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Pregnancy Symptoms

Think you might be pregnant? We can help.

“My period is late, but I’m having the typical menstrual cramping, so it’s probably just about to start.”

You may have heard someone make this statement, or maybe you’ve said it yourself, only to find out later that what you thought was a sign of a period coming was actually a sign of early pregnancy. This has been one of the most common statements I have heard as a nurse at the Pregnancy Resource Centers when speaking to women about the early stages of their pregnancy. There are other symptoms a woman may experience in early pregnancy and we’ll talk about some of them here. What makes pregnancy symptoms difficult to interpret is that they may be attributed to many other factors in a woman’s life such as: stress (job, raising children, relationships), moving, emotional trauma and anxiety, other major changes in one’s life, food poisoning, suboptimal nutrition or sleeping habits, hormonal changes, changes in birth control method… the list could go on.

The array of pregnancy symptoms that may be experienced in the early stages of pregnancy varies with each individual and even between an individual’s pregnancies. Though in the minority, some women experience minimal to no pregnancy symptoms at all, while others experience some first trimester specific symptoms throughout their pregnancies. One size does not fit all when it comes to pregnancy symptoms.

Here’s a list of the most common symptoms women who have come to the Portland Pregnancy Resource Centers have reported as experiencing during the first few weeks of their pregnancies:

  • missed period
  • nausea
  • sore and/or swollen breasts
  • feeling more emotional, crying more easily, or feeling more anxious or more peaceful
  • feeling tired
  • cramping in lower abdomen, where period cramps are usually experienced
  • appetite changes (more or less hungry)
  • food and smell aversions (even to things that may have been previously enjoyed)
  • going to the bathroom to urinate more often
  • vaginal spotting
  • darkening of the areola (darker area on the breast, around the nipple)
  • headaches (without a history of headaches, or more frequent than usual)
  • dizziness
  • weight changes
  • bloating and/or constipation

If you are experiencing some possible early pregnancy symptoms and want to take a pregnancy test, we are here for you. We provide free pregnancy testing at locations throughout the Portland area. You can schedule an appointment online or by calling one of our centers. Each woman who receives pregnancy testing at PRC also has the added benefit of speaking with a licensed registered nurse to talk about pregnancy symptoms, ask any pregnancy related questions she may have, schedule an ultrasound, and more.

Pregnancy symptoms in more detail

You have read the list above, but what if you have more questions? Let’s explore some of these possible pregnancy symptoms in more detail.

Missed period

Pregnancy is not the only cause a woman may miss her period, but for sexually active women, it’s probably one of the first things we think of. Some women’s periods are like clockwork: every month on the same day or week. Other women have very irregular periods, anywhere from a variance of a week to a variance of a month or more. There have been PRC clients who only get a period every couple of months, and others who menstruate only a couple of times a year!

So, you can see why some women may be pregnant for a few months before they even register that they have missed their periods. While this is not the norm among our clients, it is generally encouraged that women track their cycles.

So, what’s the difference between a cycle and a period? A period is the part of the cycle when vaginal bleeding takes place; this means that the uterus is emptying because there’s no registered pregnancy. What happens during the time between periods? Hormones are working in the body to prepare for the release of an egg and the supporting of a pregnancy. If a pregnancy hasn’t implanted in the uterus, the following period starts.

Tracking a cycle is important because it can help a woman understand her body as it relates to pregnancy (when it is likely that pregnancy will occur) and as it relates to one’s general health. According to Dr. Urrutia at University of North Carolina

Irregular bleeding patterns can indicate a health issue. If you find that you are bleeding more frequently than every 21 days, bleeding less frequently than every 40 days, or having heavier than average periods that last eight days or longer, you should see a doctor. Tracking your cycles can also shed light on health issues that could happen in the future. Really long periods and PCOS are associated with increased rates of heart disease, diabetes and other long-term health risks. (healthtalk.unchealthcare.org accessed 4/19/21)

Tracking one’s cycle is very easy to do with the technology we have today. There are countless apps that can be used to track a cycle, and if you don’t like technology, all you need is a paper calendar and a pen to mark your last period and other symptoms you may be experiencing.


