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Symptoms of early pregnancy

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger HendersonReviewed on 13.10.2023 | 4 minutes read
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Some women have an idea that they're pregnant from early on, as they’re attuned to the biological, mental and physical changes it can bring. This is especially true if you’ve been pregnant before. A test is, of course, the easiest and most reliable way to confirm you’re pregnant. But here are some of the tell-tale signs to look out for as your body adjusts.

What are the obvious symptoms of early pregnancy?

Pregnancy is divided into three trimesters, each characterized by distinct physical and hormonal changes. The first trimester spans the initial 12 weeks, encompassing the crucial early stages of foetal development. During this time, a woman's body undergoes remarkable transformations, heralded by a range of symptoms. Here are the top 5 most common and clear symptoms:

#1 Missed Period

The highest on the list is missing a period. Some women run like clockwork and so being just a day late can be a clear sign that something has changed. However, some women may experience light bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy, often mistaken for a period. It's crucial to note these variations and consider them alongside other symptoms.

#2 Morning Sickness and Nausea

Nausea is another common one, and this can happen with or without vomiting. Morning sickness, contrary to the name, can actually happen any time of the day and can happen in early pregnancy or a few months down the line. The exact cause of morning sickness is not fully understood, but hormonal changes, particularly the rise in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), play a role.

#3 Hormonal Changes

Early pregnancy triggers hormonal shifts that lead to noticeable changes in the breasts. Women may experience tenderness, swelling, and increased sensitivity. The areolas might darken, and veins may become more visible. These changes are attributed to hormonal fluctuations preparing the body for breastfeeding.

#4 Fatigue and Exhaustion

Feeling unusually tired or exhausted is common in early pregnancy. Hormonal changes, increased blood volume, and the body's effort to support the growing embryo contribute to fatigue. Adequate rest and self-care become paramount during this period.

#5 Frequent Urination

As early as the first few weeks of pregnancy, increased blood flow to the pelvic region and hormonal changes can lead to more frequent urination. The growing uterus exerts pressure on the bladder, intensifying the need to empty it regularly.

Any less common symptoms of early pregnancy?

Hormonal changes may contribute to other changes such as bloating, constipation, food aversions and changes to your mood, making you more emotional or prone to mood swings.

Tummy cramps can occur. You may experience light spotting as the egg implants in the womb. This can occur around the same time you would have expected a period, which can be confusing, but you will notice that it differs in usual period flow and how long a period would usually last.

How can I confirm I'm pregnant?

The best way to confirm your pregnancy is by taking a home pregnancy test. These are available to buy from your local pharmacy or high street supermarket. All brands are very reliable and require you to pee onto a stick to see if there is significant pregnancy hormone (hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin or beta-hCG) in your urine. This can be positive two to three weeks after conception, and you just wait a few minutes for a result.

There is no difference between your doctor’s urine pregnancy kit and home pregnancy kits, so there’s no need to book to see a doctor to confirm.

The same hormone can be tested in the blood, but this is only used if results from a urine test are unclear.

What if my test is negative?

A negative test is actually less reliable than you may think. So if you have any of these symptoms, or think you may be pregnant based on timing, it's best to wait a week and repeat the test again. If you have had unprotected intercourse, it is best to wait at least two weeks to confirm whether you are pregnant or not, as taking it too soon may give you a false negative.

In the meantime, you should make sure you avoid medications or foods that are advised against in pregnancy – inform your doctor or pharmacist that you may be pregnant before they prescribe anything – and you should take the recommended supplements (folic acid and vitamin D) as if you’re pregnant.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 13.10.2023
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