14 (Very) Early Pregnancy Symptoms

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Think you're pregnant? If you’re the impatient type, here are the most common first symptoms of pregnancy that can start as early as the week before your period. If you've already experienced a few, it may be time to head to the drugstore to pick up a pregnancy test or schedule an appointment with your ob-gyn.
Dan Saelinger
Dan Saelinger

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Sore Breasts

Your breasts may be extra tender as early as a week or two after conception. “You’re making so much estrogen and progesterone in early pregnancy that the glands in the breasts start growing,” explains Jasbir Singh, M.D., an OB-GYN at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie in Texas. This hormone surge causes breasts to retain more fluids and feel heavy, sore or more sensitive than normal PMS tenderness.

RELATED: Solutions for Breast Pain and Soreness

9nong/Shutterstock 
9nong/Shutterstock 

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Cramps and Backache 

Many women mistake these common early signs of pregnancy for PMS symptoms, but actually they’re caused by hormonal changes and the growth of the uterus. When it comes to cramps, this pregnancy sign is actually triggered by implantation—when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. Your uterus may be stretching a little now (hence the cramps) to prep for its massive expansion over the next nine months. 

RELATEDAre You Pregnant? Take Our Quiz

Peter Ardito
Peter Ardito

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Implantation Bleeding

If you notice that your "period" seems way shorter or different from usual, it may be a sign of pregnancy. When the fertilized egg implants into the plush lining of the uterus about six to 12 days after conception, spotting—light vaginal bleeding—may occur. This is harmless, but if you suspect you’re pregnant, let your doctor know, just in case it’s something else. (If the bleeding occurs as late as 12 days after you conceive, you may think it’s your period.)

“In the first trimester, bleeding should be evaluated for three things in particular—miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or certain types of infections,” Singh says. “Implantation bleeding is sort of a diagnosis of exclusion. That means we rule out the bad things before we can determine this is what it is.”

RELATEDImplantation Bleeding Before Pregnancy: Your TTC Tutorial

stokkete/shutterstock.com
stokkete/shutterstock.com

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Fatigue

During the first few weeks, your body is working 24/7 behind the scenes to support the pregnancy, and fatigue is a normal response. The extra progesterone produced after conception causes your basal body temperature to rise, which in turn contributes to a lack of energy, explains Karen Perkins, M.D., an OB-GYN with A Woman’s Choice at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Your heart also pumps faster, as it has to deliver extra oxygen to the uterus; this, too, can make you feel tuckered out.

So what should you do? “Take prenatal vitamins early on, eat a healthful diet, drink plenty of fluids to keep your blood pressure high enough, and rest when you can,” Singh says.

RELATED: Early Pregnancy Power Foods

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Pregnancy Nipples

Are your nipples looking darker these days? Pregnancy hormones also affect the activity of melanocytes, or cells in the nipples responsible for their color. "Darker-complexioned women may not notice this until later in pregnancy—say, around 10 weeks or so," says Goist.

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Kenchiro168/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Signs: Nausea

While full-blown morning sickness—which affects up to 85 percent of all preggos—likely won't strike for a few more weeks, some women may experience more subtle motion sickness as an early pregnancy symptom. "I've had patients tell me they'd suddenly get queasy from reading in the car or would feel sick during flights," says Goist.

This can start as early as two weeks after conception. “Progesterone causes a lot of things to slow down,” Singh says. That includes your digestive processes, sometimes resulting in constipation or indigestion. Since your stomach doesn’t empty as quickly as it normally does, it thinks there’s too much going on in there and wants to purge in some way—either into the gut or out through the mouth. Nausea also is related to human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone that can be detected in the mother’s blood or urine even before a missed period. The higher the HCG level (as with twins), the sicker you may feel.

