The new mama’s guide to pregnancy symptoms

Ask any mama what she remembers about her first trimester, and she’ll probably start by listing her most salient symptoms. Pregnancy symptoms affect every person differently—and can even vary by pregnancy—but those early weeks and months are often a blur of morning sickness (more aptly named all-day sickness), constant headaches and food aversions. Though it’s not like they’re all for naught. Those not-so-fun feelings are signs that your body is doing something pretty miraculous: starting to grow a baby. 

Here’s a list of the symptoms you can potentially expect in your first trimester and beyond, including some you’ve definitely heard about… and some you definitely haven’t. 

Early pregnancy symptoms

If you’re seeking clues and hidden signs of pregnancy in the days before you can take a home pregnancy test, here’s what to look out for. 

Common signs of early pregnancy

Less common signs of early pregnancy

Read more: 7 early signs of pregnancy (before a positive pregnancy test) 

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms

An ectopic pregnancy is defined as the case in which a fertilized egg implants itself anywhere outside of the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. Because the fallopian tubes are not designed to carry a growing embryo, they are at risk of rupturing if the pregnancy goes undetected. While ectopic pregnancies are rare, they can be dangerous, requiring emergency treatment to manage potential internal bleeding. That’s why it’s so important to understand the specific symptoms that may present with this condition. 

Symptoms may be typical to those experienced in early pregnancy, but may also include the following: 

Common ectopic pregnancy symptoms

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Pain in lower abdomen, pelvis and/or lower back
  • Dizziness or weakness

If the fallopian tube ruptures, additional symptoms may include

  • Sharp lower abdominal pain
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shoulder pain
  • Rectal pressure

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care immediately.

First trimester pregnancy symptoms

Symptoms in the first trimester may be more pronounced versions of the early pregnancy symptoms, as your hormone levels increase over time to support the pregnancy and growing fetus. Morning sickness can be incredibly common—though some lucky ones may never experience it. If that’s you, just know that the absence of morning sickness is not a cause for worry.

Common first trimester pregnancy symptoms

Less common first trimester pregnancy symptoms

  • Breakouts
  • Constipation
  • Cramping
  • Dizziness
  • Heartburn
  • Mood swings
  • Spotting

Symptoms like cramping and spotting can be somewhat normal in the first trimester, as the uterus grows and expands. If you’re worried, reach out to your birth provider.

Read more: Spotting, fatigue & all that morning sickness: 10 common pregnancy symptoms

Second trimester pregnancy symptoms

In the second trimester, many pregnant people experience relief from all that fatigue and nausea in the first trimester. You may find you get an energy boost, too! Though watch out for increased back pain and heartburn as baby gets a little bigger. 

Common second trimester pregnancy symptoms

  • Back pain
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bleeding nose
  • Congestion
  • Fetal movement
  • Groin pain
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn or reflux
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Linea nigra
  • Vaginal discharge

Less common second trimester pregnancy symptoms

Read more: 10 sneaky pregnancy symptoms you might not know about 

Third trimester pregnancy symptoms

As you near the home stretch in the third trimester, the list of pregnancy symptoms may get longer. Your body is housing a baby that grows bigger every day, and with that fact comes some new swelling, an increased sense of fullness and bladder pressure—constant bladder pressure. But it’s not all bad news. Those cute, tiny baby hiccups? They never get old. 

Common third trimester pregnancy symptoms

Less common third trimester pregnancy symptoms

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome pain
  • Heart rate increase
  • Hot flashes
  • Insomnia
  • Varicose veins
  • Vivid dreams

Read more: Pregnant? Here are some surprising facts about each trimester 

Coping with pregnancy symptoms

As you can see, pregnancy comes with a litany of symptoms, ranging from mildly annoying to pretty painful (swelling and back pain, we’re looking at you). 

Most symptoms are just that—symptoms of a normal pregnancy, markers of just how much change your amazing body is going through as you’re growing a new human. But if something you’re experiencing is causing you worry, trust your gut and reach out to your doctor or midwife. When it comes to your and your baby’s health, there are absolutely no silly questions. 

Now’s the time to start tuning into that maternal intuition, mama. It takes practice, but listening to what your body is telling you is always a smart idea. 

Frequently asked questions 

Q. When does morning sickness start?

Morning sickness (also known as nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, or NVP) typically starts around week six, with symptoms peaking around nine weeks. In many cases, morning sickness will start tapering off toward the beginning of the second trimester, around week 14.

Keep reading: When does morning sickness start? 

Q. How soon can I take a pregnancy test?

The more advanced early home pregnancy tests can be used as soon as six days before your missed period (although their accuracy maxes out at 50% to 75%). If you can wait until the day of your missed period, the accuracy of these tests usually hits 99%. Your provider could always run a blood test, which can typically detect pregnancy as early as one week after conception.

Keep reading: What does a faint line mean on your pregnancy test? 

Q. How do I calculate when my baby is due?

Calculating your due date can be done in several ways: using the first day of your last menstrual period, from which you’ll subtract three months, then add 7 days; or using a dating ultrasound, which are often administered transvaginally and allows a technician to measure the size of the embryo and estimate a due date accordingly.

Keep reading: What month will my baby be born? How to calculate your due date 

Q. When should I announce my pregnancy? 

In short, it’s up to you! While traditionally, many pregnant people may choose to wait until the risk of miscarriage significantly decreases after week 13, plenty of others are choosing to announce that they’re expecting earlier, in the hopes of helping to normalize conversations around miscarriage and pregnancy loss. When you decide to announce your pregnancy is completely your decision.

Keep reading: 10 fun and creative ways to tell your partner “I’m pregnant!”

Q. Should I choose an obstetrician or midwife?

Deciding to go with an OB/GYN or midwife depends on your personal circumstances, such as what types of providers have hospital privileges in your area, your own birth philosophy, where you plan to give birth and whether you’re considered potentially high risk for pregnancy complications. Ultimately, it may just come down to simply finding a provider that you feel comfortable with—which is where talking to friends and family members about the birth providers they used can be helpful. 

Keep reading: Should you see a midwife or an obstetrician for your pregnancy & birth?

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Today’s Parent is Canada’s #1 source for parenting content that informs, inspires and builds a sense of community. We help parents celebrate the happy chaos that comes with having a family and remind them that they are not alone. If you’re trying to conceive, pregnant or have children from newborn to ages 9+, you’ll get insightful information for all ages and stages on discipline, health, behaviour, education, plus easy and nutritious recipes and so much more.

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