14 Early Signs Of Pregnancy: When to Look For Symptoms

Are you suspecting that you are pregnant? 

Or are you trying to have a baby and wondering what signs to look out for?

A pregnant woman’s body undergoes lots of changes to accommodate the new life growing in it. 

This causes a range of symptoms that can appear as early as a few weeks after conception.

In this article, we tell you all about these early signs of pregnancy – from the common ones that most people know about to the less common and bizarre ones. We also answer some frequently asked questions about early pregnancy.

Common early signs of pregnancy

Because of the changes the body goes through in response to the life growing inside it, there are some signs that most women will experience during early pregnancy. 

Here are a few of them:

1) Missed period

Missing your period is the most common early sign of pregnancy. When you conceive, your body starts to produce hormones that halt ovulation. 

This means that your menstrual cycle will be paused, and there will be no monthly periods until after you give birth to your baby. 

However, a missed period does not always mean pregnancy. From too much exercise to hormonal imbalances and stress, there are many other reasons why one could miss a period.

2) Morning sickness

Morning sickness refers to the nausea and vomiting that occur during early pregnancy. Some people experience nausea as early as two weeks into their pregnancy. 

The exact cause of morning sickness is unknown, but hormones have been found to play a role.

Not everyone will have morning sickness, and those who experience it have varying levels of severity. Some may have nausea but no vomiting, while others may have both.

The most severe form is known as hyperemesis gravidarum. It is a condition in which a pregnant woman vomits excessively and finds it hard to keep any fluids or food down. 

It is a potential problem because excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration. 

Contact your healthcare provider if you are pregnant and have excessive nausea and vomiting.

3) Fatigue

Constantly feeling tired is another early symptom of pregnancy. The tiredness is thought to result from the high levels of the hormone progesterone. 

The fatigue is usually worse in the first few months and gets better in the second trimester. But it may come back during the third trimester in some women.

While feeling tired is a common pregnancy symptom, excessive tiredness may be a sign that you are anemic. The most common cause is iron deficiency. 

Anemia may be severe enough to require a blood transfusion. Severe anemia can be harmful to both you and your unborn baby. 

It can lead to complications like preterm delivery and low birth weight. Call your doctor if you are pregnant and always feeling tired.

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4) Breast tenderness

Several breast changes occur during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes. Similar to what you experience a few days before your period, the breasts become fuller, swollen, and painful to touch. 

In addition, the skin around your nipples (areola) may become darker. The soreness usually fades away with time as your body adapts to the high hormone levels.

5) Frequent urge to pee

During the early weeks of your pregnancy, you may find yourself visiting the bathroom often to pee. 

This is because, during pregnancy, there is an increase in the amount of blood in your body.

The kidneys are responsible for filtering your blood and removing all the excess water and waste products from your body. This is what comes out as pee. 

Because of the increase in blood volume during pregnancy, there is an increase in the volume of urine produced – hence the frequent trips to the bathroom.

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Less common early signs of pregnancy

It is important to note that people experience pregnancy differently, and there are some early signs of pregnancy that are not so common. 

Here are a few of them:

1) Implantation bleeding

This is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. After fertilization, the fertilized egg (zygote) travels to the uterus and attaches itself to the inner lining of the wall of the uterus. 

The process of attachment is known as implantation and may cause some bleeding. Implantation bleeding is typically light bleeding that just stains your underwear or pad. 

It can last for a few hours to three days. Only about a third of pregnant women experience implantation bleeding.

2) Headache and dizziness

Some people may experience headaches and dizziness during early pregnancy. These occur as a result of hormonal changes and changes in blood volume.

While headache and dizziness can be normal, they may also be signs of harmful conditions like anemia and pre-eclampsia. 

These require medical attention. Visit your doctor if you have persistent headaches, dizziness, or both while pregnant.

