Pregnant individuals can experience a variety of early pregnancy symptoms. Some of the earliest signs and symptoms of pregnancy may even start before you take a pregnancy test. It can be challenging to know whether a symptom is a sign of pregnancy or related to another health condition. Learn to recognize the most common early pregnancy symptoms to see if you might be pregnant.
Pregnancy Signs & Symptoms
Pregnancy can occur around two weeks after a person’s last menstrual period. After conception, the body begins to go through changes that cause early pregnancy symptoms. Understanding the earliest signs of pregnancy can help you know if you are pregnant, even before a test.
Common pregnancy symptoms include:
- Nausea: Also known as “morning sickness,” nausea is one of the most common pregnancy symptoms and may last throughout the day or for a short time. Nausea usually starts before the ninth week of pregnancy. Some women experience both nausea and vomiting, ranging from mild to severe. Call your doctor if nausea becomes severe or affects your quality of life.
- Missed period: One way to suspect you are pregnant is missing your period. When a person becomes pregnant, they stop ovulating and menstruating, which is the monthly shedding of the uterine lining (i.e. monthly period). Periods will not return until after they give birth.
- Breast changes: As pregnancy hormones increase, a woman’s breast size may increase, and her areolas (the area surrounding the breast nipples) may enlarge and darken in color. Breasts may become sore or tender to the touch or feel more dense than usual. This early pregnancy symptom may ease up over time as the body adjusts.
- Feeling tired: Higher progesterone levels may cause some expecting women to feel tired during early pregnancy. This sign of pregnancy can come and go throughout the 40 weeks. Naps and resting can help restore energy.
- Frequent urination: Rushing to the bathroom more than usual? This early pregnancy symptom is caused by the body producing more blood, which creates more waste. Having to urinate more often is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy.
Early pregnancy signs & symptoms
A human body goes through many changes during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. As the fetus begins to form, some pregnant people feel a little different. The earliest signs of pregnancy are essential to know so you can safeguard your health and begin early prenatal care. Here are some other first signs of pregnancy that you may experience at the start of the first trimester.
- Acute sense of smell: Your sense of smell may be heightened due to hormonal changes in early pregnancy. Strong odors may lead to nausea and vomiting in some women.
- Spotting/light bleeding: Caused by implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus, this early sign of pregnancy may be mistaken for a light period. The cervix may also bleed more easily as the area develops more blood vessels. However, if you notice bleeding during pregnancy, call your ob-gyn provider.
- Bloating: Chalk it up to pregnancy hormones and water retention. You may experience belly bloating and puffiness as an early sign of pregnancy.
- Cramping: Mild cramps are a common early pregnancy symptom. Speak with your healthcare provider or ob-gyn whenever you experience abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or cramping during pregnancy that does not resolve with time or rest.
- Food sensitivities: Certain foods or food odors may trigger an upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting
- Headaches: This pregnancy symptom may be caused by increased hormones and related fatigue. However, if you experience severe or persistent headaches, call your ob-gyn.
Additional signs of pregnancy
As the body continues to change with each passing week, many individuals experience additional signs and symptoms of early pregnancy. These symptoms may leave you wondering what will happen next on your pregnancy journey. Learn more about what to expect during pregnancy by visiting our Pregnancy FAQ page.
- Mood swings: Having unsteady emotions is another common pregnancy symptom. The added estrogen and progesterone your body produces in early pregnancy, along with fatigue, metabolic changes, and stress, could all play a role. Speak to your doctor if the low mood or mood swings last for two weeks or more or become severe.
- Constipation: Some women find that bowel movements take longer to pass or that their GI system runs more slowly in the early stages of pregnancy. Exercise and a healthy diet can help ease this symptom.
- Stuffy nose: As the body produces more blood and hormones, your nasal passages may inflame, causing congestion. Keep a tissue handy for this early sign of pregnancy, which may feel like a runny nose, sinus pressure, or allergies.
- Acne: A sudden breakout may be the first sign of pregnancy. Overactive oil glands in your skin may be triggered by pregnancy hormones and cause blemishes and clogged pores. Before you treat it, speak with your doctor about which skincare medications and products are safe during pregnancy.
- Heartburn: Indigestion again? That pain or burning feeling in your chest or stomach from something you ate could also be an early sign of pregnancy. Eating small, frequent meals and bland foods can help reduce this symptom. You may also want to limit acidic foods, such as citruses or tomatoes.
When do pregnancy symptoms start?
Pregnancy symptoms are highly individualized as each woman’s body is unique. There is also a noticeable range in timing and appearance of the first signs of pregnancy. In most women, symptoms may begin to appear as early as one to two weeks after conception.
First symptoms of pregnancy timeline:
- Pregnancy officially begins two weeks after your last menstrual period
- Implantation may occur at 1 to 2 weeks and cause light spotting, discharge, and cramping
- Pregnancy hormones increase at 1 to 2 weeks and may cause related early symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, and fatigue
- At 1 to 2 weeks, the body increases blood production, causing early signs of pregnancy, including frequent urination, fatigue, and low blood pressure
How to Know if you’re Pregnant
Nausea and fatigue. Headaches and bloating. Early signs and symptoms of pregnancy do not always tell the complete picture. If you think you are pregnant, the most reliable and accurate way to confirm it is with a pregnancy test. See a healthcare provider or ob-gyn to determine pregnancy with a blood test or urine test that accurately measures the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
At NewYork-Presbyterian, our expert doctors provide comprehensive pregnancy testing to help you confirm a positive pregnancy. NewYork-Presbyterian doctors and ob-gyns are here to provide personalized prenatal and maternal health services at every stage of pregnancy for your best care.
Other Considerations for your Pregnancy Symptoms
Some early pregnancy symptoms are very similar to other health conditions or problems. Common symptoms, such as bloating or nausea, can be easily mistaken as an early sign of pregnancy when they are due to other potential causes. Speak to your doctor if you are unsure whether your symptoms are a sign of early pregnancy or related to an unknown health condition.
Missed periods could be caused by:
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Extreme fatigue
- Hormone imbalances
- Certain illnesses
- Change in workout
- Weight changes
Breast changes could happen from:
- Early period
- Birth control changes
- Weight changes
- Hormone imbalances
Mood swings could be caused by:
- Diet and lifestyle changes
- Hormone imbalances
Nausea and fatigue could also be:
- Hormone imbalances
- Depression and anxiety
- Lack of sleep and exhaustion
Contact us for all your Pregnancy Needs and Questions
NewYork-Presbyterian offers a full range of obstetrics and gynecology services, including prenatal testing and advanced diagnostic tools to provide the highest level of maternal and prenatal care. With hospitals near you, at locations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Westchester, NewYork-Presbyterian provides convenient and comprehensive ob-gyn care right here in New York by expert doctors.