What Are the Early Signs of Pregnancy?

While a missed period is one of the more obvious early signs of pregnancy, there are several other symptoms to be on the lookout for if you're trying to conceive. Symptoms vary from person to person—including those who experience no early signs of pregnancy.

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Implantation Bleeding

Implantation bleeding is often the earliest sign of pregnancy; however, it most often goes unnoticed. About one in four women experience light bleeding in early pregnancy. This spotting or light bleeding happens when a fertilized egg implants into the lining of the uterine wall about six to 12 days after conception.

This timing would be around day 20 or later of a 28-day cycle and is easily mistaken as an early period. However, implantation bleeding is much lighter and usually has a shorter duration than your period. Implantation bleeding is normal and requires no medical care.

Spotting vs. Bleeding

Mild cramping and spotting are common and can be a normal early sign of pregnancy, but vaginal bleeding can be a sign of something more serious, such as the risk of:

  • Miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy

Call emergency care if you experience painful cramping or heavy bleeding and believe you are pregnant.

Missed Period

The most common first sign of pregnancy is a missed period, with almost one-third of women reporting it as the earliest sign.

Once you become pregnant, the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) stops the uterine lining from being shed, which is what your menstrual flow is made of.

Pregnancy is not the only reason you may miss your period. Several other factors can cause a missed period, including:

  • Stress
  • Too much exercise
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Dieting
  • Menopause

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting—or morning sickness—are difficult early signs of pregnancy that can happen at all times of day, not only in the morning.

About 30% to 75% of women will experience nausea, and nearly 10% will have some vomiting early in pregnancy.

Most often, nausea begins around weeks five to eight of pregnancy and peaks at week nine, typically subsiding at week 12.

What causes nausea and vomiting is relatively unknown, but it is thought to be rising hormones and stress. If you experience nausea and vomiting, talk to your healthcare provider about potential treatments such as antiemetic drugs.

Warning: Dehydration

Severe vomiting can lead to dehydration and lack of nutrition. Speak to your practitioner if you experience severe vomiting or signs of dehydration, such as:

  • Dark-colored urine
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to keep down liquids

Fatigue

Another prevalent sign of early pregnancy is feeling tired, thought to be caused by high progesterone levels.

Fatigue can interfere with your quality of life considerably and is a challenging part of early pregnancy for many. However, most people feel less tired by the second trimester.

Breast Tenderness

Breasts change a lot during pregnancy, and these changes begin early with tenderness and growth. You may feel soreness, fullness, and heaviness in your breasts as early as one to two weeks after conception.

As prolactin, progesterone, and estrogen hormone levels rise, the number of mammary glands increases, which causes breast tissue to feel and look full and heavy. Some women experience soreness in their breasts and nipples during this change. Any discomfort usually subsides once your body adapts to the increase in hormones.

Frequent Urination

Needing to urinate more often than usual is a common early sign of pregnancy.

The hormone hCG increases the blood flow to the pelvic area, which can cause more frequent urination.

Also due to increased blood flow, the kidneys need to filter more waste, which is eliminated through urination

Frequent Urination Concerns

Sometimes frequent urination can indicate that an infection is present. If you are concerned or if you experience symptoms such as fever, pain, a burning sensation during urination, or feeling like you can't empty your bladder, see your healthcare provider.

Mood Swings

Changing hormones can mean changes in mood that you might notice a few weeks after conception.

Increases in hormones like progesterone and estrogen can affect the neurotransmitters that help regulate mood. Sometimes these mood swings can come from concern or stress over becoming a parent if you already know you are pregnant or think you might be. Mood swings can also be a side effect of other pregnancy signs like fatigue or feeling nauseous.

Mood swings are most common between the sixth and tenth week of pregnancy and near the end of pregnancy. While feeling a bit anxious or sad is normal, lasting feelings of sadness, apathy, crying, self-harm, or anxiety should be shared with your healthcare provider.

Appetite Changes

Appetite changes are a well-known early pregnancy sign that can include:

  • Cravings
  • Aversions
  • Increased or decreased hunger

Nausea and vomiting can cause a decrease in appetite, while hormonal changes can lead to more feelings of hunger.

Metallic Taste

A strange metallic taste in the mouth is an early pregnancy sign reported by many women. It can taste like you have coins in your mouth throughout the day or after eating specific foods. Other taste changes include:

  • Increased bitterness
  • Decreased sweet taste

The reasons for taste changes are still being studied, but researchers believe it is related to alterations in:

  • Hormones
  • Immune system response
  • Metabolism

Headaches

Hormonal changes and increased blood flow can cause headaches during pregnancy.

Be cautious of headaches caused by dehydration if you aren’t drinking enough water due to increased blood flow or because of vomiting.

Some people also experience headaches when they are fatigued, which is another common sign of early pregnancy.

Other Causes of Headache

Rarely, headaches can be a sign of another condition such as an infection or hypertension. If you are experiencing severe or consistent headaches, seek medical care.

Cramping

Cramping that feels like your period might be starting can occur early in pregnancy. This light cramping is normal, but if the cramping is very painful or only on one side of your abdomen, it could be a sign of ectopic pregnancy, and you should call your practitioner right away.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider for Cramping

While some light cramping is normal, seek emergency help if you experience:

  • Severe or persistent cramping
  • Cramping on one side of your abdomen
  • See bleeding with cramping

These could be signs of a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

Constipation

Approximately 11% to 38% of women experience constipation during pregnancy due to changes in the body and gastrointestinal tract.

As progesterone increases and motilin—a hormone that controls the speed that waste leaves your body—decreases, your bowels move more slowly. Additionally, more water is absorbed by the intestines during pregnancy, which can cause stool to become dry and harder to pass.

Other factors include less exercise and the use of vitamins that can contribute to constipation.

Nasal Congestion

Nasal congestion when attributed to pregnancy is more common during the second and third trimester; however, some women report increased nasal congestion in early pregnancy.

Increases in hormones and blood flow can cause the tissues inside the nose to swell or dry out. These factors can lead to a stuffy, congested nose.

A Word From Verywell

Pregnancy can cause many symptoms, some of which are unwanted and difficult to deal with. While these signs do not necessarily mean you are pregnant, if you expect you might be, taking a pregnancy test or visiting your healthcare provider can let you know for sure. As well, your healthcare provider can help you find treatments or modifications for many of the uncomfortable early pregnancy signs.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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