The First Signs of Pregnancy - What to Look Out For

Updated: November 24, 2021
It can be very hard to tell the difference between a late period and early pregnancy. Here we explore the key changes to your body and tell-tale early pregnancy signs to look out for.
First Signs of Pregnancy

When you think you may be pregnant, you look for any early signs of pregnancy that can indicate that you're about to be a mom. Many of the earliest signs of pregnancy can appear before a positive pregnancy test would register. But, every woman is going to be different as to when they may first realize they're pregnant.

"Since many early pregnancy symptoms overlap with PMS symptoms, it can be hard to tell," says Sara Twogood, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN in Los Angeles and co-founder of Female Health Education and the online magazine Female Health Collective.

Twogood tells Family Education that some women don't have any obvious symptoms until their entire first trimester. So how might you be able to tell that you have a bun in the oven? Check out these first signs of pregnancy that might suggest you have a bun in the oven.

More: 5 Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

1. Missed Period

One of the first symptoms of pregnancy is when you miss your menstrual period. Once you've conceived, your body produces hormones that stop ovulation and stop the shedding of the uterine lining that leads to your period. If you are pregnant, you won't have a period again until after your baby is born.

But, missing your period doesn't always signal one of the symptoms of early pregnancy. It could mean that you're stressed, have a hormonal imbalance, or are exercising excessively. If you've missed your period, you'll probably want to take a home pregnancy test. A urine pregnancy test can show whether human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is present. This is the hormone that indicates pregnancy. A pregnancy blood test also shows the amount of HCG.

2. Increased Basal Body Temperature

If you kept track of your basal body temperature to help determine the fertile days of your menstrual cycle, you may also want to check it to see if you might be pregnant. After you ovulate, a rise in the basal body temperature that lasts for 18 days or more may be one of the early symptoms of pregnancy.

3. Frequent Urination

Spending more time in the bathroom may be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. When you're pregnant, your blood volume increases. Your kidneys work to filter your blood and remove the extra waste. This waste is in the form of urine leaving the body. So, the more blood in your body, the more you'll have to pee.

4. Morning Sickness and Nausea

Morning Sickness

Feeling nauseous and vomiting can be one of the signs that you are in the early stages of pregnancy. You can start feeling nauseous when you're as early as two weeks pregnant. For other women, it doesn't start until a few months after they conceive.

While some women experience vicious vomiting, others just feel nauseous all the time. Either way, it's an unpleasant symptom. This goes away by the second trimester for many pregnant women. But, for others, it lingers longer. This is perhaps the most difficult pregnancy symptom to deal with, so follow these tips to help combat your morning sickness.

If you can't keep fluids down because of morning sickness, you'll want to contact your healthcare provider because too much vomiting can lead to dehydration which can be dangerous during pregnancy.

5. Bloating

While we all feel bloated from time to time, bloating can be one of the first signs of pregnancy. During the early stages of pregnancy, the progesterone hormone increases to prepare the uterus. But, the hormone progesterone also slows down digestion. When this happens, gas gets trapped in the intestines which can lead to feeling bloated and uncomfortable.

6. Spotting or Cramping

Spotting or Cramping

According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), implantation spotting and cramping can occur 6-12 days after conception when the embryo implants on the uterine wall. While a missed period is the most obvious sign of pregnancy, implantation bleeding can seem like a shorter, lighter period. Not all women experience this symptom, so don't fret if you don't bleed or notice any cramping or light bleeding.

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7. Breast Changes

Breast Changes

Hormonal changes and increased blood flow might make your breasts feel sore, swollen, and tender as early as 1-2 weeks after conception. They might also appear larger, feel fuller and heavier, and change in appearance. Increased hormones might also make your areolas look darker. Breast discomfort and tender breasts usually ease up after the first month of pregnancy.

8. Headaches

Headaches

The sudden rise in hormones can also cause headaches early on in pregnancy. Make sure to talk to your doctor before taking anything for pain relief, and find out what medications are safe to take during pregnancy.

9. Fatigue

Fatigue

Tiredness and fatigue are common signs of early pregnancy. They signify that your body is hard at work creating a suitable environment to grow a baby. However, your changing hormones might also disrupt your sleep patterns, so don't be surprised if you find yourself waking up frequently at night during the first weeks of pregnancy. Nap and rest when you can, Mom — making a baby is hard work!

10. Weight Gain

Weight Gain

Even before you receive a positive pregnancy test, you might find it's already hard to button your pants. Although you aren't "showing" yet, your body is making room for your soon-to-expand uterus. You may notice that your waist is disappearing as other parts of your body are growing.

11. Mood Swings

​Mood swings are another early sign of pregnancy. When you're pregnant your progesterone and estrogen levels are high which leads to feeling moody. You may be happy one minute and ready to cry the next. You can thank your pregnancy hormones for that! But don't worry, you're not alone because mood swings are very common during pregnancy.

12. Food Cravings and Food Aversions

You may start to notice you crave a certain food all the time. Research shows that 50-90 percent of all American women have some type of food craving during their pregnancy. Rapidly changing hormones may be to blame or it may be because some foods make you feel better. For some women, these cravings start in the first trimester and peak during the second trimester.

While some women may want pickles all the time, the thought or smell of them may make other pregnant women sick to their stomachs. This is a food aversion. Just like cravings, food aversions may also be due to changing hormone levels.

The Bottom Line: Take a Pregnancy Test If You’re Unsure

While women are going to experience different pregnancy symptoms at different times, Twogood says that symptoms usually start around 5-6 weeks (about 1-2 weeks after a missed period).

Symptoms can range from breast tenderness to morning sickness, fatigue, weight gain, cramping, and more. If you start to notice a few of the symptoms, you may want to take a home pregnancy test and call your healthcare provider to check if you should be preparing for your baby's due date in nine months!