Mother and Baby

34 early pregnancy symptoms (for when it's too early to take a test)

What are the early pregnancy symptoms? Want to know if you're in the early stages of pregnancy without taking a pregnancy test? Though you won't know for sure without one, look out for these very early signs you could be pregnant...

Some of the early symptoms to look out for:

Even if it's too soon to take a pregnancy test, the NHS suggests waiting at least 3 weeks, after you think you may have conceived before taking a pregnancy test, however, your body can start showing early signs and symptoms that it's growing a baby as early as 2 weeks after conception.

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After conception, fertilisation and implantation, your body goes into overdrive and the hormones of pregnancy help kickstart the process you are about to follow for the next nine months. You might recognise the more obvious signs like a missed period, breast tenderness or nausea/morning sickness but there are subtle changes in your body and mind which might surprise you...

Meet the expert: Dr Watson talks about the early pregnancy symptoms

We worked with Dr Helena Watson is an obstetrics and gynaecology registrar in South London, working on the labour ward, at antenatal clinics and within gynaecology services to discuss the early pregnancy symptoms. She is also currently undertaking a PhD in Women’s Health Research at King’s College London. She is involved in projects such as Cotfinder and QUiPP.

Here are the main tell-tale of pregnancy, (plus science-backed theories to make sense of it all!). Or if you'd prefer, you can take our pregnancy quiz to find out if you're likely to be up the duff.

However, we might be looking hard for signs and symtomns, but Dr. Helena Watson reminds us that you may indeed be pregnant with no symptoms at all. 

"It's important to emphasise that most women have no symptoms whatsoever in early pregnancy," says Dr Helena Watson, Clinical Researcher at Kings College London.

"A lot of pregnancy symptoms are possible but are also possible in non-pregnant women. Some (bloating, constipation, libido change, shortness of breath) are much common later in pregnancy when the progesterone levels are higher and are less likely to be present in the first few weeks. "

34 early symptoms of pregnancy: 

1. Tiredness


This is one of the first signs of pregnancy to hit as your body gears up to start supporting your baby and can even start within two weeks of conceiving. If you're feeling extra exhausted and can't work out why, this could be a sign your body is getting ready to grow a baby. 

2. Nausea


Morning sickness is caused by an increase in the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). For many, this is the first sign of pregnancy. Don’t be misled by its name - while the nauseous feeling is most common in the morning, it can strike at any time of day. Mum Lauren Whalley swore by some unusual foods to cure her morning sickness: "I felt like I was on a roller coaster from waking till bed until I was around 27 weeks," she said. "The only things I could eat were spaghetti hoops and fizzy haribo."

3. Missed period


Another common indicator and one of the most concrete signs you're expecting. That said, if you have irregular or light periods, this can be an easy one to miss. What's more, some women still have periods after they conceive.  

4. Spotting or bleeding


This might sound strange and is another one that can be confused with a period, but around a third of women experience some sort of implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding is when the foetus implants into the lining of your uterus and causes a small amount of blood. This usually happens 6 to 12 days after you've concieved. 

Spotting in early pregnancy can also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, so it's important to talk to a healthcare professional if you're experiencing unforseen bleeding. 

5. More toilet trips


Although your baby won't be pressing on your bladder just yet (a common side effect you'll experience later in your pregnancy), the hormone changes, plus a greater blood volume and your kidneys working harder could mean you find yourself rushing to the toilet more often right now. 

6. Breast changes


Another extremely common early pregnancy sign is changes in your breasts. For some women, their boobs increase a full cup size within the first six weeks

 

breast changes

7. Nipple changes


Pregnancy hormones cause your body's melanin production to increase temporarly - you might notice this has caused your nipples and the area around them (the areolas) to turn a darker colour.

8. Bleeding gums


If you've noticed blood when brushing your teeth, it could be that progesterone is to blame. This pregnancy hormone increases the flow of blood to gums, increasing sensitivity and causing them to bleed more easily. 

