Missed your periods, eh? Before you head out to your OB/GYN to get your pregnancy confirmed, here are some ways to find out on your own if you are pregnant. If you are watchful, you could spot these signs sometimes even earlier than that missed period. Some women, say studies, start experiencing early signs of pregnancy within 36 days from their last period, and by the eighth week, most of them are sure that a baby is on board.1
Your pregnancy is counted from the first day of your last period. It usually takes about 3 weeks or a little more from that date for the fertilized egg to implant itself onto the uterine wall and kick off the pregnancy. It is then that your body starts showing signs of hormonal changes. So, take a look at what to expect if you are expecting:
1. Light Bleeding Or Spotting
[pullquote]Within 6 to 12 days of fertilization, or about 1–2 weeks from ovulation or intercourse, you might notice light bleeding or spotting characterized by pinkish or brownish blood.[/pullquote]
If your intercourse has succesfully led to fertilization, or conception, it is common to find spotting or light bleeding within 6 to 12 days. This is not your period but the implantation bleeding that happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus lining to begin growing.
Though it is an early sign of pregnancy, it manifests in only about 30 percent cases. But according to a survey conducted by the American Pregnancy Association, only 3 percent of women considered implantation bleeding a sign of pregnancy.2
2. Sore And Tender Breasts
[pullquote]Within 2 weeks of intercourse or ovulation, you might notice fuller, sore, and tender breasts with darker areolas, sometimes accompanied by a tingling sensation.[/pullquote]
Another early sign would be a change in your breasts – how they look and feel.3 You should notice the change within two weeks of intercourse or ovulation.
In a poll conducted by the American Pregnancy Association, about 17 percent women said that a change in their breasts was the first sign of pregnancy they spotted.4 Soreness and tingling in breasts and the darkening of the area around the nipple, or the areola, are the most common signs to look out for.
Since many women get their periods after 2 weeks of ovulation, you may mistake the breast soreness as a premenstrual symptom, but breast tenderness due to pregnancy may be more intense.
Soreness In The Breasts
The soreness is a result of the prenatal preparation your body has initiated, which can also make your breasts fill out and change shape as they gear up to produce milk for the baby. Each breast has about 15 to 20 lobules or glands that are made up of milk-producing cells. These lobules are connected to the nipple via ducts that help transport milk during breastfeeding. As your system gets ready to lactate, it might turn out to be a rather unpleasant and painful experience for your breasts.
Small Bumps Around The Nipples
You may also find small bumps on your areola. These are called Montgomery glands and they produce an oil-like fluid to moisturize the nipple. Your hormones, too, are to blame for your fuller breasts, as increased levels of progesterone, estrogen, and prolactin or the milk-producing hormone increase the blood flow to this area, causing sore, heavier, and tender breasts.5
3. A Heightened Sense Of Smell
[pullquote]Around 2 weeks after intercourse or ovulation, your sense of smell is heightened.[/pullquote]
Most often, a heightened sense of smell is one of the first symptoms to be noticed by women who are in their early stages of pregnancy. Many of them report that odors they previously found mild, smelled strong and unpleasant. And this could make you feel nauseous as early as two weeks after conception.
A 2014 study published in the Frontiers in Psychology journal found that this change in sensitivity to smell is caused by high levels of circulating gonadal (sex) hormones in the body, which play a crucial role in intensifying nerve signal transmissions from the nose to the brain.6
4. Nausea With Or Without Vomiting
[pullquote]You could feel nauseous as early as 3 weeks after intercourse or ovulation.[/pullquote]
One of the classic signs that you are pregnant is nausea, and it can occur with or without vomiting as early as two weeks after conception. Dubbed morning sickness, this queasiness can strike you not just in the morning but at any time of the day. According to studies7 and surveys,8 more than 80 percent women reported experiencing nausea in the early stages of pregnancy and about half of them had it with vomiting.
The cause for this uneasiness, according to a study published in the journal Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, is the increased production of the hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is produced by the body after an embryo is implanted.9 This, accompanied with high levels of estrogen and progesterone, stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the body, which relaxes muscles, slows down the movement of food from the stomach to the intestine, and delays gastric emptying, causing increased nausea and vomiting.
