How to know you’re pregnant without taking a pregnancy test

    Published 21 September 2023
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Charlsie Celestine, Obstetrician and gynecologist, New Jersey, US
    Written by Jennifer Barton
    Flo Fact-Checking Standards

    Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

    Is it really possible to know you’re pregnant without taking a pregnancy test? An expert reveals all.

    If you’re wondering how to know you’re pregnant without taking a pregnancy test, it’s tempting to analyze each and every symptom you might be experiencing. But the experts all agree: The best way to confirm whether you’re pregnant or not is by taking a pregnancy test. 

    Read on for all of the early pregnancy symptoms to look out for — and what they could be telling you about your body — with advice from Dr. Jenna Flanagan, academic generalist obstetrician and gynecologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts, US.  

    Key takeaways

    • The accurate way to confirm a pregnancy (or not) is with a pregnancy test.
    • Hormonal changes mean you can experience symptoms like nausea and breast tenderness in early pregnancy. 
    • These symptoms can also be signs of something else (such as your period coming), which is why it’s unreliable to use them on their own if you’re wondering how to tell if you’re pregnant without a test.

    How can you tell if you’re pregnant without a test? 

    Is there ever a way to know you’re pregnant without taking a test? Some insist that there is and that changes in your body can be a sign that something is going on.

    According to Dr. Flanagan, her patients frequently report a host of bodily changes during early pregnancy. “The main two things are breast tenderness and reported nausea,” she says. In fact, one study found that 89% of women experienced pregnancy symptoms within eight weeks of their last menstrual period.

    With that in mind, let’s explore the most common early pregnancy symptoms that women might experience.

    Trying for baby?

    Flo can help you work out when you're most fertile

    You’ve missed your period 

    A missed period is one of the most common (and classic) signs of pregnancy — with the caveat that irregular menstrual cycles can make it tricky to know if you’ve missed a period or if it’s just late. But even a missed period isn’t a guarantee of anything.

    “Sometimes, for various reasons, people’s periods are late,” says Dr. Flanagan. This could be due to a variety of causes, including stress, excessive exercise, and hormonal imbalances. Logging your periods using an app like Flo can be a helpful way to track what’s going on in your body.

    You feel nauseous or you’re experiencing vomiting 

    Nausea and vomiting, which you might have heard referred to as “morning sickness,” are very common symptoms of early pregnancy experienced by around 70% of pregnant people. So, if you’re suffering, take some comfort in knowing that you’re certainly not alone. Nausea could begin as early as five to six weeks pregnant. In a majority of cases, symptoms will typically improve in your 2nd trimester (from 14 weeks pregnant), although some people could experience it for their entire pregnancy.

    How soon can you take a pregnancy test?

    You’re craving some food and bothered by others 

    Does the thought of pickles and ice cream suddenly sound irresistible to you while just looking at your favorite breakfast cereal turns your stomach? Yep, you could be experiencing early pregnancy cravings and food aversions.

    “People report food aversion and sensitivity to smells,” explains Dr. Flanagan. Food aversions and cravings are usually caused by changes in your hormones, and cravings could kick in as early as 5 weeks into your pregnancy.

    Your breasts are tender and swollen 

    Breast changes in early pregnancy are also common, with one study finding that 76.2% of pregnant people felt discomfort from breast pain and tenderness in the 1st trimester.

    However, breast tenderness isn’t the definitive sign of pregnancy if you’re trying to determine how to tell you’re pregnant without a test. Since Mother Nature likes to keep us on our toes, breast changes can also be related to getting your period. “There is not really a way of differentiating because we’re talking about [a symptom that occurs] before your first missed period,” Dr. Flanagan explains. 

    You’re noticing light spotting

    Light spotting can be a sign of implantation bleeding, which is another early sign of pregnancy. Implantation occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus, which can lead to some light spotting and cramping.

    While it’s still unclear exactly how implantation could cause cramps, there are some possible explanations. “Implantation can cause a little bit of cramping from the uterus because [the fertilized egg] is growing into the uterine lining,” explains Dr. Flanagan. It presents as a bit of cramping and potentially a day of light pink or even light brown spotting.”

