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on December 1, 2022
Edited for clarity and contextualization.See more
Could you be pregnant? Look out for these early pregnancy symptoms. Some of these first signs of pregnancy can show up before you even miss your period.
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Perhaps you've ditched birth control, started tracking your cycle and have been actively trying to conceive. You may be wondering: Are the symptoms you’re experiencing just PMS, or could I be pregnant?
Before you even take a home pregnancy test, you may get a heads-up in the form of some early pregnancy symptoms, including smell sensitivity, breast changes and fatigue. But because many of these early signs of pregnancy will be similar to symptoms you have right before you get your period, it can be hard to tell the difference.
While the only way to know for sure that you've got a baby on board is by peeing on a stick (then getting those results confirmed by a doctor), these early symptoms — some of which can occur before a missed period — may provide clues that you’re expecting.
When do pregnancy symptoms start?
First, it's important to note that pregnancy symptoms can crop up at different times in different people. And while some women experience every pregnancy symptom possible, others experience very few (if any) of these signs until many weeks into their pregnancies, if at all.
So with that said, here's average pregnancy symptoms timeline, based on a typical 28-day menstrual cycle:
Early signs of pregnancy
(Before a missed period: Pregnancy weeks 2-4)
1. Raised basal body temperature
If you've been using a special basal body thermometer to track your first morning temperature, you might notice that it rises around 1 degree when you conceive and stays elevated throughout your pregnancy.
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Though not a foolproof early pregnancy symptom (there are other reasons your temp can rise), it could give you advance notice of the big news.
2. Smell sensitivity
A heightened sense of smell is an early pregnancy symptom that makes previously mild odors strong and unappealing. Since it's one of the first symptoms of pregnancy many women report, babies might be in the air if your sniffer's suddenly more sensitive and easily offended.
3. Breast changes
Tender, swollen breasts and darkening, bumpy areolas are among the breast changes you might experience early in pregnancy. The hormones estrogen and progesterone deserve most of the credit (or the blame) for this early pregnancy symptom. The breast tenderness is pain with a gain, though, since it's part of your body's preparation for the milk-making to come.
Your areolas (the circles around your nipples) may get darker and increase in diameter. You'll also likely start to notice tiny bumps growing in size and number on your areolas. These bumps, called Montgomery's tubercles, were always there, but now they're gearing up to produce more oils that lubricate your nipples once baby starts nursing.
Imagine climbing a mountain without training while carrying a backpack that weighs a little more every day. That's pregnancy in a nutshell! In other words, it's hard work, which is why fatigue is an early pregnancy symptom almost every mom-to-be experiences.
When you get pregnant, a huge amount of energy goes into building a placenta, the life-support system for your baby. All that can zap you of your usual get-up-and-go, and cause pregnancy fatigue shortly after you conceive.
5. Implantation bleeding
It’s possible to have light spotting and be pregnant. In fact, some newly expectant moms experience what’s known as implantation bleeding six to 12 days after conception.
Light spotting or implantation bleeding before you'd expect your period is sometimes an early pregnancy symptom signaling that an embryo has implanted itself into the uterine wall, which may be accompanied by menstrual-like cramps.
Here’s how to tell it’s implantation bleeding and not your period: Implantation bleeding is usually medium pink or light brown — it’s rarely period-red. It’s also spotty (much lighter than your period) and not continuous, lasting a few hours to a few days.
Spotting, however, can sometimes be a mid-cycle blip before your usual period, especially if you have an irregular or disrupted cycle. Mid-cycle brown discharge may also happen when you’re not pregnant because you’re reacting to a vaginal exam, a Pap smear or rough sex.
6. Changes in cervical mucus
Have you become a student of your cervical mucus? Then check it out now: If it becomes creamy and stays that way after ovulation, it’s a good sign you’ll have a positive pregnancy test.
As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll also notice increased vaginal discharge, called leukorrhea. This thin, milky-white discharge is normal and healthy, but speak to your practitioner if it appears lumpy or thick.
7. Frequent urination
Two to three weeks after conception you may notice an increased need to pee. This new gotta-go feeling is due to the pregnancy hormone hCG, which increases blood flow to your kidneys, helping them to more efficiently rid your body (and, eventually, your baby's body) of waste.
Your growing uterus is also beginning to put some pressure on your bladder, leaving less storage space for urine and making you head for the toilet more frequently.
8. Mood swings
Yet again, blame those pregnancy-related hormonal changes for the mood swings you may be experiencing once you're expecting. As early as 4 weeks into your pregnancy, you may feel a PMS-style moodiness; later in the first trimester and often throughout the rest of pregnancy, you could be up one minute and anxious or down the next.
Aside from pregnancy hormones running amok, your life is about to change in a big way, so it's completely normal for your moods to go haywire. Do what you can to give yourself a break, eat well, get enough sleep and pamper yourself.
(After a missed period: pregnancy weeks 4-9)
9. Missed period
It might be stating the obvious, but if you've missed a period (especially if your periods usually run like clockwork), you're probably suspecting pregnancy, and for good reason. A missed period is one early pregnancy symptom all expectant moms experience!
Having trouble buttoning your jeans? Early pregnancy bloating is hard to distinguish from pre-period bloat, but it's an early pregnancy symptom that many women feel soon after they conceive.
