pregnancy test - early signs and symptoms of pregnancy

What Are the Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy?

4 min read

No matter the route you’ve taken to conceive, the signs and symptoms of early pregnancy can vary from person to person. Some may only be tipped off by their missing menstrual period, while others might notice multiple symptoms or new discomfort. Short of taking a pregnancy test, it can be tricky to know for sure and when you’re trying to conceive, every little ache or new sensation can inspire little flashes of hope. So, until you can take that pregnancy test, here are a few common symptoms to keep an eye out for.

Here are the most common signs of early pregnancy.

Missed period

Being a day, or even a few days late doesn’t automatically mean you’re pregnant. But, if your period is a week late, it’s time to take a pregnancy test. The most accurate reading of a pregnancy test will be 14 days post-ovulation, though some tests can detect the pregnancy hormone as early as 10 days post-ovulation.

Can you miss a period and not be pregnant?

It’s possible to miss a period and not be pregnant. There are many things that can stop you from ovulating or getting menstrual flow including high stress, excessive exercise training, having too little body fat or having polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS—where cycles are commonly long irregular). If you were expecting your period and it doesn’t show, taking a pregnancy test is a good first step, letting you know if further evaluation of your menstrual cycle regularity is needed.

Fatigue

Pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, requires your body to do a lot of work! It takes great amounts of energy to grow a placenta and a fetus, making fatigue a common symptom of early pregnancy. Unfortunately, there are a lot of other reasons you could be tired:

  • Not getting enough sleep (seven to eight hours daily is the recommendation)
  • Being mentally, emotionally or physically overworked
  • Having low Iron or low Vitamin B12 levels
  • Chronic stress
  • Slow thyroid function
  • Illness, grief or depression

Nausea

Rising levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG in the first trimester can commonly cause nausea (with or without vomiting). Although dubbed morning sickness, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) affects 85 percent of pregnancies and can occur at any time of the day or night. It’s more common to have NVP in the first trimester, but for some people it can last much longer.

Although incredibly uncomfortable, there’s no cause for medical alarm unless you’re unable to keep any food or water down and are at risk of dehydration. (Here are a few natural remedies for pregnancy nausea, just in case.) If you’re experiencing extreme nausea and vomiting, you could have a severe form of NVP called hyperemesis gravidarum which occurs in up to one percent of pregnancies. The greatest health risk from having hyperemesis gravidarum is dehydration, so if you’re unable to keep fluids down, check in with your doctor who may come up with a treatment plan to ensure you stay healthy during your pregnancy.

Apart from early pregnancy, there are many other causes of nausea and vomiting including:

  • Food poisoning and other infections
  • Migraine headaches
  • Head trauma
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Certain foods and medications

Most of the time nausea is self-limiting, but if prolonged vomiting is preventing you from staying hydrated, it’s time to seek medical help. 

Breast tenderness and swelling

Breast fullness and tenderness is a common symptom of early pregnancy due to rising estrogen and progesterone levels. It’s the same reason why your breasts might feel sore a week before your period shows up. You might also feel pain under the breasts if you were working out your pectoral (chest) muscles. Cysts and fibrocystic changes to breast tissue may also cause discomfort. If you feel any lumps or hardened tissue, contact your doctor who can do a proper assessment and send you for imaging.

The best indication you’re pregnant? An at-home pregnancy test.

Although these are the most common symptoms of early pregnancy, not everyone who is pregnant will experiences them. Other symptoms such as cramping, bloating, changes in appetite, irritability or weepiness and headaches are also possible—but could be due to a number of things. For example, both high and low progesterone and estrogen levels can affect your digestion, water balance and pain sensitivity. All of these are possible symptoms of early pregnancy, but they’re also common premenstrual symptoms as well, and if you’re on an estrogen or progesterone medication as part of fertility treatments, this could be the cause too. 

The best way to confirm if you’re pregnant is to take a test after your expected period is due or 14 days post-ovulation, and then to follow-up with your doctor for a pregnancy blood test. Just can’t wait to test? We get it—it’s why we developed our Early Results Pregnancy Test. This at-home test can detect pregnancy up to five days before your expected period.