But here’s the good news. Research has proven that morning sickness could be a sign that your baby is healthy. According to the study, mothers who suffered from morning sickness had fewer premature births, their risk of miscarriage was 3 times lower, and the risk of birth defects in their babies was reduced by 30 to 80 percent.10
5. A Missed Period
[pullquote]Absence of period even 7 days after the due date or at most 4 weeks from intercourse or ovulation could be a sign of pregnancy if you usually have regular periods.[/pullquote]
If you don’t have a completely erratic period schedule, no period for one to two weeks after the due date is a telltale sign of pregnancy. If this has been preceded by spotting or light bleeding or accompanied by consistent breast soreness and a heightened sense of smell, you would do best to get a pregnancy test done at home.
6. Elevated Body Temperature At Rest
[pullquote]If you have missed your period and your basal body temperature hasn’t dropped since the time of ovulation, it’s a sign of pregnancy.[/pullquote]
Basal body temperature is your body’s temperature when you are at complete rest, mostly measured first thing in the morning. During ovulation, the basal body temperature rises by about 0.4 to 1 degree Fahrenheit but falls back to normal or preovulatory level after menstruation. In the event of pregnancy, this temperature fails to fall to the preovulatory level, which is a surefire sign of pregnancy.11
7. Frequent Urination And Constipation
[pullquote]You might be taking frequent loo breaks within a little more than 2 weeks after intercourse or ovulation.[/pullquote]
An increased need to use the toilet usually crops up as early as 15 days after conception. An Irish study that surveyed 7,771 women soon after they gave birth found that 61 percent of them had reported an onset of incontinence either before or during the pregnancy and 37.5 percent reported constipation.12
The hCG hormone is again to blame for your frequent loo breaks as it increases blood flow to your kidneys, helping them get rid of waste and toxins from your system. Your growing uterus might be a partner in crime as it puts pressure on your bladder and reduces the space available for storing urine.
As for constipation, an increase in progesterone comes in the way of the peristalsis, a wave-like motion of the muscles by which the bowel moves waste products and stool to the anus. As progesterone levels in the body increase, it becomes difficult for bowel muscles to contract, making it harder for peristalsis to take place.13
8. Tiredness Or Fatigue
[pullquote]Within 4 weeks of intercourse or ovulation, your energy might be drastically sapped.[/pullquote]
Feeling exhausted is very common during the early stages of pregnancy. If you feel tired throughout the day or sleepy and sluggish all the time, it is likely that you may be expecting. Studies have shown that fatigue experienced in the early stages of pregnancy can have a significant impact on the mother-to-be’s ability to indulge in social activities.14
Fatigue is known to be at its highest in the first trimester or the first three months, gradually decreasing over the second one, only to rise again closer to the delivery. The increase in tiredness in the first trimester can be attributed to an increase in the blood volume to fuel the process of building the placenta, the life-support system for the baby. It is intensified as your body starts storing nutrients for the fetus.15
9. Headaches, Dizziness, And Backaches
Going by the inventory of pregnancy signs compiled by a study on pregnant women at the start of their pregnancy16 and anecdotal evidence, here are some other signs that your body might be sending out to let you know of the big news.
[pullquote]The headaches can start as early as 4 weeks after intercourse or ovulation.[/pullquote]
Fluctuating levels of hormones and increased blood flow in the body can cause headaches and/or dizziness early on in the pregnancy. As your uterus gradually grows in size to accommodate the fetus, you may find that you experience lower back pain as it puts pressure on the nerves and blood vessels on the back and the pelvis area.
10. Shortness Of Breath
[pullquote]Shortness of breath accompanies the energy dip you feel in about 4 weeks after intercourse or ovulation.[/pullquote]
Notice yourself huffing and panting after walking just a bit? Or after climbing a few stairs? This could be a sign that someone else has started using up your energy, oxygen, and blood. This uncomfortable and exhausting condition is one of the early signs that you are pregnant.