You can't blame that puffy, ate-too-much feeling on your baby yet, but you can blame it on the hormone progesterone, which helps slow down digestion, giving the nutrients from foods you eat more time to enter your bloodstream and reach your baby.
Unfortunately, bloating is often accompanied by constipation. Getting the right amount of fiber in your diet can help keep you regular.
11. Heartburn and indigestion
For many women, heartburn is a frustrating symptom that can appear sometime around month 2 of pregnancy. It’s caused by the hormones progesterone and relaxin, which relax smooth muscle tissues throughout your body, resulting in food moving more slowly through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Medications like Tums and Rolaids can help, as can chewing sugarless gum.
12. Morning sickness or nausea
That telltale, queasy feeling known as morning sickness can hit you at any time of day — and it typically begins when you're about 6 weeks pregnant, though it can vary and strike even earlier. For most women, nausea starts by week 9.
Hormones, mainly increased levels of progesterone (though estrogen and hCG can also take some credit), can cause the stomach to empty more slowly, resulting in this early pregnancy symptom resembling seasickness.
13. Food aversions
Your extra-sensitive nose may be responsible for another early sign of pregnancy: food aversions, where the thought, sight or smell of certain foods you normally like can turn your stomach (or worse, contribute to your morning sickness).
This early pregnancy symptom can be triggered by anything from chicken (a common one) to something seemingly more benign, like salad.
Though this isn't usually one of the very first signs of pregnancy, it does tend to pop up in the first trimester. Blame those pregnancy hormones again, especially early on when your body is flooded with them and still getting used to all the hormonal changes. Don't worry: This early pregnancy symptom often passes by the second trimester, when things have settled down in there.
14. Excess saliva
Also called ptyalism gravidarum, some moms-to-be experience saliva build-up early in pregnancy. This symptom usually starts sometime in the first trimester, and is thought to be your body’s way of protecting your mouth, teeth and throat from the corrosive effects of stomach acid.
Early pregnancy symptoms vs. PMS: What’s the difference?
Most early pregnancy symptoms before your period are strikingly similar to the side effects of PMS. However, you’ll only notice changes in your areolas (they’ll look darker, wider and bumpy) if you’re pregnant. A consistently elevated BBT and creamy vaginal discharge post-ovulation are also both relatively reliable signs of conception, but they’re certainly not foolproof.
Otherwise, the only way to know if other early pregnancy symptoms (nausea, tender breasts, fatigue, bloating, sensitivity to smell, etc.) are due to a baby or PMS is to hold out until you can take a pregnancy test.
When can I take a home pregnancy test?
Although you may start to feel early pregnancy symptoms before your period, most women have to wait for an average of two weeks from the time they ovulate for a positive home pregnancy test result. Home pregnancy tests measure levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine.
This placenta-produced hormone makes its way into your urine almost immediately after an embryo begins implanting in your uterus, between six to 12 days after fertilization. You can start using most home pregnancy tests as soon as hCG can be detected in your urine — and hCG levels usually aren’t high enough to be picked up by a home pregnancy test until your period’s expected.
Can’t wait until then? Some HPTs promise 60 to 75 percent accuracy four to five days before you expect your period. Wait until your period and the rate jumps to 90 percent; wait another week and the results are 99 percent accurate.
Know that false negatives are much more common than false positives, so if the time for your period comes and goes without your monthly flow, check in with your health care provider. Either way, you’ll want to get a blood test to confirm your pregnancy status.
No matter what symptoms you're having, the only way to know for sure that you're pregnant is to make an appointment with your OB/GYN.
Be sure to schedule your first prenatal visit as early as you can so you can get the best care possible right from the start if it does turn out that you're experiencing early pregnancy symptoms. And if you are expecting a baby, congratulations! You're embarking on the journey of a lifetime.
Frequently Asked Questions
How early do pregnancy symptoms start?
Very early pregnancy symptoms may show up before you miss your period.
What are the beginning pregnancy symptoms?
Sensitivity to smell, tender breasts, fatigue, and raised basal body temperature are often the earliest pregnancy symptoms.
What are the 10 signs of pregnancy?
Ten signs of pregnancy are:
What does early pregnancy feel like?
You may feel very tired and have nausea, breasts that feel tender or sore, and heightened sensitivity to smell. You may also notice light spotting (from implantation bleeding). Other common early pregnancy symptoms include mood swings, frequent urination, bloating, food aversions, and excess saliva.
From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You're Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.
Are there any symptoms before implantation?
Some women do notice signs and symptoms that implantation has occurred. Signs may include light bleeding, cramping, nausea, bloating, sore breasts, headaches, mood swings, and possibly a change in basal body temperature. But — and here's the frustrating part — many of these signs are very similar to PMS.
Can a fertilized egg cause symptoms before implantation?
Can you feel fertilization symptoms before implantation? No. Before implantation, a fertilized egg moves along the fallopian tube to the uterus. Symptoms such as light bleeding and cramping do not begin until the fertilized egg implants.
Can you be pregnant before implantation?
Implantation can be completed as early as eight days or as late as 18 days after fertilization, but usually takes about 14 days. Between one-third and one-half of all fertilized eggs never fully implant. A pregnancy is considered to be established only after implantation is complete.
How soon can you get symptoms of pregnancy?
Some women may begin noticing the first early signs of pregnancy a week or two after conception, while others will start to feel symptoms closer to four or five weeks after conception. Some women may not feel symptoms until their period is noticeably late, or even farther into pregnancy.