If you start to feel some of the early pregnancy symptoms below (not all women get them) and you're wondering why you haven't gotten your period, you may very well be pregnant.
If you're usually pretty regular and now have missed your period, you may decide to do a pregnancy test before you notice any other symptoms. But if you're not regular or you're not keeping track of your cycle, nausea and breast tenderness and extra trips to the bathroom may signal pregnancy before you realize you didn't get your period.
If you're newly pregnant, constipation may be the first symptom you notice. It's caused by an increase in the hormone progesterone, which relaxes smooth muscles throughout the body, including the digestive tract. This means that food passes through the intestines more slowly.
It's common to have mood swings during pregnancy, partly because of hormonal changes that affect neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). Everyone responds differently to these changes. Some moms-to-be experience heightened emotions, both good and bad, while others feel more depressed or anxious.
Note: If you've been feeling sad or hopeless or unable to cope with your daily responsibilities, or you're having thoughts of harming yourself, call your healthcare provider or a mental health professional right away.
Hormonal changes in early pregnancy may leave you feeling bloated, similar to the feeling some women have just before their period. That's why your clothes may feel more snug than usual at the waistline, even early on when your uterus is still quite small.
Shortly after you become pregnant, hormonal changes prompt a chain of events that raise the rate of blood flow through your kidneys. This causes your bladder to fill more quickly, so you need to pee more often.
Frequent urination will continue – or intensify – as your pregnancy progresses. Your blood volume rises dramatically during pregnancy, which leads to extra fluid being processed and ending up in your bladder. The problem is compounded as your growing baby exerts more pressure on your bladder.
Feeling tired all of a sudden? No, make that exhausted. No one knows for sure what causes early pregnancy fatigue, but it's possible that rapidly increasing levels of the hormone progesterone are contributing to your sleepiness. Of course, morning sickness and having to urinate frequently during the night can add to your sluggishness, too.
You should start to feel more energetic once you hit your second trimester, although fatigue usually returns late in pregnancy when you're carrying a lot more weight and some of the common discomforts of pregnancy make it more difficult to get a good night's sleep.
One common pregnancy symptom is sensitive, swollen breasts caused by rising levels of hormones. The soreness and swelling may feel like an exaggerated version of how your breasts feel before your period. Your discomfort should diminish significantly after the first trimester, as your body adjusts to the hormonal changes.
Implantation bleeding or spotting
It seems counterintuitive: If you're trying to get pregnant, the last thing you want to see is any spotting or vaginal bleeding. But if you notice just light spotting around the time your period is due, it could be implantation bleeding. No one knows for sure why it happens, but it might be caused by the fertilized egg settling into the lining of your uterus.
Note: About 1 in 4 women experience spotting or light bleeding during the first trimester. It's often nothing, but sometimes it's a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If your bleeding is severe or accompanied by pain or lightheadedness, or if you're at all concerned, call your doctor or midwife.
For some women, morning sickness doesn't hit until about a month or two after conception, though for others it may start as early as two weeks. And not just in the morning, either: Pregnancy-related nausea (with or without vomiting) can be a problem morning, noon, or night.
Most pregnant women with nausea feel complete relief by the beginning of the second trimester. For most others it takes another month or so for the queasiness to ease up. A lucky few escape it altogether.
High basal body temperature
If you've been charting your basal body temperature and you see that your temperature has stayed elevated for more than two weeks, you're probably pregnant.
Positive pregnancy test
In spite of what you might read on the box, many home pregnancy tests are not sensitive enough to reliably detect pregnancy until about a week after a missed period. So if you decide to take a test earlier than that and get a negative result, try again in a few days. Remember that a baby starts to develop before you can tell you're pregnant, so take care of your health while you're waiting to find out, and watch for more early pregnancy symptoms.
When do pregnancy symptoms start?
It's impossible to predict when pregnancy symptoms will start, because it's different for every person (and even every pregnancy!) Some women feel the first twinges of pregnancy a week or two after conceiving, while others don't feel any different for a few months.