This is a symptom that can be indicative of a multitude of causes. During pregnancy it is typically referred to as “morning sickness”, and it can actually occur any time of day (or night). I have clients saying the nausea wakes them out of sleep during the night, others experience it in the morning, or noon, or evening, while others experience it when they encounter certain smells or see food. For most women this symptom is limited to the first trimester, but a small percentage of pregnant women have nausea throughout their pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, the following are things you can do to help ease the nausea:


  • Avoiding foods and smells that trigger your nausea.
  • Keeping soda crackers by your bed and eating a couple before getting up.
  • Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
  • Drinking less water/fluids with your meals, and instead, drink them between meals.
  • Eating drier, plain foods such as white rice, dry toast, or a plain baked potato.
  • Getting plenty of rest.
  • Sniffing ginger or lemons, or drinking ginger ale or lemonade.
  • Asking your healthcare provider about taking a vitamin B-6 supplement, which has proven to help reduce nausea and vomiting. (americanpregnancy.org accessed 4/19/21)

If home remedies are not helpful, call your doctor. Staying hydrated is vital during pregnancy, and dehydration can set in quickly if persistent vomiting or inability to drink fluids is not addressed.

Breast changes, soreness, darkening of the areola

Once fertilization has occurred the body starts preparing to support a new human, including a way to feed this new person after birth. You guessed it: it’s milk from the mother’s breasts. Breast tenderness lets you know that the breast tissue is undergoing a major time of transition and preparing for mild production. This symptom typically lasts through the first trimester. Let your doctor know if you notice any lumps that concern you.

Feeling more emotional

During early pregnancy, a woman’s hormones flood her body, trying to prepare it. This can have quite an effect on a woman’s emotions. We’ve heard women say they cry watching an HGTV home remodeling show, while others have said they feel more irritable and it’s harder to handle what they used to think were “small bumps in the road”.

“If you feel like your emotions are taking on a life of their own, if your anxiety is hampering your ability to function, and/or if you are perpetually depressed, you should seek help. Talk to your obstetrician or a psychologist. Prenatal depression and anxiety are common, and it’s nothing to feel shame over.” (healthline.com accessed 4/19/21)

A new parent with her baby

Fatigue or feeling tired

This is a common refrain during early pregnancy: constant tiredness. It seems like no matter how long a woman sleeps, she still needs more. According to the University of Rochester,

It’s a signal from your body to slow down and give it time to adjust to the incredible changes happening inside. Hormone changes play a big role in making you feel tired, especially the hormone progesterone. This hormone rises sharply in the first trimester. Women who usually need only 6 hours of sleep at night often find they need nearly double that during these first weeks of pregnancy. And for others, daytime tiredness is paired with trouble sleeping deeply or for more than a few hours at night. (urmc.rochester.edu)

If you are having trouble sleeping, contact your doctor.

Lower abdominal cramping

Many pregnant women experience cramping in early pregnancy, and it may be due to non-concerning reasons such as stretching uterine muscles, constipation, exercise or straining. Sometimes it may be due to more serious reasons such as: miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. It’s important to let your doctor know if you experience abdominal pain or cramping.

Vaginal spotting

With spotting you may notice a few drops of blood when you wipe, or on your underwear, but you don’t need to wear a pad. As with cramping, vaginal spotting may be normal and due to implantation bleeding or changes in the cervix or hormonal changes. Concerning causes of spotting are ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage. It’s important to let your doctor know right away if you experience vaginal spotting or bleeding.


Changing hormones, increased blood flow, quitting caffeine, dehydration can all trigger headaches during early pregnancy. Avoid Ibuprofen or Naproxen to treat a headache; Tylenol is typically safe in pregnancy.

When a headache is severe, or just doesn’t go away, or when you have dizziness, blurred vision, or changes in your field of vision, you should contact your healthcare provider. Headaches can sometimes be related to blood pressure problems in pregnancy. (stanfordchildrens.org)


By now you have repeatedly heard about hormonal changes during early pregnancy. Well, those can affect your blood pressure as well: it can become lower. This in turn may cause dizziness, whether it is when standing up too quickly, or an abrupt change in position. It’s important to attend all of your prenatal appointments, so your doctor can monitor your blood pressure.


A majority of women experience constipation while pregnant. The digestive track is yet another organ that hormones impact in a major way (haha, that was funny)… Things to consider doing at home: drink plenty of fluids (mostly water), get some exercise in every day (whatever your doctor recommended), increase your fruit and vegetable intake. If this doesn’t help, ask your doctor for a stool softener that is safe during pregnancy.

Women who are pregnant may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

Late or missed period


Tender or swollen breasts


Frequent urination


Nausea or vomiting


Fatigue or increased tiredness


Lightheadedness or fainting

Mild abdominal cramping




Food cravings or aversions


Darkening of the nipples


Mood swings

If you believe you may be pregnant, contact us or come into one of our centers in order to get a free pregnancy test.