Signs of Pregnancy
Signs of Pregnancy:
Could you be pregnant? Some early pregnancy symptoms may show up around the time you’ve missed a period – or a week or two later. About 60 percent of women have early pregnancy symptoms by the time they’re 6 weeks along, and roughly 90 percent have them by the time they’re 8 weeks.
If you’re not keeping track of your menstrual cycle or if it varies widely from one month to the next, you may not be sure when to expect your period. But if you start to feel some of the early pregnancy symptoms below (not all women get them) and you’re wondering why you haven’t gotten your period, you may very well be pregnant.
Taking a home pregnancy test is the next step! If you are pregnant, visit our Newly Pregnant area for a quick overview of what’s in store.
If you’re newly pregnant, it’s not uncommon to feel repelled by the smell of a bologna sandwich or a cup of coffee, and for certain aromas to trigger your gag reflex. Though no one knows for sure, this may be a side effect of rapidly increasing amounts of estrogen in your system.
You may also find that certain foods you used to enjoy are suddenly completely repulsive to you.
It’s common to have mood swings during pregnancy, partly because of hormonal changes that affect neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). Everyone responds differently to these changes. Some moms-to-be experience heightened emotions, both good and bad, while others feel more depressed or anxious.
Note: If you’ve been feeling sad or hopeless or unable to cope with your daily responsibilities, or you’re having thoughts of harming yourself, call your healthcare provider or a mental health professional right away.
Hormonal changes in early pregnancy may leave you feeling bloated, similar to the feeling some women have just before their period. That’s why your clothes may feel more snug than usual at the waistline, even early on when your uterus is still quite small.
Shortly after you become pregnant, hormonal changes prompt a chain of events that raise the rate of blood flow through your kidneys. This causes your bladder to fill more quickly, so you need to pee more often.
Frequent urination will continue – or intensify – as your pregnancy progresses. Your blood volume rises dramatically during pregnancy, which leads to extra fluid being processed and ending up in your bladder. The problem is compounded as your growing baby exerts more pressure on your bladder.
Feeling tired all of a sudden? No, make that exhausted. No one knows for sure what causes early pregnancy fatigue, but it’s possible that rapidly increasing levels of the hormone progesterone are contributing to your sleepiness. Of course, morning sickness and having to urinate frequently during the night can add to your sluggishness, too.
You should start to feel more energetic once you hit your second trimester, although fatigue usually returns late in pregnancy when you’re carrying a lot more weight and some of the common discomforts of pregnancy make it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
One common pregnancy symptom is sensitive, swollen breasts caused by rising levels of hormones. The soreness and swelling may feel like an exaggerated version of how your breasts feel before your period. Your discomfort should diminish significantly after the first trimester, as your body adjusts to the hormonal changes.
Light bleeding or spotting
It seems counterintuitive: If you’re trying to get pregnant, the last thing you want to see is any spotting or vaginal bleeding. But if you notice just light spotting around the time your period is due, it could be implantation bleeding. No one knows for sure why it happens, but it might be caused by the fertilized egg settling into the lining of your uterus.
Note: About 1 in 4 women experience spotting or light bleeding during the first trimester. It’s often nothing, but sometimes it’s a sign of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. If your bleeding is severe or accompanied by pain or lightheadedness, or if you’re at all concerned, call your doctor or midwife.
For some women, morning sickness doesn’t hit until about a month or two after conception, though for others it may start as early as two weeks. And not just in the morning, either: Pregnancy-related nausea (with or without vomiting) can be a problem morning, noon, or night.
Most pregnant women with nausea feel complete relief by the beginning of the second trimester. For most others it takes another month or so for the queasiness to ease up. A lucky few escape it altogether.
A missed period
If you’re usually pretty regular and your period doesn’t arrive on time, you may decide to do a pregnancy test before you notice any of the above symptoms. But if you’re not regular or you’re not keeping track of your cycle, nausea and breast tenderness and extra trips to the bathroom may signal pregnancy before you realize you didn’t get your period.
High basal body temperature
If you’ve been charting your basal body temperature and you see that your temperature has stayed elevated for more than two weeks, you’re probably pregnant.