RELATED15 Tips for Dealing with Morning Sickness

Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock
Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Bloating

Can't zip up those skinny jeans? Ramped-up levels of progesterone slow down your digestive track and may make your tummy feel puffier than usual. (This also happens during PMS, notes Goist, but bloating stops when your period arrives, causing progesterone levels to plummet.) If the bloating doesn't go away—and your period never comes—start watching for that stick to turn pink.

RELATEDYour Changing Pregnant Body Week-by-Week 

Studio C/Shutterstock
Studio C/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Peeing More Often

You might think frequent urination comes later, when the baby presses on your bladder, but an increase in bathroom breaks sometimes starts early. Not only can the swelling uterus put pressure on your bladder, but the extra blood flow to the kidneys (which begins right away) also causes them to produce more urine. Theres not much to do about it, unless the frequent urination is accompanied by burning, urgency or other signs of infection. (If so, notify your doctor.) Do not cut back on your fluid intake.

beats1/Shutterstock
beats1/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Cravings

At this point, you're more likely jonesing for a jumbo bagel than pickles or Rocky Road. "Your overtired body may demand extra carbs now because they're easily metabolized, which helps keep energy levels up," says Goist.

Camerona Whitman/shutterstock.com
Camerona Whitman/shutterstock.com

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Headaches

Increasing blood volume may trigger frequent but mild tension headaches in the first few weeks of pregnancy in some women. These headaches early in pregnancy can also be spurred on if you aren't drinking enough fluids or if you’re anemic so be sure to get your blood work done to rule out the latter.

The good news: Migraines become less frequent as pregnancy progresses. “Fluctuating hormones tend to make headaches worse, and estrogen levels are more stable during pregnancy,” explains Richard Gersh, M.D., an assistant professor of OB-GYN at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia.

VGstockstudio/Shutterstock
VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Constipation

The same hormones responsible for bloating are also behind your potty problems. Because your digestive track is slowing down now, says Goist, food may not pass through as quickly. This symptom will likely ramp up even more (sorry) as your pregnancy progresses.

RELATEDHow to Manage Pregnancy Constipation

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KieferPix/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Mood Swings

Find yourself weeping over a “Desperate Housewives” episode or raging because the Verizon guy can’t come until Tuesday? "As levels of hCG hormones increase, you're feeling massive amounts of fatigue, which makes you more prone to moodiness," says Goist. Plus, um, that stellar combo of headaches, bloating, constipation and breast pain—need we say more? 

RELATEDAm I Nuts? Understanding Your Pregnancy Emotions and Mood Swings

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Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Basal Body Temperature

Measuring BBT—your oral temperature first thing in the morning—is usually used to indicate when you're ovulating. It's typically about half a degree or more higher or so when an egg is released and remains elevated until you get your period. So if you're charting BBT and notice it hasn't decreased in more than two weeks, it may mean you've got a baby on the way. FYI: You'll need a special digital basal thermometer (try drugstore.com or amazon.com) to do this; it's more precise than normal fever-measuring thermometers.

RELATEDOvulation and BBT: How To Chart Your Basal Body Temperature

AstroStar/Shutterstock
AstroStar/Shutterstock

Early Pregnancy Symptom: Nose Nuisances

Bloody noses, congestion, and postnasal drip are all common in pregnancy, and they're all related to the same two causes, says Nathaniel DeNicola, M.D., an ob-gyn at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, in Philadelphia. Increasing blood volume puts more pressure on delicate vessels like the ones in your nose, but hormones are to blame too, Dr. DeNicola says.

Estrogen, in particular, can make blood vessels dilate, which contributes to swelling of the mucous membranes in your nose. Luckily, much of the discomfort can be relieved by using a simple saline spray, and it should resolve soon after delivery.

Alexandra Sowa, M.D., a doctor of internal medicine and a mom, shares 5 early signs of pregnancy, from a missed period to increased urination.

Common Early Symptoms

What are the five most common early pregnancy symptoms? Check out the video, and watch Dr. Alexandra Sowa explain.

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