Wouldn’t it be fabulous if there were a simple and straightforward way of knowing you were pregnant, from the moment you conceived? Instead of waiting for any pregnancy symptoms, how awesome would it be if a result window appeared on your belly saying:
“Yes! You are definitely pregnant!”
It would certainly beat peeing on a stick, that’s for sure.
But for us mere mortals, here's the low down on finding out whether you're pregnant, as well as 16 early signs of pregnancy.
How Soon Can I Expect Any Pregnancy Symptoms?
Studies show an egg is usually fertilised within 12 hours of ovulation. After 24 hours, the egg starts to die.
Some women say they ‘just knew' the moment they conceived, as if they had a feeling or intuition that conception had occurred. However, you won’t start noticing any pregnancy symptoms or be able to detect pregnancy with a test until after implantation.
Implantation occurs from about 7-10 days after ovulation.
An embryo starts to produce hCG after implantation, not before. This is why it's not possible to detect pregnancy before this time.
The longer you wait to test after ovulation, the more accurate the result will be. Pregnancy testing should ideally be done from the day your period would have been due.
Below are 16 pregnancy symptoms which you may or may not experience. Remember, every woman and every pregnancy is unique. There’s no need to panic if you don’t have all of the listed pregnancy symptoms.
Symptom #1: Higher Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
This is quite a niche one, and will probably only help the fertility buffs out there who have been tracking their BBT for a while. If you chart your cycle and take your temperature, you will notice that your BBT will remain high throughout your luteal phase. Progesterone causes your BBT to rise upon ovulation and stay elevated should you be pregnant.
If you're not pregnant, your BBT will drop down and you’ll get your period as normal.
Symptom #2: Missed / No Period
One of the first pregnancy symptoms you may notice is that your period does not arrive. While this symptom is one we most commonly associate with pregnancy, there may be other reasons why a period hasn’t arrived. For example, if you have high levels of stress, if you've been travelling or if you've had a major illness or surgery.
On the other hand, it’s possible to continue to have a period during pregnancy. Some women may bleed for just a few months (when their period would have been due), and a small percent may bleed for their whole pregnancy.
Read our article on bleeding during pregnancy for more information.
Symptom #3: Morning Sickness
As soon as this one hits you, you’ll regret ever longing for some noticeable pregnancy symptoms.
Don’t let it’s name fool you – morning sickness can pay you a visit any time of day. It will definitely appear at an inappropriate moment or when you’ve eaten something that will be particularly unpleasant to throw up (like mashed potato).
Make sure you're eating enough and avoid letting your blood sugar levels drop. Ginger and acupuncture are helpful natural remedies for nausea and are worth a try.
Unfortunately some women find that nothing seems to relieve their morning sickness. Most women find morning sickness will hang around for most of the first trimester before getting better. If you’re unlucky, it may continue into the second trimester or even the whole pregnancy.
Symptom #4: Breast Changes
From very early on in your pregnancy, you may notice changes in your breasts, including:
- Nipples may be tender and sensitive
- Breast may be sore and / or lumpy
- Nipples may deepen in colour
- Veins may become more noticeable and enlarged in the breast area
- Areolas (circles around your nipples) may darken and enlarge
- The little ‘bumps’ on your areolas (Montgomery glands) may increase and / or enlarge
Symptom #5: Increased Cervical Mucus
A surge in progesterone often results in a surge of cervical mucus production.
Some women may notice a little, and some notice much more. If it bothers you, a panty liner may help.
See our article, discharge during pregnancy – what you need to know.
Symptom #6: Fatigue
If you just fell asleep reading this, you could be pregnant.
When you first become pregnant, your metabolism steps up a few gears in order to support your developing baby as well as your own body. This creates one big workload.
Not only that, but the hormone progesterone which is required in high levels during pregnancy has a sedating effect. No wonder you feel so very tired! If you need to rest or sleep, don’t fight your body – it needs it!
Read our article on pregnancy fatigue for more information.
Symptom #7: Frequent Urination
As soon as a week after conception, you may notice yourself dashing off to the toilet more often, only to find that you’re urinating small amounts.
This happens because the embryo starts to secrete the pregnancy hormone hCG, which signals for the blood supply to increase in the pelvic area.
This results in the bladder becoming irritable and it passes small amounts of urine. You may find you will wake in the night to urinate more often than usual.
Ironically, this pregnancy symptom reoccurs in the last trimester, as your baby will regularly enjoy bouncing on your bladder.
Symptom #8: Cramping
Some pregnancy symptoms can be unnerving for parents-to-be, who may fear a miscarriage. This is especially the case with cramping.
However, even when not pregnant, your uterus is continually contracting. When pregnant, the foetus grows and pushes against the walls of your uterus, which causes it to contract – this is very normal.
If the cramping is accompanied by bleeding, see your doctor who can assess the situation to see if you may be having a miscarriage. However do not panic as bleeding is also common in pregnancy. See our article bleeding during pregnancy for more information.
Women can have both cramping and bleeding in pregnancy and be able to continue on with a healthy pregnancy.
Symptom #9: Spotting
Of all the pregnancy symptoms, bleeding and spotting is the most scary to experience.