Positive home pregnancy test
In spite of what you might read on the box, many home pregnancy tests are not sensitive enough to reliably detect pregnancy until about a week after a missed period. So if you decide to take a test earlier than that and get a negative result, try again in a few days. Remember that a baby starts to develop before you can tell you’re pregnant, so take care of your healthwhile you’re waiting to find out, and watch for more early pregnancy symptoms.
Once you’ve gotten a positive result, make an appointment with your practitioner. Now head over to our pregnancy area and check out amazing pictures of how your baby develops during your pregnancy week by week. Also, don’t forget to update your profile and sign up for our My Baby This Week newsletter. Congratulations!
Where to go next
I’m pregnant: What do I do now?
Pregnancy sneak peek: An overview of the next 9 months
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Many women who feel nausea and fatigue mistakenly conclude that they’re pregnant. Then Aunt Flo arrives, and the nausea and fatigue disappear. While frustrating, phantom pregnancy symptoms aren’t necessarily uncommon – just ask anyone suffering through the two-week wait to do a pregnancy test.
But for some, the symptoms are so realistic and long-lasting that the women remain convinced they’re pregnant for nine months or even longer – despite the fact that there is no baby.
Pseudocyesis, or false pregnancy, is extremely rare. “I’ve only seen two cases in my 30 years of practice,” says Norman Duerbeck, a high-risk obstetrician at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego.
Women with pseudocyesis may stop menstruating and have distended abdomens – probably caused by gas, says Duerbeck. Their hormone levels may rise, and their breasts can become engorged, sometimes even releasing colostrum. Some women develop health complications associated with pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. False pregnancy can even result in contractions.
What causes this strange condition? In some cases, an entirely unrelated physical or mental health condition is to blame. Ovarian tumors and severe depression, for example, can lead to both elevated hormone levels and the cessation of periods.
In most cases, however, the cause is psychosomatic – that is, a woman wants so badly to be pregnant that her brain creates changes in her body. Sadly, the condition is frequently triggered by trauma, such as multiple miscarriages or the death of a spouse. “It’s very difficult for patients to accept that the pregnancy is not real,” says Duerbeck. “They might even ‘see’ a fetus on the ultrasound screen.”
Thankfully, there are fewer cases of pseudocyesis today than before, perhaps due to the availability of early pregnancy tests or perhaps, as Duerbeck suggests, because the role of women in society is less tied to motherhood than it was in the past. If there’s one thing the disorder can teach us, it’s that mind and body are strongly connected.
What is implantation bleeding?
Implantation bleeding is light bleeding during the week before you expect your period. It may be caused by a fertilized egg implanting in the blood-rich lining of your uterus. Implantation bleeding can be an early sign of pregnancy, but only a small percentage of pregnant women have it.
Is it implantation bleeding or my period?
Here’s how to tell whether it’s more likely to be implantation bleeding or your period:
- Amount of blood. Implantation bleeding is a lot lighter than a typical period. It’s usually just a little spotting.
- Length of time. Most women bleed for three to seven days during their period. Implantation bleeding often lasts only one to three days.
- Color. Menstrual blood is usually bright red or dark red, but implantation bleeding tends to be a light pink, brown, or rust discharge.
- Clotting. Many women bleed enough during their period that some of the blood clots or becomes like a gel. Implantation bleeding is too light to clot.
When does implantation bleeding happen?
The spotting tends to happen during the week before you would expect your period, or about six to 12 days after conception. This is around the same time a fertilized egg would be attaching itself to the uterine lining.
What other symptoms may accompany implantation bleeding?
In addition to implantation bleeding, some women also have these early pregnancy symptoms:
- Light cramping (less than with a normal period)
- Breast tenderness
- Lower back pain
- Mood swings
Note that these symptoms are no guarantee that you’re pregnant – they can also be signs of ovulation or PMS. Taking a home pregnancy test is the best way to find out if you’re pregnant. (Though you may have to wait a few days to get an accurate result.)
If you do get your period instead of a positive pregnancy test, and haven’t yet scheduled a preconception visit with a midwife or doctor, now is a good time to do so.
Is implantation bleeding ever a sign that something is wrong?
If you continue spotting even after a positive pregnancy test, or if you develop other symptoms (such as pelvic or abdominal pain, dizziness, or lightheadedness), call your provider immediately.
You may need an exam to make sure you don’t have an ectopic pregnancy. This happens when the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. (It’s possible to have an ectopic pregnancy even if you don’t get a positive result on a pregnancy test.)
