If you want to be sure if you’re pregnant, you’ll need to get down to the drugstore for a testing kit (or head online if you want to be a little more discreet). But if you know what to look out for, you may be able to pick up on some of the early signs that you’ll soon be eating for two.
Let Flo guide you through 10 common signs of early pregnancy.
1. Late period: how many days should you wait?
Many of the early signs of pregnancy are very similar to those you’d experience around the time of your period — so don’t leap to conclusions! None of the signs below is definitive for pregnancy, so consider them a general indication rather than anything more. You’ll need to take a pregnancy test if you want to confirm that you’ve conceived.
Of course, the most common reason for a woman to suspect that she is pregnant — and indeed to take a pregnancy test — is missing a period. Even so, pregnancy is not the only reason for missing a period. Weight loss and gain, hormonal change and stress can all cause you to skip a cycle so you can’t be sure until you’ve got a positive pregnancy test!
If a week or more has passed since the date of your expected period, you may need to consider the possibility that you’re pregnant, but this can be unreliable if your menstrual cycle is irregular. If there’s any chance that you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test as soon as possible and make an appointment with your doctor.
2. Breast changes
You probably already know to expect breast changes during pregnancy, and for some women this is one of the early signs that there’s a baby on the way. Your hormone levels vary widely over the course of pregnancy and this causes many changes in your body, including to your breasts.
You may notice that your breasts are:
- the areola (the area around the nipple) may darken
Breast pain or discomfort can be troubling in the early stages of pregnancy, but once your hormones begin to settle down you can expect most of these symptoms to resolve
3. Weird bathroom schedule
If you’re in the early stages of pregnancy, get ready for some changes to your usual bathroom routine! Hormonal changes are the cause of this and it can mean that you need to make allowances in your day for your new habits.
From week 6 onwards be ready to urinate more frequently than usual. This is a common symptom for pregnant women, but be aware that other conditions like diabetes and urinary tract infections can cause similar symptoms. For this reason, it’s best to consult your doctor if you think that frequent urination may be the result of something other than pregnancy.
During pregnancy, you’ll have more of the hormone progesterone circulating in your system. While this is perfectly normal, one of progesterone’s unwelcome side-effects is constipation. This is because it delays the passage of food through your gastrointestinal system. If you’re one of many women who experience constipation as a result, make sure you stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, get some exercise and try to follow a high-fiber diet.
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Soon after conception has taken place, the fertilized egg becomes attached to the wall of your uterus. Among other symptoms, this may cause you to experience abdominal cramps that are similar to those you have during your period. In fact, the cramps of early pregnancy are often mistaken for the beginning of menstruation.
Cramping during early pregnancy is mild and should lessen with time. Don’t hesitate to consult your doctor if the pain is severe or if it is accompanied by heavy bleeding or other worrying symptoms.
Popular culture means that most of us are familiar with morning sickness. For many women, nausea is a regular feature of the early days of pregnancy, but it’s not restricted to a particular time of day.
Nausea in early pregnancy is likely to be the result of the increase in circulating hormones and may occur at any time of day, but morning is the most common time.
6. Feeling tired
Pregnant or not, you’re probably no stranger to feeling tired! Work and social pressures can mean that most women nowadays feel like they’re not getting enough pillow time. But fatigue can also be a very early sign of pregnancy. For many women, this can result in a very draining tiredness. This may occur as early as the first week of pregnancy.
Even at this early stage, the rising levels of the hormone progesterone in a woman’s body can cause unusual fatigue. At the same time, changes in blood pressure and blood sugar can all contribute to feeling lethargic and lacking in energy.
If your low energy is the result of pregnancy, then try to fit more rest into your day. Make allowances in your social life for the time you need to recover and let work colleagues know that you may need their support. You may also find that adding a little more protein and iron to your diet may give you the boost you need at this early stage of pregnancy.
7. Food cravings
As far as the stereotype of the pregnant woman goes, strange food cravings may be one of the best-known features. Just like many of the other symptoms of early pregnancy, food cravings are the result of the changes in hormone levels that are experienced after conception.
The same hormones that can make a woman desperate for a certain type of food can make other food a total turn-off. Food aversions can be so severe that even the thought or smell of these foods can cause very unpleasant nausea.
For some women, food cravings and aversion can last for the entire duration of their pregnancy but in most cases, they disappear by the end of the first trimester. Until then make sure that you eat a healthy diet that nourishes both you and your baby. Your doctor or other health professional will be able to offer you advice.
8. Light bleeding or spotting
Implantation bleeding is the light vaginal bleeding that occurs between 6 and 12 days after fertilization. It should not cause anything more than mild spotting that you may notice in your underwear. Implantation bleeding can also be accompanied by mild cramps that resemble the cramps of menstruation.
If the bleeding is heavy or if the cramping is severe, then contact your trusted health professional for advice.
Along with light bleeding, some women notice a white, milky discharge from their vagina. This is completely normal and is the result of increased development in the lining of the vagina. The discharge may continue throughout pregnancy and does not usually have any other symptoms. Seek your doctor’s opinion if the discharge smells bad or if you have itching in your vagina - you may need to be treated for a bacterial or yeast infection.
9. Unusual emotions
If your emotions feel a little out of balance in early pregnancy, blame your hormones again. It’s most common in the first trimester so you can hope that things will settle down after a little while.
As with other early pregnancy symptoms, you may find that staying active, eating a healthy diet and maintaining a social life can help you deal with these symptoms.
10. You missed birth control
If you forget to take one or more birth control pills and then miss your period, you may be pregnant. Before you panic (or throw a party!), take a pregnancy test so you can be sure. And if it’s positive, take medical advice at the earliest opportunity.
Would a pregnancy test show an accurate reading during early pregnancy?
Pregnancy tests are very advanced nowadays. Most will give you an accurate result from the first day of your missed period. Some newer tests are even more sensitive and can be used before you miss your period — as early as 4 or 5 days before your period is due.
When you should see a doctor about your early pregnancy
Women vary widely in how they experience pregnancy and you should be aware of this when looking for the signs of early pregnancy. Learn about common signs and symptoms, be alert to your own body and the signals it sends you, but don’t be too rigid about what to expect when you’re expecting.
And seek your doctor’s advice as soon as possible after conception — this will give you and your baby the best chance of a healthy, positive pregnancy.