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The Ups and Downs of Pregnancy Hormones

By Jessie van der Hagen, CNP, CNM, Family Medicine and Midwifery

Before taking a pregnancy test, some women experience early pregnancy clues before missing a period in the first few weeks after conception. Some of these may include cramping, nausea, heightened sense of smell, fatigue, food aversions or cravings, breast tenderness, frequent urination, headaches, constipation, dizziness, mood swings, and more.

The pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) can be thanked for these sudden changes, and symptoms often worsen in the first few weeks. As every woman is different, so are the early pregnancy symptoms. Some women experience only a couple of these symptoms if any at all. If you suspect you may be pregnant, the best way to know for sure is to take a pregnancy test. A urine pregnancy test is usually not positive until 12-14 days after fertilization or when a period is missed. Some tests are more sensitive than others and can read a positive result sooner.

If the test reads positive, there’s little you can do but make the best of the pregnancy hormone rollercoaster ride! If pregnancy symptoms become bothersome or excessive, be sure to talk about it with your healthcare provider. To help you enjoy these months as much as possible, get the proper amount of rest, nutrition, and exercise to offset some of the symptoms.

After the first trimester, the hCG hormone has reached its peak, and many of the early pregnancy symptoms are often relieved. This is normal and has no adverse effect on the developing fetus. Around this time, you may get to hear the reassuring fetal heartbeat at your clinic visit. Other hormones and body changes will start to kick-in during the second trimester, preparing the body for a growing baby. If any symptoms are severe, such as cramping, bleeding, dizziness, or rapid weight gain – don’t wait for the next prenatal visit; make an appointment right away.

Learn More: Prenatal care do’s and don’ts