of the stomach acid into the lower esophagus. Dietary modifications and antacids can be used control heartburn in pregnancy.
  •  Diarrhea in pregnancy – pre-existing medical disorders, infections, and hormonal changes can cause diarrhea in pregnancy. See a doctor if diarrhea persists beyond a day or if you experience more than 3 episodes in 24 hours.  
  • Insomnia in Pregnancy – sleepless nights in pregnancy can be caused by hormonal changes, and underlying psychiatric conditions such as anxiety disorders, and mood disorders. Insomnia can also be caused by pregnancy-related symptoms such as increased frequency of urination, nausea, and vomiting.
  •  Early pregnancy cramps – early in pregnancy, you can feel some mild cramping in the pelvic region or lower abdomen as your womb gradually increases in size. This causes some pulling and stretching usually felt by the woman as crumping. You can also feel some cramping as early as the first month during implantation.
  • Headache in Pregnancy – Headaches are common in pregnancy and begin in the first trimester and improve as the pregnancy progresses.  However, it’s not normal for a pregnant woman to experience headaches every day and she should see a doctor should that happen.  Migraine headaches are even more common in pregnancy. The headaches do not affect the growing baby and can also be caused by other medical conditions during pregnancy.

9. How to Prevent Pregnancy

How to avoid pregnancy naturally

  • Pullout or withdrawal method – Also called “coitus interruptus”. The man withdraws and deposits semen outside the vagina to prevent pregnancy. The method is not 100% effective and pregnancy can happen if some sperm are deposited in the vagina without knowing.
  • The calendar method – the woman uses her menstrual history from the last 12 months. She subtracts 18 days from the shortest cycle to get the first fertile day and subtracts 11 days from her longest cycle to determine the last fertile day. It’s known to work about 80% of the time since cycles can change drastically based on various factors such as nutrition, travel, and stress.
  • Use of cycle beads – uses a concept similar to the calendar method. A woman places the rubber ring on the red bead on the first day of her period and moves it daily to the next bead. She avoids sex or uses a condom when the ring reaches the white beads to prevent pregnancy. It is less effective compared to the current modern contraceptives.
  • Abstinence – abstinence is by far the legendary natural pregnancy prevention method. It is 100% accurate in preventing pregnancy unless you do in vitro fertilization.  

How to prevent pregnancy after sex

Within 72 hours after sex, pregnancy can be prevented by Emergency contractive pills. The pills are called Levonorgestrel and have different names depending on your location such as Postnor-2 (P2), Levonelle, or ellaOne among others. Unwanted pregnancies can stand in the way of a life full of fun. These pills have a higher rate of making sure unexpected responsibilities do not arise.

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23 Responses

  1. Bodisere Okoe says:

    Beautiful

  2. Bodisere Okoe says:

    Really wonderful going through this pice of girdline on pregnancies. Leant a lot. Please keep upgrading.

  3. Bodisere Okoe says:

    Really wonderful going through this pice of guideline on pregnancies. Really learnt a lot. Please keep upgrading.

  4. N M says:

    Very informative

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