3) Cravings

During pregnancy, you may develop a sudden liking or dislike for certain foods. You may also become more sensitive or intolerant to particular smells, such as the smell of food, perfume, coffee, etc.

Some women develop a strange liking for things that are not food, like sand, paper, clay, chalk, and ice. This is known as ‘pica.’ 

It is usually a sign of micronutrient deficiency (e.g., lack of iron, calcium, and zinc) and may require medical attention.

4) Cramping

As your womb grows, you may experience mild lower abdominal pain in early pregnancy. The cramping pain is similar to what you feel during your period. 

If the pain is severe, or you only feel it on one side of your body, see your doctor immediately, as it could be a sign of something serious like an ectopic pregnancy.

implantation bleeding

5) Mood swings

In early pregnancy, some women become irritable, while others may always feel happy. These mood swings are attributed to hormonal changes. 

About 1 in 10 women go through depression during pregnancy. Depression is a serious condition, and it requires medical attention. 

Contact your doctor and get some help if you are pregnant and constantly feel down.

6) Bloating and constipation

The increase in certain hormones during pregnancy slows down gut movement and digestion. 

This can lead to lots of uncomfortable symptoms like bloating and excessive belching.

You may also become constipated and go for days without passing stool. Due to frequent straining while trying to pass stool, some pregnant women develop hemorrhoids (pile). 

Hemorrhoids may cause discomfort, itching, or bleed out. If you have hemorrhoids, here are some tips to manage them:

  • Sit in warm salt water for about 15 minutes
  • Apply an anti-hemorrhoid cream
  • Most importantly, drink a lot of water and eat more fiber-rich foods like wheat, bran, vegetables, and fruits to prevent constipation.

7) Skin changes

Several skin changes can occur during pregnancy as a result of increased blood volume and hormonal changes. 

Some women are lucky enough to glow and have brighter skin during pregnancy. 

Others may get less appealing skin changes like acne, eczema, discoloration, or itchy skin. 

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing itching that is interfering with your daily activities.

As the pregnancy advances and you gain weight, you may also start having stretch marks because of the stretching of your skin, especially on your belly.

8) Heartburn and indigestion

Acid reflux is caused by a backflow of acid from the stomach to the esophagus – a narrow tube that connects your mouth and stomach. 

A valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is located between, the lower end of your esophagus and your stomach. 

This valve should tighten up and close after food moves into your stomach. However, hormonal changes in pregnancy can result in the valve relaxing, which allows the backflow of food and acid into the esophagus.

Acid reflux often begins in the first trimester. You may feel a burning sensation in your chest, get bloated, have bad breath, and burp frequently. 

Here are some lifestyle modifications that can help alleviate symptoms:

  • Eat smaller portions
  • Pay attention to your diet. Cut down on spicy or fatty food, caffeine, and fizzy drinks.
  • Do not lie flat shortly after eating
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes
  • Seek medical attention if symptoms persist, as you may need medications to control the acid reflux.

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9) Leg swelling and varicose veins

Pregnancy causes an increase in the amount of blood circulating in your body which can lead to swelling of the legs (also known as edema). 

Edema can also result from the pressure of your baby bump on the big veins in your body.

The pressure causes congestion and accumulation of fluid in your legs. This pressure effect could also cause the valves in your veins to get weak and result in varicose veins. 

If you have leg swelling during pregnancy, here are some tips to follow:

  • Elevate your feet when sitting or lying down. You can support them with one or two pillows.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods.
  • Stretch from time to time if you have to sit for long periods.
  • Exercise regularly

Do all women get early symptoms of pregnancy?

No. Not everyone will notice early pregnancy symptoms. If you are pregnant but don’t feel any symptoms, there is no need to worry. 

Some women are lucky enough to have perfectly healthy pregnancies without noticing any early pregnancy symptoms.

Every woman experiences pregnancy differently. Even in the same woman, every new pregnancy may differ from the previous one.

How soon do early pregnancy symptoms start?