In the best study on this question to date, 136 women who were trying to get pregnant kept daily records of their symptoms from the time they stopped using birth control until they were 8 weeks pregnant. (That's counting eight weeks from the first day of their last menstrual period.) The results:
- 50 percent had some symptoms of pregnancy by the time they were 5 weeks pregnant.
- 70 percent had symptoms by 6 weeks.
- 90 percent had symptoms by 8 weeks.
The first sign of pregnancy is usually a missed period. The most common symptoms to follow are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, frequent urination, and breast tenderness and swelling. These symptoms can be mild or severe.
Early signs of pregnancy
Though early signs of pregnancy are hard to generalize, many expecting moms have a similar progression of pregnancy symptoms as the weeks go by. Here's what's likely to happen in the early weeks of pregnancy:
What you're feeling at 2 weeks pregnant
Your last period started about two weeks ago. Based on the way doctors and midwives count the weeks of pregnancy, at the so-called 2-week mark you’re actually just ovulating and possibly about to conceive. What you experience now is likely related to your usual menstrual cycle.
Pregnancy symptoms at 3 weeks
If your egg was successfully fertilized, this week it undergoes a process called cell division as it makes its way through the fallopian tube down to the uterus. There, the fertilized egg implants in the lining of your uterus.
Most women don't feel very different at 3 weeks, but some may notice a tiny bit of "implantation spotting" or feel early pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue, tender breasts, nausea, a heightened sense of smell, food aversions, and more frequent urination.
Pregnancy symptoms at 4 weeks
Normally you get your period about 4 weeks from the start of your last period, but if you're pregnant, the clearest sign at this point is a missed period. Many women still feel fine at 4 weeks, but others may notice sore breasts, fatigue, frequent urination, and nausea. About one-third of women experience nausea at 4 weeks of pregnancy.
Pregnancy symptoms at 5 weeks
While your baby grows at a dizzying pace in your uterus, you may be growing more aware of pregnancy-related discomforts, including fatigue, achy or swollen breasts, nausea, and more frequent trips to the bathroom.
Pregnancy symptoms at 6 weeks
For most women, morning sickness begins between 6 and 8 weeks. You may also be exhausted and experiencing mood swings, which could be due to hormonal changes as well as the stress of wondering what lies ahead in your pregnancy.
About 25 percent of women have spotting in early pregnancy. This is usually nothing to worry about, but if you notice spotting or bleeding, call your provider to make sure everything is okay.
Pregnancy symptoms at 7 weeks
Morning sickness may be well under way at this point, and you also might notice your pants feel a bit tighter. Your uterus is now twice the size it was five weeks ago.
You probably need to visit the bathroom frequently, thanks to increased pressure on your bladder from your growing uterus and more blood being filtered through your kidneys.
Pregnancy symptoms at 8 weeks
Hormone changes continue to make you feel sluggish and tired, while nausea and vomiting also may be draining your energy. Your bra might start to feel a little snug as rising hormone levels prepare your breasts for lactation. You may also have trouble sleeping if you're getting up to pee several times a night or if tender breasts prevent you from sleeping on your stomach.
Other signs of pregnancy that women reported by 8 weeks include:
- Mild uterine cramping or discomfort (without bleeding)
- Abdominal bloating
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Food cravings or aversions
- Spider veins
- Itchy palms
- Areas of darker skin (on the face, abdomen, or areolas)
Experts speculate that these symptoms, unpleasant as they are, may serve an important purpose if they protect women from ingesting something that could harm the embryo during the crucial early stages of development. They may also alert some women to their pregnant state, prompting them to make lifestyle changes and seek prenatal care.
However, because the earliest symptoms don't begin until after the embryo is formed, assume you could be pregnant and take good care of yourself, even before you have symptoms or get a positive pregnancy test.
Once you've gotten a positive result, make an appointment with your practitioner. You can also head over to our pregnancy area and check out amazing pictures of how your baby develops during your pregnancy week by week. Also, don't forget to update your profile and sign up for our My Baby This Week newsletter. Congratulations!