Early Pregnancy Symptoms: Every Woman Should Know

Discovering your pregnancy early can set the stage for a smoother and healthier nine months ahead. While a pregnancy test provides certainty, there are preliminary signs and symptoms to consider before taking the test.

During pregnancy, significant hormonal changes occur within a woman’s body. These hormonal changes trigger a wide range of signs and symptoms, with some potentially emerging even before a positive pregnancy test or a missed period. It’s important to note that not all women experience the same symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary from person to person.

it’s worth noting that some of these symptoms can also be attributed to other factors and may not necessarily indicate pregnancy. Therefore, if you suspect you might be pregnant, consider taking a home pregnancy test and consulting your GP for confirmation and guidance.

How soon can you detect the early signs of pregnancy?

The timeframe can differ from person to person, but typically, you can anticipate experiencing very early pregnancy symptoms approximately two or three weeks following ovulation, if conception has taken place. Some individuals may notice these signs even earlier, while others might not become aware of them until after missing a period.

Does everyone experience similar early pregnancy symptoms?

No, individuals vary, and early pregnancy symptoms can manifest differently among different people. Even if you suspect you might be pregnant but haven’t encountered any early symptoms, pregnancy remains a possibility.

Typically, a missed period serves as the initial indicator, followed by symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and breast tenderness. If you’re concerned about the timing of your period or experience any symptoms that could potentially indicate early pregnancy, it’s advisable to undergo a pregnancy test and consult a healthcare professional.

You can utilize our convenient Pregnancy Calculator to assist you in determining whether it’s appropriate to take a pregnancy test at this point or not.

Is it possible to experience symptoms before period is due?

Yes, it’s possible to experience pregnancy symptoms prior to the expected date of your period. Some individuals may start feeling pregnant as soon as a week after conception, while others may not notice any changes until later in the process.

Common Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Here are common early signs of pregnancy that most women can experience:-

1. Missed Period

For women with regular menstrual cycles, a missed period is the earliest and most reliable indicator of pregnancy. However, pregnancy isn’t always the reason for a missed period. If you do have a positive pregnancy test, a healthcare provider will ask you for the first day of your last normal menstrual period (LMP). That date will also help determine your due date if you are indeed pregnant. Some people experience implantation bleeding around the time that their period is due, it is usually just spotting and lighter or shorter than their normal period. Although rare, a few people may continue to cycle throughout their pregnancy. It may be harder to note a missed or strange period if you typically experience irregular cycles. In this case, a pregnancy test followed by a pelvic exam may be necessary. If a healthcare provider rules out pregnancy as the cause for your missed period, they will take steps to rule out other possible causes.

2. Nausea and Vomiting

Many pregnant women experience nausea, often referred to as morning sickness, which can occur at any time of day or night. Typically, these symptoms emerge around six weeks after the last period but it can occur as early as two weeks after conception. The ill feeling occurs with the rapid rise of estrogen, which is produced by the fetus and placenta. Since the sense of smell also becomes heightened during pregnancy, the odors from foods, fragrances, and smoke can trigger morning sickness. Some people may have a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum. Severe and persistent vomiting, making it difficult to retain any food or fluids, should be promptly reported to a gynecologist, as it might indicate hyperemesis gravidarum, a serious condition that can lead to dehydration and other problems. This requires medical treatment with anti-vomiting drugs along with vitamins and mineral supplementation with hydration therapy.

3. Fatigue

Pregnancy can bring about fatigue, especially in the initial 12 weeks due to hormonal changes. Additionally, extra progesterone, which is a central nervous system depressant, contributes to sleepiness. If you find that you are really sleepy, try learning to power nap to get through the day.

4. Breast Changes

Sore breasts are usually one of the first physical signs of pregnancy. This soreness often goes away during the second trimester. Once again, it’s a symptom caused by hormones. As the breasts prepare for breastfeeding, estrogen and progesterone rise and cause the tenderness. Breast changes early in pregnancy may include increased breast size, tenderness, tingling sensations, more visible veins, and darkening and protrusion of the nipples.

5. Frequent Urination

Pregnant women may experience a heightened need to urinate, including during the night. Pregnancy leads to increased fluid production, causing the bladder to work overtime and necessitating more frequent bathroom breaks.

6. Constipation

The rise in progesterone levels during pregnancy can slow down food passage through the intestines, resulting in constipation. If you experience this symptom after you’ve confirmed your pregnancy, exercise and increased fiber can help. Once you begin to take prenatal vitamins, the iron in them can exacerbate constipation. You may have to try a few to find one that works well for you.

7. Increased Vaginal Discharge

Vaginal discharge, without itching or burning, may be a sign of pregnancy and can occur in the very beginning. The cervix is building a mucous plug to block the opening of the cervix and help protect your baby from infections. During this transition, you might notice a slight increase in vaginal secretions. Vaginal discharge shouldn’t smell, burn, or itch. These are signs of infection that require medical treatment.

8. Altered Senses and Cravings

Early pregnancy can heighten your senses and lead to changes in taste and smell preferences. You may experience:

  • A peculiar metallic taste in your mouth.
  • New cravings for different foods.
  • A decreased interest in certain foods or beverages you once enjoyed, such as tea, coffee, or fatty foods.
  • Reduced interest in tobacco.
  • Heightened sensitivity to smells, including food and cooking odors.