Every woman’s pregnancy experience is different. Some women will have symptoms as early as a few days after conception, while others do not have any symptoms for weeks after they have a positive pregnancy test.

One study that involved 136 mothers showed that up to half of them started having pregnancy symptoms by their fifth week of pregnancy. By the end of week eight, the number rose to 89%.

Can you have pregnancy symptoms and not be pregnant?

Yes, it is possible to experience some early pregnancy symptoms and not be pregnant.

Most of the symptoms you can experience days before your period (premenstrual syndrome) are similar to early pregnancy symptoms. Examples include fatigue, mood swings, breast and skin changes, cravings, and nausea.

Also, missing your period does not always mean that you are pregnant. There can be many reasons why your period is late, such as stress, weight gain, weight loss, excessive exercise, illness, etc. 

The most reliable way to be sure that you are expecting is to take a pregnancy test. These are available at your local grocery store and pharmacy over the counter.

What to do if you think you are pregnant?

If you miss your period and have some of these symptoms, take a pregnancy test at home or visit your health care provider.

You can get a pregnancy test kit at any local store or pharmacy. It is easy to use, and the results are almost always accurate if you follow all the instructions provided.

If you have a positive result, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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How soon can you have a positive pregnancy test?

You can take a urine pregnancy test as soon as you realize that you have missed your period. But it is best to wait and take it a week after a missed period. 

If you take the test too soon after missing your period, you may get a negative result even if you are actually pregnant.

If the test is negative

Urine pregnancy tests work by detecting the level of human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) in your urine. 

HCG is a hormone that is produced by the placenta after implantation to keep the embryo in place in your womb.

The level of HCG in the urine rises quickly in early pregnancy and doubles every two to three days. 

If you do a urine pregnancy test too early, you may get a false negative result. This is because the levels of HCG may be too low to be detected in your urine at that time.

If your test turns out negative, wait for about a week and repeat it. If you still get a negative result, but you are having pregnancy symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible to rule out a serious condition.

What to do after a positive pregnancy test

If you take the test and it turns out positive, you need to visit your healthcare provider so that you can plan your prenatal care and delivery as soon as possible.

When should I tell my doctor about a new pregnancy?

You should inform your doctor about your new pregnancy as soon as you get a positive pregnancy test. The sooner you inform your doctor, the sooner you can plan and start your prenatal care journey. 

They may require you to visit the doctor’s office regularly for appointments until after your delivery. This is to ensure that you go through a safe pregnancy and delivery.


There are several pregnancy symptoms that begin soon after conception. Some may even begin before you miss your period. 

Not everyone will experience the same symptoms. Even in the same woman, the signs experienced in different pregnancies may vary.

The most common symptoms of early pregnancy include a missed period, morning sickness, feeling tired, breast swelling and tenderness, and frequent trips to the bathroom to pee. 

Other less common signs and symptoms are implantation bleeding, headache, dizziness, mood swings, cravings, abdominal cramps, constipation, leg swelling, acne, and some other skin changes. Hormonal changes are the main cause of many of these symptoms.

It is important to take a pregnancy test when you have the above symptoms and have missed your period. 

If you take the test a few days after missing your period, you may get a false negative. It is advisable to wait at least a week after missing your period to take the test. 

If the result is positive, contact your healthcare provider to book your prenatal care as soon as possible.

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  1. Shi H, Chen L, Wang Y, Sun M, Guo Y, Ma S, Wang X, Jiang H, Wang X, Lu J, Ge L, Dong S, Zhuang Y, Zhao Y, Wei Y, Ma X, Qiao J. Severity of Anemia During Pregnancy and Adverse Maternal and Fetal Outcomes. JAMA Netw Open. 2022.
  2. Sayle AE, Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, Baird DD. A prospective study of the onset of symptoms of pregnancy. J Clin Epidemiol. 2002.
  3. Betz D, Fane K. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin. [Updated 2022 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023.

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