- A missed period is one of the first signs that you might be pregnant, although it’s not a particularly reliable signal.
- Many preggers experience morning sickness, tiredness, sore breasts and cramps.
- Early pregnancy signs are still telltale, and the best way to be certain is to take a pregnancy test.
These 11 early signs will let you know if you’re pregnant
Early pregnancy signs can be misleading and tricky to work out. It’s easy to confuse them with the changes your body goes through each cycle, pregnant or not. Cramps, tiredness, nausea, moodiness… Am I pregnant or is it just another month in your body?
Preggos experience their first weeks after conception differently – some are plagued with all sorts of symptoms; others don’t even realize they’re pregnant until their first visit to the gynaecologist.
The only way to be (almost) certain is to take a pregnancy test. The test works by measuring levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). This hormone starts building in your body from the moment of conception and will multiply rapidly at the beginning of your pregnancy. Typically, it takes about three to four weeks from the first day of your last period – or around eight days after ovulation in a 28-day cycle 1 – before there’s enough of the hormone in your body that the test can detect.
Early signs are still telltale. The more you know about your body, the faster you’ll be able to decode them and realize something bigger is going on.
But before we look at the most common early symptoms of pregnancy, it’s worth revisiting the basic human biology. Here’s how the body changes in the first days after conception.
0 to 7 days after ovulation
Ovulation occurs when an egg is released. In the first few days following ovulation, you won’t feel any different from your typical mood. The fun starts when the fertilized egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus. Your body increases its progesterone production – a hormone that helps support and nurture the implemented egg. The levels of progesterone are usually the highest between six to eight days after ovulation. 2
7 to 10 days after ovulation
After the egg’s implantation, around a quarter of soon-to-be-moms will notice a drizzle of blood. 3 This is called implantation bleeding and is typically light pink or brown color. The bleeding is also not comparable to menstrual bleeding as it’s way less intense.
Implantation blood can mean you’re pregnant, but it’s still not a sure-fire sign. It can be caused by a chemical pregnancy (spontaneous miscarriage) in the very early pregnancy or by some other, reasons unrelated to pregnancy.
11 to 14 days after ovulation
Days after the implementation the famed hCG hormone increases so much that you’ll probably start to notice first changes on your body. Common signs include: 4 5
- Darker nipples or areolas
- Increased appetite
- Frequent toilet visits
Around this time, you would also run into your normal pre-menstrual symptoms. It might be hard to notice the subtle differences between early pregnancy and the changes you go through each month. So keep an especially close eye on the following signs which typically accompany early pregnancy:
You don’t get your period
This one is a no-brainer. A missed period is one of the first signs that make you start scratching your heads. But it’s still not a particularly reliable pregnancy signal. There is a bunch of reasons for a missed period and some have nothing to do with pregnancy, including stress, intensive workout, weight gain and birth control.
What you can do: Take a pregnancy test to see if you’re pregnant. If you’re not and you keep missing your period, pay your doctor a visit.
Swollen and possibly sore breasts are another early sign of pregnancy. You may also notice changes to nipples and the areola which typically darkens and becomes larger. Swollen breasts occur because the hormone levels increase rapidly in the first weeks after conception, kick-starting the development of mammary glands. Some preggos may already start producing milk at this stage. 6 In any case, you can expect that swollenness will wane off after hormone levels balance themselves out.
What you can do: Get yourself the most comfortable bra you can find, limit the coffee intake and take chasteberry – some evidence suggests it may help against sore breast. 7
Up to 80 percent of all pregnancies will experience bouts of morning sickness. The “morning” part is a bit misleading, early pregnancy sickness can strike at any time of the day. Nausea, vomiting and fatigue are the most common symptoms. Morning sickness often occurs in the third week after conception, and it normally lasts the whole first-semester. 8
We don’t know exactly what causes sickness, but the main culprit is most likely one that you already suspect – hormones. The extra progesterone produced after conception causes your basal body temperature to rise, which in turn contributes to a lack of energy. Your heart also pumps faster which makes it harder for the body to deliver extra oxygen to the uterus making you feel tuckered out.