Bleeding or cramping in early pregnancy may also be a sign of an impending miscarriage. But some women spot in the first trimester for no apparent reason and go on to have a completely normal pregnancy.
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Video: What is implantation bleeding?
There’s very little research on this topic, and early symptoms of pregnancy are different for everyone. Some women feel the first twinges of pregnancy a week or two after conceiving, while others don’t feel any different for a few months.
In the best study on this question to date, 136 women who were trying to get pregnant kept daily records of their symptoms from the time they stopped using birth control until they were 8 weeks pregnant. (That’s counting eight weeks from the first day of their last menstrual period.) The results:
- 50 percent had some symptoms of pregnancy by the time they were 5 weeks pregnant.
- 70 percent had symptoms by 6 weeks.
- 90 percent had symptoms by 8 weeks.
The first sign of pregnancy is usually a missed period. The most common symptoms to follow are nausea, vomiting, fatigue, frequent urination, and breast tenderness and swelling. These symptoms can be mild or severe.
What you’re feeling at 2 weeks
Your last period started about two weeks ago. Based on the way doctors and midwives count the weeks of pregnancy, at the so-called 2-week mark you’re actually just ovulating and possibly about to conceive. What you experience now is likely related to your usual menstrual cycle.
Pregnancy symptoms at 3 weeks
If your egg was successfully fertilized, this week it undergoes a process called cell division as it makes its way through the fallopian tube down to the uterus. There, the fertilized egg implants in the lining of your uterus.
Most women don’t feel very different at 3 weeks, but some may notice a tiny bit of “implantation spotting” or feel early pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue, tender breasts, nausea, a heightened sense of smell, food aversions, and more frequent urination.
Pregnancy symptoms at 4 weeks
Normally you get your period about 4 weeks from the start of your last period, but if you’re pregnant, the clearest sign at this point is a missed period. Many women still feel fine at 4 weeks, but others may notice sore breasts, fatigue, frequent urination, and nausea. About one-third of women experience nausea at 4 weeks of pregnancy.
Pregnancy symptoms at 5 weeks
While your baby grows at a dizzying pace in your uterus, you may be growing more aware of pregnancy-related discomforts, including fatigue, achy or swollen breasts, nausea, and more frequent trips to the bathroom.
Pregnancy symptoms at 6 weeks
For most women, morning sickness begins between 6 and 8 weeks. You may also be exhausted and experiencing mood swings, which could be due to hormonal changes as well as the stress of wondering what lies ahead in your pregnancy.
About 25 percent of women have spotting in early pregnancy. This is usually nothing to worry about, but if you notice spotting or bleeding, call your provider to make sure everything is okay.
Pregnancy symptoms at 7 weeks
Morning sickness may be well under way at this point, and you also might notice your pants feel a bit tighter. Your uterus is now twice the size it was five weeks ago.
You probably need to visit the bathroom frequently, thanks to increased pressure on your bladder from your growing uterus and more blood being filtered through your kidneys.
Pregnancy symptoms at 8 weeks
Hormone changes continue to make you feel sluggish and tired, while nausea and vomiting also may be draining your energy. Your bra might start to feel a little snug as rising hormone levels prepare your breasts for lactation. You may also have trouble sleeping if you’re getting up to pee several times a night or if tender breasts prevent you from sleeping on your stomach.
Other signs of pregnancy that women reported by 8 weeks include:
- Mild uterine cramping or discomfort (without bleeding)
- Abdominal bloating
- Nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
- Food cravings or aversions
- Spider veins
- Itchy palms
- Areas of darker skin (on the face, abdomen, or areolas)
Experts speculate that these symptoms, unpleasant as they are, may serve an important purpose if they protect women from ingesting something that could harm the embryo during the crucial early stages of development. They may also alert some women to their pregnant state, prompting them to make lifestyle changes and seek prenatal care.
However, because the earliest symptoms don’t begin until after the embryo is formed, assume you could be pregnant and take good care of yourself, even before you have symptoms or get a positive pregnancy test.
No. You can’t have your menstrual period while you’re pregnant.
Some women do have vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. Some even report intermittent bleeding that seems like a regular period to them. But vaginal bleeding during pregnancy is not the same thing as menstruation.