Bleeding gums can be an indicator of gum disease, which has been associated with risk of preterm birth, so always see your healthcare professional if symptoms persist. 

9. Increased vaginal discharge


You may notice your body is producing more milky white vaginal discharge - this is your body's way to preventing harmful infections from travelling upwards and harming your baby.

10. Changes in facial skin colour


A slightly odd sounding symptom, but some women experience changes in facial skin colour during pregnancy. This is medically referred to as melasma, chloasma or 'mask of pregnancy' and is caused by a temporary increase in pigmentation. 

 

facial changes pregnancy

11. Feeling lightheaded or fainting


It's thought that the pregnancy hormone progesterone makes your blood vessels relax and widen to increase blood flow around the body, causing low blood pressure. 

12. Shortness of breath


Feeling out of breath doing your usual exercise routine or walking up the stairs? The surge of progesterone your body produces when you're pregnant expands your lung capacity which means you'll find yourself needing to take more breaths.

13. Increased sense of smell or taste


If you suddenly can't bear the perfume you've worn for years, or your colleagues choice of tuna sandwich, it could be another early pregnancy sign. This is down to the hormone oestrogen which is heightening your responses to things that might be harmful to your growing baby. 

14. Back pain


If you're already suffering from back ache, it could be caused by the pregnancy hormone relaxin, which makes your ligaments and joints relax and become looser so your body is ready to give birth. Mum Beth Green struggled with back pain throughout her pregnancy: "I struggled a lot with my back during pregnancy, so I found swimming was a great way to excercise as it relived the pain whilst helping me to stay active."

back pain

15. Feeling pregnant

Some women are so in tune with their bodies they report 'feeling' pregnant before taking a pregnancy test. You might have detected those early hormone changes, so it's worth checking!

16. Metallic taste in mouth

Another common early sign of pregnancy, this one even has it's own name: 'dysgeusia'.

17. Period-like cramps

It's the right time of the month and you have the normal period cramps. But wait, these stomach aches could be a sign you've conceived and the egg has implanted into the uterine wall, causing that familiar cramping sensation.

18. Excessive saliva


Medically referred to as ptyalism, this is another one caused by those early hormonal changes. 

19. Headches


Many women experience headaches around the time their period, due to a surge in the hormone oestrogen. After conception, your oestrogen levels also rise, which could be what's causing that pounding head.

 

headache pregnant

20. Food aversions


If you suddenly can't bear the sight or even idea of a boiled egg, it could be that you are experiencing the first trimester pregnancy food aversions. Whilst the egg aversion is a common one, it can happen with any types of food - even your favourites. 

21. Cravings


That said, as fast as you'll go off certain foods, you'll start to crave others. A strong desire for something as simple as a fizzy drink, or as unusual as a lump of coal, could be an indicator that you're pregnant. Mum Hannah Gnanaseharam says she craved chicken and sweetcorn soup ravenously: "My poor husband often had to do late night trips to the Chinese takeaway just for the soup."

22. Hunger


Feeling absolutely ravenous all of a sudden? Your body may be feeling low on energy. Make sure you're eating healthy, balanced meals full of micronutrients, but a little bit of what you fancy is good, too!

23. Low libido


If you're suddenly experiencing a really low sex drive after all of that baby-making sex, it could be a sign the job has been done!

24. Increased sex drive

We know we mentioned low libido as a potential sign of pregnancy, however on the flipside, pregnancy can cause an increase in sex drive thanks to increased levels of Estrogen!

25. Spots or acne

If you're blaming your period on those breakouts, you might be wrong. A surge of progesterone can make your glands produce more pore-blocking oily sebum.

 

pregnancy skin

26. More emotional

Have you found yourself weeping on the underground or sobbing at a TV advert you've seen hundreds of time before? Emotions tend to be all over the place during pregnancy (one word - hormones), so if you're on an emotional rollercoaster, it might be time to go and buy a pregnancy test!

27. Moodiness


Feeling extremely grumpy and short tempered? A combination of pregnancy symptoms can wreak havoc with your moods.