    The bleeding typically occurs around 10 to 14 days after conception, right around the time when your period is due — which can be confusing indeed. However, one way to tell the difference between the two is that if you are pregnant, “implantation bleeding would typically stop by day 2.” 

    While bleeding during pregnancy can be scary, rest assured that it’s pretty common during the 1st trimester. In fact, approximately 25% of pregnant women experience some bleeding in those first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, if you have any concerns or if the bleeding is heavy and accompanied by pain, always reach out to your doctor.

    You’re cramping 

    As we’ve just seen, you may experience some cramping in your belly during the early stages of pregnancy. However, it’s worth noting that this is no guarantee of pregnancy. “Even implantation cramping that some people report they’ve had isn’t a surefire way of telling that you’re pregnant before you take the [pregnancy] test,” says Dr. Flanagan.

    If the cramps are severe or you mainly feel them on one side of your body, speak to your health care provider. These can be symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, where the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. This can sound frightening, but try not to worry — your doctor will be able to check you over and run any necessary tests.

    You’re experiencing mood swings 

    Have you been screaming, crying, and maybe needing a hug? If this sounds familiar to you, then don’t panic. Fluctuating hormone levels in early pregnancy mean that mood swings can be another common symptom as your body adjusts to some pretty momentous changes.

    It’s not just in early pregnancy that moods matter: Mental health in those who are pregnant is a particularly important topic. Researchers have found that mood and anxiety disorders can develop at any stage of pregnancy. If you have any concerns along these lines, remember that you’re not alone and don’t suffer in silence. Reach out to your health care provider right away, as there are a number of treatment options that could help.

    You feel overly tired and sleepy 

    Feeling zapped of all your usual energy? There could be a reason for that. Feeling tired is another common early symptom of pregnancy, with one study finding that 77.9% of pregnant women experienced fatigue in their 1st trimester. 

    However, as with most symptoms, fatigue isn’t a reliable indicator of pregnancy, as it could also be related to your usual cycle. As Dr. Flanagan explains, fatigue could be a “side effect from the rapidly fluctuating hormones related to the latter half of the menstrual cycle.”

    You’re urinating more than usual 

    Needing to pee more often is another classic pregnancy symptom, but what causes it? It might surprise you to know that during pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases. This, in turn, means your kidneys need to work extra hard to process the blood and filter out any waste as — you guessed it — excess pee.

    You’re constipated or bloated 

    Constipation and bloating are also common and uncomfortable signs of early pregnancy. Yet again, you can thank your hormones for this. “Progesterone can slow gut motility, which can cause bloating and constipation,” explains Dr. Flanagan. 

    How early do those symptoms occur? 

    As we’ve seen, pregnancy symptoms can occur at different times, with some more likely to appear earlier than others. That being said, every pregnancy is different, so you could experience all of these symptoms, some of these symptoms, or even none at all, and all at different times. 

    So, how long does it take to know if you are pregnant without a pregnancy test? Since many of the symptoms we’ve described aren’t accurate indicators of pregnancy, your best bet is to take a test to find out either way.

    Do those symptoms necessarily mean you’re pregnant? 

    It’s important to note that you can experience everything from nausea to bloating to cramping, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re pregnant.

    “Your menstrual cycle, in general, can mimic a lot of these symptoms,” explains Dr. Flanagan.

    “So can a gastrointestinal upset — some of these symptoms could be viral.”

    So, if you want to figure out how to know if you’re pregnant without a test, the proof really is in the pee stick.

    When to take a pregnancy test 

    While it can be tempting to take a pregnancy test at the first sign of any of these symptoms — or other symptoms like potential pregnancy acne, early pregnancy discharge, or back pain  — experts say you’re unlikely to get answers any sooner than the day of your expected period. 

    “I would recommend taking the test the day that you’re expecting your period if it doesn’t come or within 48 hours of a missed period if you start to develop some of those symptoms more strongly and you still haven’t gotten your period,” Dr. Flanagan advises. 