9. Cramping

Cramping may be something you associate with your impending period rather than an early pregnancy symptom. Some people experience early cramping in the uterus as it begins to stretch and changes occur. Anything severe should be reported to your doctor immediately. The same is true if the cramping is accompanied by bleeding.

10. Feeling Dizzy

Expanding blood volume and blood vessels may cause vertigo during pregnancy. You might feel dizzy on occasion, but this is usually only in the first trimester. If it becomes a concern or happens later in your pregnancy, it’s certainly something to talk to a doctor or midwife about.

11. Increased Basal Body Temperature

Basal body temperature (BBT) is your temperature as soon as you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed. It is influenced by hormones. An elevated BBT can be the first indication of pregnancy, even before your pregnancy test result is positive. Some people continuously track BBT for fertility purposes. It is a good indicator of pregnancy if the temperature does not fall back down to or below the cover line temperatures on a BBT chart.

12. Acne

An increase in acne and other skin changes can also be a pregnancy symptom. Be careful what medications you use to treat it, though. Some medications like Accutane and those that are high in vitamin A can cause birth defects. It’s best to talk to a healthcare provider about how to treat skin conditions while you’re pregnant.

13. Headaches

Headaches are rather common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes. This may be a pregnancy symptom, but it is not necessarily a sign. There are many things that could be causing your headaches, including stress.This symptom can occur at any point in pregnancy but is most common during the first trimester. If the pain is too much to handle, talk to your doctor about which medications (including over-the-counter pain relievers) are safe for your baby.

14. Bloating and an Enlarging Belly

Early pregnancy is not when you will begin to show, but some people report an enlarging belly as an early pregnancy symptom. This is typically caused by bloating as opposed to the growing baby. Weight gain in the first trimester is generally not very noticeable, usually only a pound or two. In fact, you may even lose weight from a combination of not feeling well, food aversions, and a better diet as you make lifestyle changes.

15. Mood Swings

Once again, hormones are to blame for varying feelings and moods. Don’t be surprised or upset if you’re suddenly bursting into tears or experiencing intense emotions.

You may begin to notice some of these symptoms as early as one week after conception or a few weeks after your last menstrual period. Keep in mind that some individuals experience no symptoms at all, while others encounter only temporary symptoms that can be mistaken for the usual menstrual cycle signs. The vast majority of individuals who do not exhibit these typical signs still go on to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy. If the absence of symptoms concerns you, don’t hesitate to consult your healthcare provider to ensure everything is progressing well and to gain insight into what you can anticipate.

Pregnancy vs. PMS

Many people often confuse the symptoms of pregnancy with those of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Feeling a bit bloated? It’s easy to dismiss as normal, as many individuals experience this sensation around the time of their period. The same goes for symptoms like backaches and cramping.

The only definitive way to confirm pregnancy is by taking a pregnancy test or scheduling an appointment with a healthcare provider. Doing so will also help alleviate any anxieties you may have.

If you are pregnant, remember that most of these symptoms are entirely normal. They typically become problematic only when they are so severe that they interfere significantly with your daily life or health, or if you experience pregnancy symptoms that suddenly disappear overnight.

When to Take a Pregnancy Test

If you suspect that you might be pregnant, it’s advisable to take a pregnancy test. These urine tests measure the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone secreted during pregnancy. The detectable amount of this hormone can vary widely between different tests, and each person may secrete slightly more or less of the hormone, making the tests not entirely foolproof.

The more reliable tests available on the market typically measure hCG at levels of 25 to 50 mIU/mL (milli-international units per milliliter). This concentration is typically found in urine between the fourth and fifth weeks of gestation. It’s important to note that the levels of hCG in your urine differ from those in your blood.

While the concentration of hCG is highest in the first-morning urine, most tests do not require you to use this sample. To increase the chances of having sufficient hCG in your urine, it’s recommended to wait at least four hours after your last urination before taking the test, allowing the hCG to accumulate.

A negative result that later proves to be incorrect is often due to taking the test too early. You can repeat the test after one week. If you have questions about your pregnancy tests, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare practitioner.

For the most accurate results, blood tests can be performed seven to 10 days after ovulation. These tests can also help assess the health of the pregnancy at various stages, but they require a visit to your doctor.

What if your pregnancy test is negative?

A positive test result is almost certainly correct. A negative result is less reliable. If you get a negative result and still think that you may be pregnant, wait a week and try again.

Find out about taking a pregnancy test.

If you are pregnant, use the pregnancy due date calculator to work out important pregnancy milestones and when your baby is due.
best pregnancy due date calculator

When to Contact a Doctor or Midwife About Symptoms

If you have any heightened signs and symptoms that significantly disturb your daily life or health, it’s crucial to reach out to a healthcare provider. Even if you don’t have a scheduled appointment, they are available to address your worries and ensure that everything is proceeding as it should. Healthcare providers understand that you may have numerous questions and are typically more than willing to provide answers. Don’t hesitate to call; many practitioners have staff available specifically to address patient questions throughout the day.


Dr Sobia Mohyuddin

MCPS, FCPS, MRCOG, Consultant Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Doctor Sobia Mohyuddin is a highly skilled and experienced Obstetrician and Gynecologist, with 25 years of training and experience in renowned, large institutions. She holds the position of Associate Professor and Fellow at the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan. She is also a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (UK).