28. Constipation and wind 


It might be an embarrasing symptom you'd rather not talk about, but wind could actually mean your digestive system is adapting to those baby hormones. 

29. Bloating


If that pre-period puffiness hasn't disappeared, it could actually be the pregnancy hormone progesterone at play. Feeling bloated? It might be worth taking a test! 

30. Temperature changes


Pregnancy causes an increase in blood volume as your body starts to work harder to support your growing baby. Feeling extra hot? It could be an early sign of pregnancy. Some women also feel excessively cold, too. 

temperature changes in pregnancy


31. Cold like symptoms

Another one caused by those pregnancy hormones (get ready to hear about them A LOT over the next nine months), if you're suffering from a blocked nose or cold it could be that those pregnancy hormones are cuasing swelling inside your nose, and increasing the amount and thickness of mucus. 

It's important to remember that viruses are more common and serious in pregnancy (e.g. coronavirus) so talk to your healthcare professional if symptoms persist.

32. Sudden aversion to coffee


Many women report they suddenly dislike coffee in their first trimester and one explanation for this is the body is attempting to protect the fetus from extraneous substances. 
 

33. Tender breasts


Some women find that their boobs feel heavier and more tender than normal when expecting, especially in the first few weeks. 

34. Hair loss


Some women report losing more hair in the early stages of pregnancy. Not dramatic hair loss but perhaps finding more hair in the plug hole or in your hair brush. This is likely to be down to nutrient deficiencies which should resolve themselves once your hormones regulate.

Struggling with symptoms? Vlogger Lily Pebbles shares her tips on how to get through the first trimeser

Lily talks about low mood during the first trimester, as well as morning sickness and not feeling quite like yourself. She urges mums not to beat themselves up about not feeling excited about being pregnant at this time.

She says: "If you're pregnant and in your first trimester and you're just feeling a bit depressed that's OK. Don't make yourself feel guilt about it because apart from the weekend I found out I was pregnant I was not excited at all until I got into my second trimester."

Pregnancy testWhether you’ve got one, a few, or lots of these signs of pregnancy, the best way to find out for sure is a simple pregnancy test.

They’re so advanced these days that you can take an early pregnancy test 6 days before your period is due and expect a result that’s around 99% accurate.

What kind of pregnancy test should I take?

Pregnancy tests are the most accurate way to tell if you're having a baby. You might be wondering, how exactly does a pregnancy test work? Pregnancy tests work by detecting a hormone in a woman's blood or urine: hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) is produced when an egg implanted in the uterus. 

There are two kinds of pregnancy test, blood and urine tests, and home tests use urine.  A blood test (one you'd have at the doctors or in hospital) detects hCG earlier than a qualitative blood or urine test.

Home tests vary in accuracy. Some are accurate on the first day of your misssed period, but most detect pregnancy a week after this point. 

Most home pregnancy tests detect hCG in a urine stream when, after a few minutes, a line or symbol appears if the test is positive (indicating pregnancy); most urine pregnancy test instructions urge a second test in a few days no matter what were the first results.

It might be possible to be pregnant and get a "false negative", so always take a second test around a week later to be sure.

I'm pregnant, what next?

If you want to proceed with the pregnancy, it's time to start planning.

Work out when your baby should arrive by using our due date calculator and learn more about what to expect by reading through our pregnancy week by week guides.

Trying to concieve?

Using our ovulation calculator is a great way to get serious about trying to have a baby. It helps you to work out when you're most fertile and when is the best time to get pregnant, increasing your chances of conceiving.

 

 

 
  • Author: Louella Berryman Louella Berryman
  • Job Title: Audience Development Executive

After training as a journalist at Cardiff University and winning the BBC Best New Brand of the Year Award for her plastic-free magazine, Louella now works in Audience Development across Bauer’s lifestyle brands.
She has also written for The Sunday Times Travel, Grazia, heatworld, Closer Online and her food blog, Louella’s Kitchen. She's interested in writing about food, culture and women's health.

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