10 signs of early pregnancy – read them here
Whether you are trying to conceive naturally or through fertility treatment, the time from ovulation until you can take a pregnancy test can seem unbearably long. It is natural to notice every single change in your body hoping to find early signs of pregnancy. In this blog piece, you can learn about some of the most common signs of pregnancy, and what to look for.
It is often hard to establish whether a change in your body is an early sign of a pregnancy or a result of your body and mind overthinking the situation. The signs of early pregnancy differ a lot from one woman to another, which is why it is hard to determine whether it is a sign of pregnancy or not.
When do the early signs of pregnancy occur?
The hormonal change in the body begins as soon as the egg is implemented in the uterus. Therefore, some women may notice early signs of pregnancy even before a pregnancy test will be able to show a positive result.
The only way to determine pregnancy is by taking a pregnancy test or a blood test which shows if the HCG levels (the pregnancy hormone) in the blood are increasing. A pregnancy test can usually be taken 14 days after ovulation or around the time you would expect your period to come. If you want to learn more about ovulation, we can recommend our blog post How does ovulation work.
Some tests claim to be able to measure a very low HCG level and thus can be used for testing only a few days after ovulation, but it can be associated with uncertainty, and you cannot rely 100% on the result. If you use one of the early pregnancy tests and the result is negative, it may be beneficial to wait until your missed period and then test again as the HCG levels will have increased if you are pregnant. There are many symptoms of early pregnancy. Maybe you notice some of them, maybe you notice them all or maybe you notice none. In the sections below I have tried to explain some of the most common signs of early pregnancy.
If you have started fertility treatment it is important to wait until 14 days after ovulation to get tested, since the trigger shot you receive to accelerate your ovulation contains HCG and can therefore show a false positive pregnancy result.
1. Tension in the breasts
One of the typical signs of early pregnancy is that the breasts can feel tense, sensitive, or sore. The body is preparing for the upcoming milk production by increasing the hormones progesterone, oestrogen, and prolactin. The blood supply to the breasts increases and will result in these changes:
- Blood vessels on the breasts become very visible
- Breasts and nipples begin to grow
- The areola (the area around the nipples) becomes darker
- Nipples and the areola can feel sore
Some women have a large growth of breast tissue and may experience stretch marks. It is completely normal and not something you can do anything about. The stretch marks will often reduce in size and get lighter over time.
In the second trimester of pregnancy, some women will also experience colostrum coming from the nipples. Colostrum is a clear or yellowish liquid. However, it is far from everyone who experiences this, and some only see it after the child is born.
If you want to learn more about your body’s development through the pregnancy, follow the link to our blog on the subject.
2. Spot bleeding or implantation bleeding
A very early sign of pregnancy which may occur as soon as the egg implants in the uterine wall. This may cause implantation bleeding, which often occurs around a week before the expected period. A small amount of fresh blood will appear and then stop shortly after. It is understandable if you worry or feel anxious about the sudden bleeding, since this normally relates to having your period and therefore not being pregnant. But know that this is in fact a normal sign of early pregnancy.
3. Menstrual cramps
Menstrual cramps can also be an early sign of pregnancy. The cramps begin when the uterus starts to grow and the ligaments around the uterus begin to loosen. Just as with the implementation bleeding, this early pregnancy symptom can cause concern, which is completely understandable, as these pains usually lead to having your period.
However, if the pregnancy has already been confirmed and you do not experience any bleeding, there is no need to worry about your baby.
4. Nausea and vomiting
One of the most common signs of early pregnancy is nausea and vomiting. This will often begin as soon as the HCG level in the blood starts to rise. Some women experience severe nausea right from the start, and for others, it only occurs mildly or not at all. The worst nausea often occurs when your blood sugar is low – which is usually when you wake up in the morning. It is, therefore, a good idea to focus on your diet and pregnancy by eating small amounts of food throughout the day. This might help keep nausea away for a while.
Pregnancy-related nausea is usually worse in the first trimester (the first 3 months of pregnancy) after which it decreases. Although nausea and vomiting can be extremely unpleasant, it is not harmful to the baby. Few pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting to such a degree that it affects their general condition. In these very rare cases, the nausea and vomiting can result in dehydration and weight loss, which must be supervised a possibly treated by the doctor.
5. Constipation and bloating
In the early stages of pregnancy, it is normal to feel constipated and bloated. This has to do with the pregnancy hormone progesterone which causes the smooth muscle tissue to relax.
Progesterone helps prevent early labour by relaxing the uterine muscles, but unfortunately, it has the same effect on the intestinal system and bowel movements. It is therefore perfectly normal to experience bloating and/or constipation once the pregnancy begins.
6. Extreme fatigue
Fatigue is not just an early sign of pregnancy but will often be a factor throughout the whole pregnancy. The fatigue is caused by an increase in the number of pregnancy hormones as well as the fact that your body is now working extra hard to create a baby. Your whole body and all its resources and energy go to developing the baby. The fatigue will usually set in during the first trimester. It then decreases during the second trimester and returns to full throttle at the end of the third trimester.
My advice is to rest when your body needs it and do not overexert yourself when your body tells you otherwise.
7. Mood swings
From the moment the egg implantation is successful, and the baby is beginning to grow, your body will experience an increase in hormones, and it is normal to experience mood swings. This is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy that can occur immediately after the egg has been implanted in the uterus.
Headaches is also a sign of early pregnancy which - like mood swings - is caused by a rise in hormones. If you experience a headache, I can recommend you take some Paracetamol, but avoid preparations containing acetylsalicylic acid (such as aspirin).
8. Increased sense of smell and taste
One thing a lot of women notice early in their pregnancy is a change in their sense of smell. A stronger sense and intolerance towards certain smells is a clear sign of early pregnancy. Some also experience that the sense of taste changes and that they get food cravings or suddenly cannot eat things that they used to like. Cravings and an increase in your sense of smell is completely normal and will often last until the baby is born.
Heartburn and acid regurgitation often occur later in the pregnancy. The hormone progesterone causes the sphincter in the stomach to relax and thus makes the stomach acid easier to run back up the oesophagus.
In addition to the relaxed sphincter in the stomach, the large uterus also presses against the stomach, which contributes to heartburn and acid regurgitation.
Advice to avoid heartburn can be:
- Eat small frequent meals
- Avoid food that contains much fat and spicy food
- Avoid coffee and tea
- Drink/eat calcium (milk and yogurt) which can neutralise the acid
- If nothing helps, contact your doctor or a pharmacy to get a medicine that neutralises the stomach acid, which is also okay to use when you are pregnant.
10. Early signs of pregnancy with twins
If you are expecting twins, it is normal that the pregnancy signs show themselves a lot earlier than with a singleton pregnancy. This is due to the HCG level being higher in multiple pregnancies. You will also find that the abdomen grows faster and gets bigger as well as a greater weight gain during your pregnancy.
If you are pregnant with the help of donor sperm, we would love to hear about your pregnancy. By registering your pregnancy, we can track the number of pregnancies obtained by each donor, so we are able to ensure that the Pregnancy Quota of the sperm is not exceeded.
My name is Julie, and I am a trained midwife working at Cryos Customer Care. I have been a midwife for 6 years and have experience from many different maternity wards, including a stay in Uganda. I provide Cryos’ blog with expert knowledge about fertility, pregnancy and birth. I hope to bring you a step closer to make your dream of having a baby come true.Julie