You’ve ditched birth control, started tracking your basal body temperature, and have been actively trying to conceive. Now you’re wondering: Are those symptoms you’re experiencing just PMS … or a tip-off that a bun’s in the oven?
Before you even take that pregnancy test, you may get a heads-up in the form of some early pregnancy symptoms. But because many of these early signs of pregnancy will be similar to symptoms you have right before you get your period, it can be hard to tell the difference.
While the only way to know for sure that you’ve got a baby on board is by taking a home pregnancy test (then getting those results confirmed by a doctor), these early symptoms — some of which can occur before a missed period — may provide clues that you’re expecting.
When do pregnancy symptoms start?
Very early pregnancy symptoms (like sensitivity to smell and tender breasts) may show up before you miss your period, as soon as a few days after conception, while other early signs of pregnancy (like spotting) might appear around one week after sperm meets egg. Still others (like urinary frequency) often appear a few weeks or so following conception.
That said, early pregnancy symptoms crop up at different times in different people. You may not notice or be able to confirm other early pregnancy symptoms for a few weeks. Some experience very few (if any) of these signs until several weeks into their pregnancies. And though many women never feel any early pregnancy symptoms, others suffer from them all.
If you’ve missed your period and are experiencing fatigue, morning sickness, spotting, and tender breasts, you may just want to grab yourself a home pregnancy test — and then drop by the doctor’s for a blood test or ultrasound to confirm it.
Classic signs and symptoms of pregnancy
We told you that your breasts may begin to look different – have you noticed the darkening of the areolas? The areolas are the area around your nipples. They can start to appear darker and larger as early as one or two weeks after conception, making this one of the more noticeable early pregnancy symptoms.
You may also begin to see more visible veins and little bumps popping up along the edge of the areolas. They’re called Montgomery tubercles and will help lubricate your nipples to get them ready for your baby to nurse when they’re here. This is only the beginning of breast changes in pregnancy!
Nausea and vomiting
‘Morning’ sickness is a condition that affects more than half of all pregnant women. The symptoms include nausea and vomiting, and loss of appetite. Many women with morning sickness don’t just get symptoms in the morning but experience them throughout the whole day.
Morning sickness usually begins around the fourth to sixth week of pregnancy and may settle by week 12, although it can continue for longer or return at around 32 weeks.
Cravings for certain foods are very common in pregnancy, especially for foods that provide energy and, such as products. You may also notice a sudden distaste for foods you previously liked.
Some women even develop an unusual taste for non-food items such as soil or paper. This is called ‘pica’ and may indicate a nutrient deficiency. Please speak to your GP or midwife if this develops
Breast changes are another very early sign of pregnancy. A woman’s hormone levels rapidly change after conception. Because of the changes, their breasts may become swollen, sore, or tingly a week or two later. Or they may feel heavier or fuller or feel tender to the touch. The area around the nipples, called the areola, may also darken.
Other things could cause breast changes. But if the changes are an early symptom of pregnancy, keep in mind that it is going to take several weeks to get used to the new levels of hormones. But when it does, breast pain should ease up.
Feeling very tired is normal in pregnancy, starting early on.
A woman can start feeling unusually fatigued as soon as one week after conceiving.
Why? It’s often related to a high level of a hormone called progesterone, although other things — such as lower levels of blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and a boost in blood production — can all contribute.
If fatigue is related to pregnancy, it’s important to get plenty of rest. Eating foods that are rich in protein and iron can help offset it.
Nausea (Morning Sickness)
Morning sickness is a famous symptom of pregnancy. But not every pregnant woman gets it.
The exact cause of morning sickness is not known but pregnancy hormones likely contribute to this symptom. Nausea during pregnancy may occur at any time of the day but most commonly in the morning.
Also, some women crave, or can’t stand, certain foods when they become pregnant. That’s also related to hormonal changes. The effect can be so strong that even the thought of what used to be a favorite food can turn a pregnant woman’s stomach.
Frequent trips to the bathroom
Before you even miss a period, you may notice that you have to pee more often. This happens because you have more blood than before. During pregnancy, your body’s blood supply increases. Your kidneys filter your blood and remove the extra waste. This waste leaves your body as pee. The more blood in your body, the more you’ll have to pee.
