pregnant woman

What Are the First Signs of Pregnancy?

Could you be pregnant? Some women know right away. Others might suspect it but aren’t sure yet.

The first thing many women notice is a missed period. However, for women with an irregular menstrual cycle, a missed period is not a reliable sign.

There are other early signs of pregnancy you can be on the lookout for, and we’ll check some of them in this blog. Early symptoms of pregnancy can start already before your period is due, a week or two after the conception.

Do all women get these symptoms? No.

Also, their intensity and frequency vary. Often, the first signs can resemble your pre-menstrual discomforts, which makes it tricky.

Here’s a checklist of early signs of pregnancy—which is not exhaustive—that can help you as a guideline. It follows the recommendations of reputable websites, including the NHS and Mayo Clinic:

  • Light spotting, also known as implantation bleeding: The bleeding is lighter in colour than your usual menstruation and doesn’t last long. It happens when the fertilised egg attaches to the lining of the uterus, about 10 to 14 days after the conception. Some women also experience cramping (similar to your usual period pain).  
  • Nausea and vomiting: Morning sickness is probably the most typical sign of pregnancy. Despite the name, it can happen at any time of the day or night. Some women can get nauseous just by smelling something they dislike.
  • Swollen breasts: Your breasts can become larger and heavier as well as sore and tender. This is due to hormonal changes that start immediately after you get pregnant.
  • Tiredness: Feelings of fatigue are not uncommon, especially in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This is due to high levels of the hormone progesterone, which can make you feel very sleepy and low in energy.
  • Constipation: High levels of progesterone also disturb your digestion and make the food move slower through the intestines. Some women also experience gas, a lot of gas!
  • Frequent urge to pee: Some women need to go to the toilet all the time, including during the night. That’s because during pregnancy, the amount of fluid in your body increases, and when the kidneys process all the liquid, it ends up in your bladder.
  • Headaches and dizziness: Increased circulation can trigger mild headaches. You can also feel dizzy and lightheaded, which can be due to low blood sugar.
  • Food cravings: Some pregnant women start craving foods they usually don’t eat. For instance, I know a vegetarian who suddenly started craving meat when she got pregnant. Or, you can feel an aversion to certain foods and drinks or lose interest in them.
  • Feeling emotional, mood swings: This one doesn’t need a lot of explaining. Crying for no apparent reason? Yes, we’ve all been there. Hormonal changes can make you feel very emotional and upset during pregnancy.
  • Elevated basal temperature: Your basal temperature is your oral temperature first thing when you wake up. A persistently increased basal temperature that doesn’t go down can be an early sign of pregnancy. Of course, you need to be charting your temperature to spot this one.

As you can see, most of the early symptoms are very general and not that easily identifiable as a sign of pregnancy.

However, if you experience a few of them, have missed your period and you know you had unprotected sex, it is probably best to do a pregnancy test or visit your doctor. A positive pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure.

That said, a negative result on the pregnancy test is not necessarily reliable. If you still think you’re pregnant, experts advise to wait a week and do another one.

And if you are trying to fall pregnant, knowing when you are most fertile will help.