Do you have baby fever? Are you anxious to get pregnant?
Sometimes waiting to take a pregnancy test can be excruciating. Who wants to wait for a missed period?
A pregnancy test is the only way to know for sure. But if it’s too early for that, there’s a good chance you have Googled “early signs of pregnancy” or “first pregnancy symptoms” and found yourself here.
Some pregnant people may notice changes – both physically and emotionally – before they know they are pregnant, while others may not notice any symptoms at all.
We break down the most common early pregnancy symptoms, other rare causes for those symptoms and the next steps.
Common early signs of pregnancy
1. You missed your period.
If you’re in your “childbearing years” and a week or more has passed without the start of your menstrual cycle (your period), you might be pregnant. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t track their periods or have irregular periods.
If either of these is the case, you can take a home pregnancy test to confirm.
“At-home pregnancy tests are easy to use and are generally highly accurate if used as directed,” said Robin Giles, a certified nurse practitioner with Banner Health in Tucson, AZ. “If your test is negative, but you missed your period, see your health care provider and have a serum pregnancy test run.”
2. You have tender, swollen breasts.
In the early weeks of pregnancy, your breasts may feel fuller, sore and even tingly (weird, right?!). You may also notice that your bra doesn’t quite fit like it used to.
Because this is linked to hormone changes in your body, breast tenderness could also mean the start of your menstrual period. This is known as cyclic breast pain.
Another tell-tale sign is that your areolas (the area around your nipples) will appear darker and larger.
“Breast changes increase rapidly in the first eight weeks of pregnancy,” Giles said. “The nipples become larger, and the areola also appears larger and darker. Your nipples may be more sensitive and tingly.”
3. You have morning sickness.
Morning sickness is not just in the morning but can happen at any time of the day or night. Nausea is common early in pregnancy after conception and usually becomes less severe in the second trimester.
“There are safe over-the-counter remedies to help, like ginger or vitamin B6,” Giles said. “But if nausea is severe or causing vomiting it is a good idea to discuss treatment options with your provider.”
4. Things no longer look, smell or taste so sweet.
Can you no longer handle your favorite scented lotion? Does the smell of your favorite meal have you running for the bathroom? Is your toothpaste or toothbrush making you gag?
It might mean you’re pregnant. Many people experience changes to their senses. You may be more sensitive to smells and experience food aversions.
“Some people experience a heightened sense of smell that can make nausea worse,” Giles said. “Strong odors are often more noticeable and bothersome in the first trimester.”
You may also have the opposite problem — not being able to smell anything.
“Nasal congestion is also a pregnancy symptom,” Giles said. “The mucous membranes in your nose are affected by pregnancy hormones and increased blood flow. The blood vessels swell, which can lead to congestion.”
5. You are so tired.
The high levels of the hormone progesterone that soar during early pregnancy can make you rather tired. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get plenty of sleep. These symptoms typically get better after 12 weeks of pregnancy during the second trimester.
6. You need a bathroom pass.
You used to have a bladder like a camel, but now you have to go to the bathroom all the time. Frequent urination is a common pregnancy symptom that may last your entire pregnancy.
“Your blood flow to your kidneys will increase by 35% to 60%, producing 25% more urine,” Giles said. “This will mean more trips to the bathroom. It can also be caused by other factors, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) or diabetes, so be sure to check with your provider if you notice changes.”
7. You’re spotting.
Though it may seem like a bad (and scary!) sign, light bleeding or spotting can be a sign that an embryo has attached to the lining of your uterus. This is known as implantation bleeding.
“While not everyone may experience it, implantation bleeding is a completely normal process and usually resolves within a day or two,” Giles said. “It typically happens around 10 days to two weeks after the egg is fertilized.”
However, if bleeding changes from spotting to heavier bleeding, seek immediate medical attention. Heavy vaginal bleeding, fever or severe cramping can signal a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy and an ultrasound and lab work may be needed.
8. You’re moodier.
You might start to experience mood swings similar to those you feel before your period starts. You may feel more sensitive or moody, have a shorter fuse or are more easily annoyed.
What if you experience pregnancy symptoms but aren’t pregnant?
Many signs and symptoms of early pregnancy can overlap with other medical conditions, such as PMS, so it can make it difficult to tell the difference.
In a few rare cases, some parents-to-be may believe they’re pregnant – and may even have symptoms – but they aren’t actually expecting a baby. This is known as pseudocyesis or phantom pregnancy.
“This phenomenon is rare, but for people who are experiencing it, it feels very much like a real pregnancy,” Giles said. “This can occur in situations where culturally or socially there may be pressure to produce offspring.”
If you’re experiencing symptoms that worry or concern you, schedule an appointment to talk to your provider.
When should you see your provider about a new pregnancy?
If you have missed your period and a home pregnancy test comes back positive, schedule your first prenatal appointment with your health care provider.
[Read “Your First Trimester of Pregnancy” to learn more about what to expect.]
Even before you miss a period, your body gives off clues that a pregnancy is in the works. Symptoms of an early pregnancy include a missed period, spotting, tender breasts, and feeling tired, moody and nauseous.
Contact your health care provider if you get a positive pregnancy test result. Early prenatal care is important and ensures you and your baby are healthy as pregnancy progresses.
Pregnant and need prenatal care?
Schedule an appointment with an OBGYN near you.