11. Cravings And Aversions
[pullquote] In 3 to 4 weeks after intercourse or ovulation, you might be craving certain foods and gagging at the thought of some other.[/pullquote]
Although your cravings can start as early as three to four weeks into your pregnancy, what is sometimes overlooked or rarely spoken about are the food aversions you develop during this time. You might find yourself nauseated by just the thought of a meal you previously loved. Your hormones are again the culprits here, and some experts agree that such aversions could be biological responses to pregnancy so that women stay away from foods that are potentially harmful for the baby.
Strong food aversions, a heightened sense of smell, and nausea are like the holy trinity of discomfort that should give you a clear hint that you are pregnant.
[pullquote]Near the end of the first trimester, around 12–14 weeks, you may get cramps near the groin.[/pullquote]
Because of the implantation, it is common to experience slight cramps around the same time that your period is expected. At around 12–14 weeks, many women feel a sharp pain on either or both sides of their groin as a result of their ligaments stretching to accommodate their growing womb. Such cramps accompanied by light bleeding is a commonly observed sign of pregnancy.
Every woman’s pregnancy is unique and depends on many factors like her body type, diet, fitness level, and health condition. So it may be possible that you may not spot any of these signs at all. Or, these signs may not be indicative of a pregnancy but of an impending sickness or an approaching menstrual period. Be cautious though, and if you happen to experience any of these symptoms, consider taking a home pregnancy test or visiting your doctor. The sooner you confirm your pregnancy, the earlier you can prepare your mind and body for the challenging days to come.
|↑1||Sayle, Amy E., Allen J. Wilcox, Clarice R. Weinberg, and Donna D. Baird. “A prospective study of the onset of symptoms of pregnancy.” Journal of clinical epidemiology 55, no. 7 (2002): 676-680.|
|↑2||Pregnancy Symptoms—Early Signs Of Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association|
|↑3||Foxcroft, Katie F., Leonie K. Callaway, Nuala M. Byrne, and Joan Webster. “Development and validation of a pregnancy symptoms inventory.” BMC pregnancy and childbirth 13, no. 1 (2013): 1.|
|↑4||Pregnancy Symptoms—Early Signs Of Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑5||Breast Changes In Pregnancy. Breast 360.|
|↑6||Cameron, E. Leslie. “Pregnancy and olfaction: a review.” Applied Olfactory Cognition (2014): 177.|
|↑7||Tierson, Forrest D., Carolyn L. Olsen, and Ernest B. Hook. “Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy and association with pregnancy outcome.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology 155, no. 5 (1986): 1017-1022.|
|↑8||Gadsby, Roger, Anthony M. Barnie-Adshead, and Carol Jagger. “A prospective study of nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.” Br J Gen Pract 43, no. 371 (1993): 245-248.|
|↑9||Lee, Noel M., and Sumona Saha. “Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy.”Gastroenterology clinics of North America 40, no. 2 (2011): 309-334.|
|↑10||Koren, Gideon, Svetlana Madjunkova, and Caroline Maltepe. “The protective effects of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy against adverse fetal outcome—a systematic review.” Reproductive toxicology 47 (2014): 77-80.|
|↑11||Buxton, Charles L., and William B. Atkinson. “Hormonal Factors Involved in the Regulation of Basal Body Temperature During the Menstrual Cycle and Pregnancy*.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 8, no. 7 (1948): 544-549.|
|↑12||Marshall, Kathleen, Kate A. Thompson, Deirdre M. Walsh, and George D. Baxter. “Incidence of urinary incontinence and constipation during pregnancy and postpartum: survey of current findings at the Rotunda Lying‐in Hospital.”BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 105, no. 4 (1998): 400-402.|
|↑13||Constipation—Causes. NHS UK.|
|↑14||Reeves, Nedra, Kathleen Potempa, and Agatha Gallo. “Fatigue in early pregnancy: An exploratory study.” Journal of Nurse-midwifery 36, no. 5 (1991): 303-309.|
|↑15||First Trimester Fatigue. University of Rochester Medical Center|
|↑16||Foxcroft, Katie F., Leonie K. Callaway, Nuala M. Byrne, and Joan Webster. “Development and validation of a pregnancy symptoms inventory.”BMC pregnancy and childbirth 13, no. 1 (2013): 1.|