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Wondering what the early signs of pregnancy are? Whether you've been trying to get pregnant for a month or a year, you're likely wild with anticipation—not only to welcome a new little bundle into the world but also to find out whether this is the month you are going to get a positive pregnancy test and possibly start experiencing early pregnancy symptoms.
Pregnancy tests use antibodies to detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a substance made by the developing placenta. Using ultra-sensitive early pregnancy tests, you're most likely able to detect pregnancy starting at four to five days before your missed period, although the tests are only about 50% to 75% accurate this early.
Those days between trying to conceive and looking for a missed period or getting a positive pregnancy test can be both super exciting and nerve-wracking—it's called the two-week wait and it's infamously known as the longest two weeks ever.
You may find yourself paying close attention to your body and wondering if you are experiencing any of the hidden signs of pregnancy. While there's no guarantee, there are certain changes you can look out for during this time.
9 classic early pregnancy symptoms before a missed period or a positive pregnancy test
Hormonal changes may cause new food cravings or aversions early in pregnancy. These changes in your food preferences may last throughout your pregnancy, or they may shift over time.
2. Breast changes
If you find that your boobs are more voluminous, your areolas are changing in color or your nipples are super sensitive to touch (ouch!), this could be a major sign that you're expecting. And maybe a sign to indulge in a new wireless bra, too.
And guess what? The amount of breast growth you experience during pregnancy may predict if you are having a boy or a girl.
3. An increase in discharge
You might notice more vaginal discharge than usual if you're in the early stages of pregnancy, and it will likely be white and milky in color and texture. That increased discharge is related to the thickening of the vaginal walls and the growth of the cellular lining, which happens immediately after conception.
4. More frequent pee breaks
There may not be a baby kicking your bladder yet, but that doesn't mean the never-ending pee breaks won't start as early as a few weeks after conception. Your kidneys are working overtime to rid your body of toxins and, yes, your hormones are playing a role, too. Keep drinking plenty of water and fondly think of your frequent bathroom breaks as a way to chill for a few minutes throughout the day.
P.S. If your increased urination is accompanied by a burning sensation when you pee, give your doctor or midwife a call—because you could have a urinary tract infection.
If you're working, going to school or taking care of a family and kids, you're probably already pretty beat. But we're not talking about the usual urge to take a quick Sunday nap. We're talking about the overwhelming need to sleep at work, at school or at the dinner table. Progesterone produced during pregnancy can make you extra sleepy (and not at all picky about where you are willing to snooze).
Although morning sickness (aka any-time-any-place sickness) doesn't usually appear until around six weeks into pregnancy, it can strike as early as three weeks.
Because fatigue is related to more nausea, take any opportunity you can to sleep, or at least lie on the couch and binge on Netflix. If you're taking a pre-pregnancy prenatal vitamin, it's possible that it might be making you a bit queasy. Try taking it at night, with food and a calcium-based tummy soother. Vitamins with extra B6 may also reduce nausea.
For more severe morning sickness, talk to your provider. There are medications they can prescribe to help you tame your upset stomach.
You might notice some light spotting in the days after conception and before a missed period—that could be implantation bleeding, which can sometimes occur when an egg becomes fertilized and implants into the uterine wall. Implantation bleeding is usually light pink or dark brown (if it's older blood), and doesn't contain any clots. It usually stops on its own after a few days.
8. Raised basal body temperature
If you're taking your morning temperature in order to chart your cycle, you might have noticed that your temperature often dips the day before your period arrives. If you notice that your basal body temperature is staying slightly elevated even when you are expecting your period—you might be pregnant.
The sensation of dizziness could also be an early sign that you're pregnant. Thanks to an increased rush of hormones, you may experience dizzy spells or fainting as your body adjusts to lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar.
Less common early signs of pregnancy
There are several other less common symptoms to look out for that may signal pregnancy, including:
- Mood swings
- Back pain
- Nasal congestion
- Food aversions
How soon can you take a pregnancy test?
Your provider could always run a blood test, which can typically detect pregnancy as early as one week after conception.
Of course, if you can be slightly more patient, home pregnancy tests can let you know pretty early, too.
Some of the more advanced early home pregnancy tests can be used as soon as five days before your missed period (although their accuracy maxes out at 50% to 75%). If you can wait until the day of your missed period, the accuracy of these tests usually hits 99%. Hmm… maybe that's why they
put two tests in the box.
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A version of this post was originally published on August 21, 2019. It has been updated.