*As always, we recommend that you speak with your healthcare provider for any medical issues related to pregnancy. This article is meant as an information source only, and should not be considered medical advice*
Much like every woman, every pregnancy is different. The early signs of pregnancy can vary greatly from woman to woman. While some may feel the body making changes as quickly as within the first month of pregnancy, others may not notice any symptoms at all!
Typical symptoms of an early pregnancy can include a missed period, swollen and tender breasts, an increased need to urinate, morning sickness and fatigue.
So, with this this information in mind, here are some important points to consider:
How soon can I know if I am pregnant?
Pregnancy is a unique experience for each woman; some women suspect their pregnancy within the first few days, while others don’t notice anything has changed until they miss a period. There are also some women who don’t know that they are pregnant until months after conception.
Fortunately there is a safe, easy and affordable solution: the easiest way to know if you’re pregnant (or not) is to take a home pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests meansure a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG). This is the hormone that starts building in your body from the moment of conception, and it will rapidly multiply at the beginning of your pregnancy. While hCG makes its first appearance early in the pregnancy process, it takes time for your body to build up enough hCG to able to register positively on a pregnancy test. In most cases, it takes about 3-4 weeks from the first day of your last period before there are sufficient levels of hCG in your body for a positive pregnancy test.
When is the earliest that I can take a pregnancy test?
Again, it does take some time for hCG hormones to build up in the body, so it is best to wait till you miss your period before taking a home pregnancy test. Before this point, test results could come up negative, even if you are pregnant.
How reliable are home pregnancy tests?
Generally speaking, home pregnancy tests are very reliable. The test is quite simple, and involves urinating on a small test strip, then waiting for a result to appear in the window. The window usually shows a test image (for example, a single straight line). This symbol will appear first and means that the test is working. You should always check the packaging and instructions of your test to make sure that it is working. After a few minutes, your test will show either a positive or negative result. Some digital tests display a word or phrase (such as pregnant or not pregnant) rather than an image or symbol.
While home tests are quite reliable, they are certianly not 100%. If you have doubts about using a home pregnancy test, you can contact your healthcare provider about having a blood test done. This test will look for hCG in your blood, but you will still have to wait for hCG to build up to high enough levels before taking this type of pregnancy test.
As always, we do recommend that you contact your health care provider to determine which test is right for you.
What are the most common early signs of pregnancy?
You might experience several or none of these signs of early pregnancy. But remember ladies – we are all different, and not everyone will have all of these symptoms, and some women may not have any. This is OK! Pregnancy symptoms can vary dramatically between women. Remember: your pregnancy is unique so do not obsess over comparing it to someone else’s.
Here are some of the most common signs of early pregnancy:
- Missed period: The most well known and clear sign of early pregnancy is a missed period. Once conception has occurred, your body produces hormones that stop ovulation, meaning that your period has stopped and you won’t start again until after the baby is born. But keep in mind that missing your period isn’t always a sign of early pregnancy: you can also miss your period from stress, dieting, a hormone imbalance, and other factors.
- Frequent bathroom trips: Before even missing a period, you may notice that you have to pee more often. This actually happens because you have more blood than before, because during pregnancy your body’s blood supply increases.
- Feeling tired: Many women report feeling incredibly tired in early pregnancy, which is due largely in part to high levels of the hormone progesterone. Like other early pregnancy symptoms, feeling fatigued or tired tends to get better in the second trimester, but does come back in the third trimester for many women.
- Morning (and noon, and yes, even night) sickness: Despite the name, sickness can happen at any time, day or night. Nausea can begin as early as two weeks into a pregnancy or it can start a few months after conception. Not everyone will experience nausea, and for those that do there are various levels; for example, about half of pregnant women have vomiting. Though nausea during pregnancy is normal, it can be a problem if you become dehydrated. Not being able to keep down food and fluids because of extreme nausea could be due to a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum. Always contact your healthcare provider if you are suffering extreme nausea and dehydration.
- Sore, swollen breasts: Your breasts can become swollen and tender to the touch during pregnancy. The soreness could be similar to how your breasts feel before a period, but only more so. Your nipples could also begin to darken and enlarge. The good news is that this soreness is temporary, and begins to fade as your body gets used to the increased hormone levels. It is also normal if your breasts seem alrger or your bra is tighter than normal.
What are some uncommon signs of early pregnancy?
There are also some additional signs of early pregnancy that are a bit more uncommon. As with the most common symptoms, these early signs of pregnancy may not happen. Remember: everyone is different, and will experience unique pregnancy symptoms.
Some uncommon signs of early pregnancy include:
- Light bleeding: This one can be scary, and it may seem like a bad sign, but light bleeding (sometimes called spotting) can be a sign that your embryo has implanted in the lining of your uterus. This happens oever several days after conception, looks like small drops of blood or a brownish discharge from the vagina. It can start around the time of your regular period and can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Spotting can cause some women to think that they have miscarried or that they have just had a light period and aren’t pregnant. When in doubt, be sure to consult your healthcare provider!
- Food cravings, aversions, and hunger: Food can be complicated part of early pregnancy; some women begin to crave certain foods or feel a constant hunger. Some foods may seem delightful in early pregnancy, while others might be downright nasty. Food aversions can happen throughout the entire pregnancy, and can even make you dislike things you have always enjoyed.
- Metallic taste: Some women experience a metallic taste in their mouth during the early part of their pregnancy. Some describe it like “having a pile of coins in your mouth” (yuck!). This can happen while eating certain foods or at random throughout the day.
- Headaches, dizziness: Headaches, lightheadedness and dizziness can all be common during early pregnancy. This is mostly due to both the hormonal changes and increasing amount of blood in your body.
- Cramps: You might also experience cramps that feel like your period is about to start. If these cramps are mainly on one side of your body or severe, contact your healthcare provider immediately. These could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy or other complication.
- Mood swings and emotional changes: As your hormones change, you could experience mood swings. Don’t worry – this is completely normal, even throughout pregnancy. But if you ever feel anxious, depressed or have thoughts of harming yourself, please reach out to your healthcare provider.
Can I have symptoms of pregnancy and not be pregnant?
Many symptoms of early pregnancy overlap with other medical conditions, as well as your typical menstrual cycle. For example, premenstrual symptoms can be very similar to pregnancy symptoms, making it difficult to tell the difference. As we mentioned earlier, you can also miss a period without being pregnant. Breastfeeding can also cause your period to stop for a while.
The best way to know if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. If you have missed a period and think there’s a chance you could be pregnant, take a test and contact your healthcare provider.
I think I’m pregnant. When should I contact my doctor?
If you’ve missed your period, taken a pregnancy test and have a positive result, then your next step should be to contact your healthcare provider to book an appointment. While scheduling, your provider may ask if you’ve started taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 400mcg of folic acid. These vitamins are very important in early pregnancy because they help in the development of your baby’s brain and spine.
If you are planning a pregnancy, but aren’t pregnant yet, a preconception appointment with your healthcare provider is a good place to start. This is especially true if you take medication for a chronic illness or have other medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension or lupus.
We may not all like going to the doctor, but it is important to start your pregnancy out right, so don’t be afraid to book an appointment if you are or suspect that you might be pregnant.