Background: Early pregnancy symptoms are commonly experienced by most women during pregnancy. While some such as missed periods may serve as an early warning symptom, others may be troublesome, necessitating treatment, and even hospital admission.
Objective: The main objective of this study is to determine the pattern of early pregnancy symptoms among pregnant women in Port Harcourt, Southern Nigeria. Specifically, it would determine the type of symptoms, the period of onset, climax, and when they subside. It would also determine the recurrence rate and the maternal effects in the index pregnancy.
Materials and Method: A cross-sectional observational study of 616 booked pregnant women who attended antenatal care at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology, University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, from February 2015 to January 2016. The patients were educated about early pregnancy symptoms, and relevant questions and concerns were addressed. Verbal consent was obtained from those who agreed to participate; a structured questionnaire was then distributed among the participants, which was filled, and data were analyzed.
Results: The prevalence rate for early pregnancy symptoms was very high 89.6%, the symptoms were commoner among primigravid women 208(33.8%), and they tend to reduce significantly with increasing parity. The recurrent rate among parous women was high 82.6%.
The mean gestational age at onset of symptoms was 4.06 ± 1.64 weeks, and by eight weeks, about 87% of the women have developed pregnancy symptoms. The symptoms were perceived to be worse between 5 and eight weeks, with a mean of 7.20 ± 2.15 weeks, and they started to subside by 9 – 12 weeks, with a mean of 14.06 ± 3.85 weeks.
Amenorrhoea was the commonest symptom 98.6%, followed by nausea and vomiting 52.3%, then breast pain and heaviness 52.3%, low back pain 45.3%, and urinary symptoms 36.4%. Pregnancy symptoms interfered very little with professional and domestic activities, and the hospital admission rate was quite low 8.4%.
Conclusion: Women hardly go through pregnancy without experiencing multiple pregnancy symptoms. The prevalence rate was high, especially among Primigravidas, and symptoms tend to be recurrent among multiparous women. Pregnancy symptoms tend to peak around 5 – 8 weeks and begin to subside by 9 -12 weeks.