Anyone who has been trying to conceive (TTC) knows that the two weeks between ovulation and the first day of your missed period is a long time to wait to confirm a pregnancy.
Women can experience pregnancy symptoms soon after implantation occurs, which is between 8-14 days after ovulation.
By 8 weeks of pregnancy, 90% of women will experience symptoms of pregnancy.1
Early pregnancy and premenstrual symptoms are often similar and vague, leaving many women guessing if they are pregnant or premenstrual. Not all women will have typical pregnancy symptoms.
If you suspect you are pregnant, it is important to make healthy lifestyle choices and speak with your health care provider as early as possible.
12 early signs that you might be pregnant
- A missed period is often the first sign that you might be pregnant. Small amounts of bleeding may be normal. Implantation bleeding can happen around the time that your period is expected and may be confused with a period. Implantation is usually light spotting, lasts less than a day and comes sooner than the expected period.1-3
- Nausea or "morning sickness" is a common symptom of pregnancy. Not all women experience nausea while others struggle with it throughout their pregnancy. Nausea can begin as early as 5 weeks, with most women experiencing some level of nausea by the 8th week of pregnancy.1-3
- Breast changes, especially in a first pregnancy, are an early indicator of pregnancy. Breast tissue increases in preparation for milk production. Veins become more visibly noticeable on the breasts and nipples can darken in color. Breasts and nipples can feel tingly, sore and are more sensitive to touch.1-3
- Frequent urination is often an early complaint of pregnancy, caused by the growing uterus and hormonal changes that increase blood circulation to the pelvis. Many women experience a reprieve of this symptom during the second trimester, although the pressure of the baby's weight on the bladder later in pregnancy can again result in more frequent and urgent urination. If urination becomes painful or you think you might have a urinary tract infection, see your health care provider.1-3
- Fatigue is one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms. Fatigue during early pregnancy is normal, and women should increase their amount of sleep, eat a healthy diet and continue exercising to compensate. First-trimester fatigue is usually followed by an increase in energy in the second trimester.1-3
- Cramping that feels like menstrual cramps is expected. Mild uterine cramping without bleeding is normal in the first trimester and is the result of the uterus expanding. If you have a confirmed pregnancy and experience intense cramping or vaginal bleeding, call your health care provider.1,2
- Abdominal bloating, constipation, and heartburn are all symptoms that start early in pregnancy and often continue until delivery.1,2
- Nasal congestion is a symptom of pregnancy that is sometimes overlooked. As the blood supply is increased in the body, the slight swelling of the nasal passages can lead to nasal congestion.1
- Food cravings and aversions are common in early and later pregnancy. There is no evidence that cravings relate to a lack of a particular nutrient, or that aversions to certain foods are part of an innate protective mechanism. It is important for both your and your baby's health to ensure adequate intake of calories from healthy foods during pregnancy and a good intake of nutrients, especially protein and folic acid.1-3
- Mood changes can be related to hormone changes, fatigue and stress of early pregnancy. It is normal to feel increased emotional sensitivity and abrupt fluctuation in mood, to an extent. If the mood changes are interfering with your daily life and relationships, seek out professional help. Pregnancy can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as depression and anxiety, and psychological conditions that may not have been previously diagnosed.1-3
- Lightheadedness in pregnancy can result from changes in blood volume and blood pressure, altered balance due to weight changes, and other factors such as iron deficiency anemia.1-3 Lightheadedness may occur when changing positions quickly, such as when standing or sitting up after lying down. Some lightheadedness is normal, but it would be a concern if the lightheadedness persists after lying back down. Changing positions more slowly, drinking plenty of fluids and eating smaller, more frequent meals can help to reduce the incidence of lightheadedness. If symptoms persist, speak with your health care provider. 1-3
- Headaches are common in early pregnancy due to changes in hormones.3 Speak with your health care provider for a list of over-the-counter medications that are safe to take during pregnancy.
Morning sickness can begin as early as 5 weeks into the pregnancy with most women experiencing some degree of nausea by the 8th week of pregnancy.
Early pregnancy symptoms can be due to other conditions, so it is important to get a pregnancy officially diagnosed. There are three ways that medical professionals determine that you are pregnant.
Initial urine tests by a laboratory are similar to those that you would use at home to confirm pregnancy - they measure the amount of hCG in your urine.
- Laboratory tests for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in blood or urine - doctors and midwives use a similar urine test to one you would use at home to measure the amount of hCG in your urine. HCG is a hormone that is produced after implantation. There are rare conditions and diseases that would also cause a high level of hCG, so a positive blood or urine test is usually followed by another method of testing to confirm a pregnancy1
- Ultrasound examination - this is often used to confirm pregnancy. A vaginal ultrasound probe may be used in early pregnancy to better visualize the growing embryo1
- Doppler ultrasound of the fetal heartbeat - this may be used to confirm pregnancy, but only after about 10 weeks of pregnancy.1
If you think that you may be pregnant, contact your health care provider to begin prenatal care. Early and consistent prenatal care improves outcomes for mom and baby.4
Written by Carrie Sue Halsey, APRN