Thankfully, spotting is usually nothing to worry about. At around 8-10 days after ovulation — just before you would normally get your period — you may notice light spotting, which is caused from the implantation of the embryo into your uterus lining. The spotting is usually pinkish in colour and not red like a normal period.
All bleeding during pregnancy should be reported to your medical carer. Even for peace of mind, it's worth checking in.
Symptom #10: Constipation & Wind
These pregnancy symptoms just keep getting better don't they?!
Increased hormones have an effect on your intestines, making them more relaxed – this helps with making more space for the baby as your uterus expands. As a result you may get constipated. Luckily there are plenty of things you can do for relief. Check out our article on constipation during pregnancy.
There are some constipation remedies available over the counter from your pharmacist that are safe for pregnancy – but check with the pharmacist before purchasing them. Start with safe, natural remedies first, as some are very effective.
Symptom #11: Sense of Smell
If bad smells are making you feel nauseous, this may be a pregnancy symptom. Don’t worry, your whole house doesn’t actually smell like the kitchen compost bin. Pregnancy has heightened your sense of smell! Smells which never bothered you before may become intolerable, causing nausea. Food and cooking smells are usually the culprit, however every woman is different and may dislike all sorts of smells.
Symptom #12: Nasal Stuffiness / Colds
A fetus is very clever, even at an early age! Normally, your body would see something like a pregnancy as a foreign object. But your baby has other plans. Your immune system is suppressed and prevented from attacking and rejecting the foetus, thanks to hormones and antibodies the foetus produces.
The antibodies also take part in the growth and development of the placenta. As a result of these hormonal changes to your immune system, you are more susceptible to colds and flu. Nasal stuffiness is also very common in pregnancy due to the hormonal effects on the nasal passages.
Symptom #13: Pimples / Acne
You may find that even if you don’t usually get pimples or acne, you may get them in early pregnancy. It will most likely settle down fairly quickly after your hormone levels stabilise, however make sure that you do not pick or squeeze pimples which may leave scars and/or spread bacteria.
For more information, read our article on pregnancy acne.
Symptom #14: Cravings / Changes in Taste
The rising hormone levels in your blood can reflect in your saliva. You may notice a metallic taste in your mouth, which alters the taste of foods you usually enjoy or the feeling of food in your mouth. Some women will not eat meat and some women gag when brushing their teeth from their toothpaste!
You may have heard stories of women craving strange things which are not foods at all. Some of these cravings include dirt, clay or chalk. This is a condition called pica. If this is you, please visit your naturopath or medical practitioner to check your levels of iron and zinc, as you may be deficient.
No-one really knows why pregnant women have cravings. It's believed from some evidence that the body is craving vitamins and minerals it is deficient in. If you have a craving, there is nothing wrong with giving in to them. However if you are craving high fat foods or food with little nutritional value, see if you can find a substitute. If you are not yet taking high quality pregnancy multivitamins, it might be a good time to start. Speak to your naturopath to source a quality brand.
Symptom #15: Change in Colour of Your Vagina
This is unlikely to be the change that first makes you discover the pregnancy. “Honey, come quick, my vagina has changed colour!” In fact, unless you spend a lot of time admiring yourself in a mirror, you’re unlikely to notice this one at all.
Due to the increased level of blood in the pelvic region, you may find your vagina will appear more purplish than normal.
Symptom #16: Emotional
It is generally accepted that during pregnancy you will cry in front of your boss, swear at your partner daily and donate all of your life savings to charity because the kitten on the advert looks so sad.
Hormones are going crazy, right from conception. Pregnancy is a roller coaster of hormones and emotions, and some most women find they get very emotional and have a meltdown or two.
From the moment you conceive, your body goes full speed ahead doing an incredible job, creating an environment to support and protect your baby. And yes, it’s totally reasonable to sob over nappy adverts.
Testing For Pregnancy
As mentioned above, it’s important to try to wait until your period would have been due before testing, as the pregnancy hormone hCG may not be at a high enough level to be detected by a pregnancy test, which may only result in disappointment. Perhaps you can distract yourself for two weeks by planning a special treat for yourself at the end of each day for not testing! You might also like to read our article on the two week wait for some light hearted humour!
Doctors Tests in Early Pregnancy
When you have a positive pregnancy test, your doctor will do a few tests of his/her own. These may include:
- Urine test: your doctor may ask you to perform another pregnancy test in his clinic.
- Blood Test: doctors may test for all sorts of different things upon a positive pregnancy test. If you’d like to know something specific, ask them. An example is hcg levels – some doctors wont automatically test this as a positive pregnancy test is proof enough for them. If you don’t know your blood type, it will need to be checked. If you are rhesus negative (have a negative blood group) its important to know.
Some doctors may perform an internal as a way of confirming your pregnancy. Midwives generally do not do them as they feel it’s not essential to confirm a pregnancy and wont achieve anything.
An internal may be ‘standard practice' at a first prenatal appointment with an obstetrician. However it is not essential or medically necessary, because a pregnancy test is very accurate.
Vaginal exams increase your risk of an infection by introducing something foreign right up to your cervix. You can refuse an internal — a simple, ‘no thank you’ will do. If you choose to have a vaginal exam, it may be a little uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. For more information, find out 7 things you need to know about vaginal examinations.