Menstruation only happens when you’re not pregnant: Each month, your uterus grows a thick blood-rich lining in preparation for an egg to embed there. If you don’t get pregnant that month, you shed this tissue and blood – that’s your menstrual period.
But once an egg embeds in the uterine lining, hormones tell the blood-rich tissue to stay intact to support the growing baby. And you won’t shed it and start having your period again until your pregnancy is over.
Bleeding occurs during pregnancy for various reasons, some serious and some not. Some women have light bleeding or spotting in the week before their period is due and they may mistake that for a period. It’s generally a lot lighter than a typical period and lasts just a day or two.
This spotting has been called “implantation bleeding” because of the idea that it might be caused by the fertilized egg burrowing into the blood-rich lining of the uterus. But no one knows what really causes it.
You may have spotting after a Pap smear, vaginal exam, or sex. This is because there’s more blood going to your cervix during pregnancy.
Bleeding can also be a sign of something seriously wrong, such as an infection, placental problems, miscarriage, or an ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening. (See our article on vaginal bleeding in pregnancy for a complete rundown of possible causes.)
If you notice bleeding while you’re pregnant, call your doctor or midwife right away, even if the bleeding has stopped. Many women who bleed a little during pregnancy deliver without complications, but you may need an evaluation to rule out a serious problem.
If you’re actively bleeding or have severe pain of any kind and can’t immediately reach your practitioner, head straight to the emergency room.
Probably, but you should test again in a few days to make sure. For a home pregnancy test to give you a positive result, your body has to be making a detectable level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
When you get pregnant, your hCG level starts to increase. Most home tests are designed to be positive when you’re two to three days late for a period (or 15 to 16 days after ovulation). If there’s a faint line, there’s only a small amount of hCG in your urine, usually because it’s early in the pregnancy.
Some pregnancy tests are more sensitive to hCG than others. A more sensitive pregnancy test might turn clearly positive even if a low amount of the hormone is present, while a less sensitive test taken at that same time might show a faintly positive result.
If you still have the box, it should say somewhere what the test’s sensitivity is — the lower the number, the better the test. For example, a test with a sensitivity of 20 IU/L (international units per liter) will determine whether you’re pregnant sooner than a test with a sensitivity of 50 IU/L. A good rule of thumb is that the more expensive a pregnancy test is, the more sensitive it’s likely to be. But you should still read the side of the box to see what it says.
Many women get a faintly positive result if they’re not as far along as they expected. If this is your situation, taking another test in two or three days should give you results that are more exact.
If your test is faintly positive for a few days and then turns completely negative, you may have had a very early miscarriage. Experts estimate that about 20 to 30 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so unfortunately this is very common.
Keep in mind that almost all women who have a very early miscarriage are eventually successful, so even a briefly positive pregnancy test should be encouraging when you’re trying to conceive.
If you continue to get a negative result on home pregnancy tests for more than a week after missing your period, it’s very unlikely that you’re pregnant – but it’s possible, so check with your doctor to be sure.
Your ovaries normally release one egg every month or so, and if it’s not fertilized, menstruation starts about 14 days after the egg is released.
If you miss more than three periods in a row and pregnancy tests are all negative, see your doctor for a thorough evaluation. Women can stop having regular periods for many reasons, including diabetes, eating disorders, excessive exercise, or some medications. Here are three other common reasons:
- Thyroid problems. Your thyroid gland controls your body’s metabolism. If this isn’t working properly, it could interfere with your periods. Other symptoms of a thyroid problem include extreme fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, and a constant feeling of being cold, even when the temperature is moderate. A simple blood test can determine how well your thyroid is working, and thyroid conditions can usually be corrected with medication.
- Too much prolactin. You might miss a period (or more than one) if you’re producing an abnormally high level of the hormone prolactin. Your body usually makes prolactin when you’re breastfeeding, which is why menstruation generally stops during that time. If this is what’s happening to you (and you’re not breastfeeding), you may notice a milky discharge from your nipples. This condition can usually be treated with medication.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This condition affects the hormones that release mature eggs. If you have PCOS, eggs remain in the ovaries, where they can’t be fertilized. Symptoms often start with irregularities in your menstrual cycle.
If your period is still late, see your doctor to determine whether you’re pregnant – and figure out what’s going on if you’re not.
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