Many of the early signs of pregnancy can be nonspecific and easily mistaken for other causes. For this reason, it may be difficult to know when or whether to take a pregnancy test.
In this article, we list 10 early signs that can indicate a woman should take a pregnancy test.
The most common reason to take a pregnancy test is a missed period.
There are many reasons for missed periods, but if a woman is sexually active, a missed period can signal pregnancy.
Most pregnancy tests are very accurate when taken after a missed period, but sometimes the hormone levels might not be high enough to trigger a positive result.
If a woman misses a period and a pregnancy test is negative, she should repeat the test after a few days.
Sore and swollen breasts are very common in early pregnancy, but they often occur just before a period, as well.
Some women also notice that their nipples become larger or slightly darker in early pregnancy.
Some women experience implantation bleeding, which is light bleeding that happens when the embryo attaches to the uterine wall.
Implantation bleeding tends to be lighter and shorter than that of a menstrual period.
Cramps are common just before or during a menstrual period, but some women also get cramps when implantation occurs.
If cramps occur around or before a period is due, but there is no bleeding or the bleeding is much lighter than usual, it may be a good idea to take a pregnancy test.
Nausea does not just happen in the morning — many women feel nauseated all day or into the evening.
If a woman feels nauseous for no apparent reason, especially when there are other signs of pregnancy, it may be a good idea to take a pregnancy test.
Fatigue is a common symptom of early pregnancy. There may be no other likely causes, such as stress or a lack of sleep. It may be difficult for a pregnant woman to make it through the day without a nap or the opportunity to rest.
Fatigue during early pregnancy is usually due to changes in the hormone progesterone.
The fatigue usually eases, and pregnant women may find they have more energy starting in the second trimester.
Unusual cravings and food aversions are common in the first trimester, though they sometimes persist through the entire pregnancy.
Some women crave non-food items, such as dirt or ice. Anyone who craves things that are not food should consult a healthcare provider.
Gastrointestinal symptoms common in early pregnancy include:
Many women also experience frequent urges to urinate and notice increased amounts of urine.
Many women report feeling "different" and having an awareness that they are pregnant before taking the test.
Physiological and hormonal changes during pregnancy may cause this "gut feeling."
Any woman who believes that pregnancy is likely should take a test for confirmation.
Women should consider taking a pregnancy test if they are sexually active and have had a birth control mishap within the last month.
While most birth control options are effective in preventing pregnancy, a broken condom or missed birth control pill can increase the risk of conception.
If a pregnancy test result is positive, see a doctor. The doctor can confirm the result with a blood test or schedule an early ultrasound.
If a woman is pregnant, it is also vital to start prenatal care or discuss other options as early into the pregnancy as possible.
If a woman misses a period but is not pregnant, it is also best to speak to a doctor, who can help diagnose any underlying cause.
Pregnancy tests are available in pharmacies and online.