Although morning sickness is a pain in the butt, it is highly unlikely to cause troubles – in fact, research has shown a correlation between morning sickness and decreased possibility of miscarriage. 9
What you can do: Take prenatal vitamins early on, eat healthily, drink plenty of fluids to keep your blood pressure high enough and rest when you can.
You visit the toilet more often
The uterus starts growing since there is a baby that grows and develops. As the womb expands it gets in the way of your bladder, triggering an urge to pee. During pregnancy, your blood levels also increase. As a result, the kidneys work faster and consequently, the bladder is fuller faster. Frequent urination is a typical pregnancy symptom and should go away after birth.
What you can do: Keep away from coffee because it’ll make you pee even more often. Strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
Again – blame progesterone, the hormone that makes you sleepy, tired, and even fatigued. Almost all preggos experience tiredness in the first trimester. Tiredness is also normal all the way to the last trimester and especially in the the last months of pregnancy. Besides hormone changes, tiredness happens because your blood sugar and blood pressure go down and because you’re now pumping blood for two. Expanding blood volume also depletes your iron stores and may make you look pale and breathless. 10
What you can do: Slow down, get more rest and sleep (in fact, make it a priority), eat a balanced and healthy diet and move around a bit.
Your appetite changes
Pregnancy can easily flip your eating preferences upside down – either you start craving for something you didn’t like before or you suddenly can’t stand your favourite pasta anymore. Research shows that around 6 in 10 women+ experience a food aversion while pregnant. 11 You also become more sensitive to smells, may notice a metallic taste in your mouth and lose interest in smoking.
What you can do: Drink enough water and eat enough minerals and vitamins, especially folate-rich food. You can get it from food (green veggies, nuts, oranges, bread, eggs) or as a folic acid supplement. Folic acid is essential in any case because it helps prevent birth defects. Make sure to go for a product that contains “5-MTHF” active form that will also work in people who are not able to convert folic acid itself. Learn more about the differences in our article.
In the first trimester, especially, many preggos suffer from intense headaches, often coupled with lightheadedness and dizziness. Again, blame the hormones, increased blood volumes and lower blood sugar levels. By the second trimester, the pain should subside because the hormone levels become steadier.
What you can do: Doctors advise against pain relievers but may prescribe medication containing acetaminophen. 12 Consider natural remedies such as massages and cold or warm compresses. Prevention is even better: follow a healthy diet, exercise, get enough sleep and manage stress.
If you start feeling constipated or bloated in the first weeks, blame the progesterone (surprise). The hormone makes the bowel and intestine sluggish. In later pregnancy, the growing uterus can put pressure on the bowel, making it harder to move stool through the intestines.
What you can do: Stock up with foods that contain lots of fiber such as green vegetables, fruits and wholegrain bread. Drink enough water or unsweetened tea.
Basal temperature raises
Basal body temperature (BBT) is the lowest body temperature, measured first thing in the morning. Many women+ measure BBT to pin down ovulation. When the ovaries release the egg, your body temp rises about half a degree Celsius and stays there until you get your period. If the temperature stays elevated for longer than your typical period between ovulation and menstruation, it may mean there’s a baby on the way.
What you can do: You’ll need a special, more precise thermometer to measure slight differences in basal temperature.
Early pregnancy signs are a lot like PMS – and what screams pre-period more than those pesky cramps. Some may feel similar abdominal pain when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. Pregnancy cramps are common – around 30 percent of women+ experience them.
What you can do: Change positions, do gentle exercises, take a warm bath or place heath pads on the abdomen. 13
Increasing hormone levels, estrogen in particular, and blood volume put pressure on delicate vessels in your nose. This causes the mucous membranes to swell and cause a stuffy or runny nose.
What you can do: Much of the discomfort can be relieved by using a simple saline spray.
When to schedule your first prenatal appointment
If you suspect you’re pregnant, first take a high-quality pregnancy test such as Donna’s Qute pregnancy test. And if it shows two lines, call your gyno and schedule an appointment where you’ll discuss any medical conditions and your general health.
If you haven’t already, start taking prenatal vitamins with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. These vitamins are super important in early pregnancy because they help in the development of your baby’s neural tube – the part that evolves into the brain and spine. Learn more about the benefits of folic acid in our blog or check QUTE PRENATAL, our folic acid supplement.