    But why is it a good idea to wait until then? Well, at-home pregnancy tests work by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. While this hormone builds up rapidly in your body following conception, it’s unlikely to be at a sufficient level to be picked up by a test until the day of a missed period. An expert tip for getting the most accurate result if you do decide to take a test is to do it during your first pee of the morning, as this will contain the highest concentration of hCG.


    How do you use sugar to test for pregnancy? Is it reliable?

    A sugar pregnancy test — which involves adding sugar to a bowl and a urine sample to that — is one online pregnancy test people like to play around with. The idea behind it is that if you’re pregnant, clumps will form in your urine because of the presence of hCG. However, it’s worth noting that this is not an accurate way to tell if you’re pregnant without a test: “I would not use that; it’s not a good indicator,” says Dr. Flanagan.

    What does pregnancy discharge look like?

    During pregnancy, some women might notice that they experience more vaginal discharge than before. “Discharge increases in early pregnancy because the blood flow to the uterus, pelvis, vagina, and cervix increases, as you’d imagine with a pregnancy,” explains Dr. Flanagan. The discharge will look clear or milky white, and the consistency will be thin.

    Is your belly hard or soft in early pregnancy?

    As we’ve seen, progesterone can contribute to feeling bloated, which can give the appearance of a baby bump in early pregnancy. However, it typically takes until the 2nd trimester for a pregnancy belly to become visible and start to harden.

    Can pregnancy affect your hair?

    The short answer is yes, but you’re not likely to notice any changes until you progress a bit further into your pregnancy. This is because you might shed less hair than usual during pregnancy, meaning the lifetime length of each strand is extended. “People experience ‘thicker hair’ or ‘shinier hair’ related to the fact that they’re having a lot less hair shedding,” Dr. Flanagan explains. “That’s not something you’d see immediately at 4 weeks pregnant.”

    Does pregnancy make you thirsty?

    Along with needing to pee more often, you may indeed feel more thirsty during pregnancy. Pregnant women are advised to drink eight to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water every day to aid digestion and help create the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby.

    Occasionally, excessive thirst may be a sign of gestational diabetes, which typically develops in the 2nd or 3rd trimester and which you can be tested for. Always speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.


    Altshuler, Lori L., et al. “An Update on Mood and Anxiety Disorders during Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 2, no. 6, Dec. 2000, pp. 217–22,

    “Am I Pregnant?” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed 19 Sep. 2023.

    “Eating Well in Pregnancy.” NHS Inform, 19 May 2023,

    “Ectopic Pregnancy.” Mayo Clinic, 12 Mar. 2022,

    Ellilä, Pauliina, et al. “Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy: A Study with Pregnancy-Unique Quantification of Emesis Questionnaire.” European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, vol. 230, no. 60, 14 Sep. 2018, pp. 60–67, doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2018.09.031.

    “Gestational Diabetes.” NHS, Accessed 24 July 2023. 

    “How Much Water Should I Drink during Pregnancy?” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Oct. 2020,

    “Is Implantation Bleeding Common in Early Pregnancy?” Mayo Clinic, 19 Apr. 2022,

    Hendriks, Erin, et al. “First Trimester Bleeding: Evaluation and Management.” American Family Physician, vol. 99, no. 3, Feb. 2019, pp. 166–74,

    “Morning Sickness.” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed 19 Sep. 2023.

    “How to Deal with Hair Loss after Pregnancy.” Cleveland Clinic, 24 June 2022,

    “Pregnancy Tests.” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed 19 Sep. 2023.

    Sayle, Amy, et al. “A Prospective Study of the Onset of Symptoms of Pregnancy.” Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol. 55, no. 7, July 2002, pp. 67–80,

    “Severe Vomiting in Pregnancy.” NHS, Accessed 24 July 2023.

    “Symptoms of Pregnancy: What Happens First.” Mayo Clinic, 3 Dec. 2021,

    “Thirst.” NHS Inform, 10 Mar. 2023,

    “Vaginal Discharge.” NHS, Accessed 24 July 2023. 

    “Week 14.” NHS, Accessed 19 Sep. 2023.

    History of updates

    Current version (21 September 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Charlsie Celestine, Obstetrician and gynecologist, New Jersey, US
    Written by Jennifer Barton

    Published (21 September 2023)

    In this article

      Try Flo today