The most obvious early symptom of pregnancy — and the one that prompts most women to get a pregnancy test — is a missed period. But not all missed or delayed periods are caused by pregnancy.
Also, women can experience some bleeding during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, ask your doctor what you should be aware of with bleeding. For example, when is bleeding normal and when is it a sign of an emergency?
There are reasons, besides pregnancy, for missing a period. it might be that you gained or lost too much weight. Hormonal problems, fatigue, or stress are other possibilities. Some women miss their period when they stop taking birth control pills. But if a period is late and pregnancy is a possibility, you may want to get a pregnancy test.
Some newly pregnant women experience mood changes such as irritability. Other pregnant women experience feelings of elation. It is thought that pregnancy hormones influence chemicals in the brain, causing mood changes.
During pregnancy, 1 in 10 women experiences. Depression is treatable, so if you are feeling depressed or ‘down’ during pregnancy it is extremely important to get help early. Please contact your GP (doctor), midwife, or as soon as possible.
Other signs and symptoms of pregnancy
There are some additional signs of early pregnancy that aren’t as common. Just like with the most common symptoms, these signs of pregnancy may or may not happen. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and experiences signs of pregnancy differently.
Less common signs of early pregnancy can include:
- Spotting (also called implantation bleeding): Though it may seem like a bad sign, light bleeding (spotting) can be a sign that an embryo has implanted in the lining of your uterus. Implantation takes place about 10 days after conception. Implantation bleeding looks like small drops of blood or a brownish discharge from your vagina. It can start around the time of your regular period and can last for a few days to a few weeks. Spotting can cause some people to think they have just had a light period and aren’t pregnant.
- Metallic taste in your mouth: Many people say that they experience a metallic taste in their mouths during the early stages of pregnancy. It may taste like you have a pile of coins in your mouth. This can happen when you eat certain foods or randomly throughout the day.
- Headaches and dizziness: Headaches and feelings of lightheadedness and dizziness are common during early pregnancy. This happens because of both the hormonal changes in your body and your increasing blood volume.
- Cramping: You can also experience mild, period-like cramps that come and go over a few days. If these cramps are felt mainly on one side of your body or are severe, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider immediately. This could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy or other complication.
- Mood swings: As your hormones continue to change, you could experience mood swings. This is normal and can happen throughout pregnancy. However, if you ever feel anxious, depressed, or have thoughts of harming yourself, it’s important to reach out to your healthcare provider.
- Congestion: Some people experience a stuffy nose in early pregnancy due to the increase in hormone levels and blood. The mucous membranes in your nose become dry and are more likely to bleed.
- Bloating: While it may take several weeks or months to have a noticeable baby bump, the surge of hormones can cause your stomach to feel bloated and lead to passing gas more than usual.
- Acne or skin changes: Your increased hormones and blood volume are to blame for any skin changes you experience. While some people get a pregnancy glow and clearer skin during pregnancy, others may get more pimples.
How early do pregnancy symptoms start?
It varies. Some people feel pregnant within a few days of conception, while other people don’t feel pregnant for weeks after a positive pregnancy test. Pregnancy symptoms vary between people and even between pregnancies.
Can you feel pregnant before you miss your period?
Yes, you can feel pregnant before you miss your period. Some people say they’ve felt pregnancy symptoms within a week of conception (about one week before a missed period).
Could I have the symptoms of early pregnancy and not be pregnant?
Many of the symptoms of early pregnancy overlap with other medical conditions, as well as your typical menstrual cycle. Premenstrual symptoms can be very similar to pregnancy symptoms.
This can make it difficult to tell the difference. You can also miss a period and not be pregnant. This can happen when you lose or gain a lot of weight or are stressed. Breastfeeding can also cause your period to stop.
The best way to know you’re pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests are available at your local pharmacy or grocery store without a prescription.
How soon can I take a pregnancy test?
Pregnancy tests work by detecting a certain level of human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in your pee. You can take a pregnancy test as soon as you’ve missed your period. However, it’s best to wait at least one week after you’ve missed your period to get the most accurate results.
While some tests claim to give you accurate results before a missed period, taking a test too soon can result in a false negative (the test says you aren’t pregnant, but you are).
Your healthcare provider can take a blood sample to test for pregnancy as early as one week before a missed period.