What are the early symptoms of pregnancy?
If you think you might be pregnant, there are a number of telltale signs. The most obvious early symptom of pregnancy is a late period and this is often the reason many women take a home test to find out for sure.
Missing your period is not the only sign to look out for though. There are a number of other symptoms you might experience during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
Nausea and vomiting
Don’t be fooled by the name morning sickness, it can happen at any time of the day or night. Feeling nauseous and being sick usually starts at around four to six weeks so for some people it may be one of the first signs they are expecting.
For most people, the sickness will get better as they enter the second trimester and the symptoms have usually gone completely by week 20. However some people may continue to experience nausea and vomiting throughout their pregnancy.
Eating little and often and sticking to plainer foods may help. Some women find it helpful to have a snack like ginger biscuits on hand when they wake up so they can eat before they get up.
If your vomiting is really bad and you are struggling to keep fluids down, speak to your GP as you need to be careful not to get dehydrated.
Sometimes people think they must be ill or have a virus before they discover they are pregnant. This is because fatigue is an early pregnancy and you may feel like you are run down and completely drained of energy.
The hormonal changes going on in your body can make you feel very tired throughout the first trimester. Listen to how you are feeling and rest as much as you can. Don’t worry, you will start to get more energy again from about 12 weeks.
One telltale sign that you may be pregnant is that you find you are needing to wee a lot. You may be getting up in the night to go to the toilet and feel like you need to keep going to urinate throughout the day.
Rising levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and progesterone are being the need to urinate more frequently. If you experience any discomfort though make sure you see your GP as it could be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Tender or sore breasts
Your nipples and breasts may feel much more sensitive than usual in early pregnancy. You may even feel like you have gone up a cup size and your breasts are actually a little larger.
Your breasts can become sore as early as two weeks after conception so for many people it will be one of the first signs of pregnancy. The reason behind the tenderness is that pregnancy hormones cause an increase in blood flow to the breasts and this stimulates the glandular tissue.
The discomfort you feel in your breasts will be similar to the feeling many women get just before their period arrives. You may feel like your breasts are heavy and you may also experience a tingling sensation.
Your nipples may also feel extremely sensitive and you may find you have to switch to soft, seam-free bras to avoid irritation.
In early pregnancy, you may notice you have more vaginal discharge than usual but it shouldn’t smell or make you feel itchy or uncomfortable. This vaginal discharge is usually white or clear in colour and is caused by the increase in the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
If it is accompanied by any discomfort or smells unpleasant, see your GP as you may have a vaginal infection like thrush, which will need treatment.
An odd taste in your mouth
Many women notice a strange, metallic taste in their mouth in the early stages of pregnancy. Known as dysgeusia, some women describe it as feeling like they have been sucking pennies. Like the other early pregnancy symptoms, it is caused by an increase in hormones. Oestrogen plays a part in the way you taste things so when it increases, it can send your tastebuds a little wild.
You may also feel like you have a sour taste in your mouth even if you haven’t eaten anything. This symptom can come and go and is usually worst during the first trimester.
Dysgeusia can also lead to you not liking the taste of foods which you normally enjoy.
Heightened sense of smell
For many women, a heightened sense of smell can be one of the first signs they are pregnant. You may notice things have a much stronger aroma than usual and the smell of some things may turn your stomach, even if it is something you usually love like coffee.
Known as hyperosmia, this is caused by changes in your hormone levels.
In early pregnancy, you may find you have a really strong urge to eat particular types of foods. These may be things you wouldn’t normally eat or even strange combinations of foods which you wouldn’t usually put together.
Pregnancy food cravings can start as early as 5 weeks but many women won’t experience them until later on. It isn’t completely understood why cravings happen but is likely to be down to hormonal changes.
Some people think it may be their body telling them they need to eat more of something. It’s fine to indulge your cravings if it is a food which is healthy but if it is a high calorie snack, eat it in moderation.
If you are craving something which isn’t food, this is called pica and is often a sign that you may be anaemic and need more iron. Speak to your midwife or GP if you have the urge to eat non-food items like soap, charcoal, ice or chalk.
Increasing levels of progesterone can cause pregnant women to become constipated. This usually starts at around eight weeks of pregnancy, although it can begin earlier.
Make sure you eat plenty of fibre and drink lots of fluids to keep things moving.
It’s important to note that not all pregnant women will experience all these symptoms in early pregnancy. You may experience some or none at all – hormonal changes affect everyone differently and you may notice no signs of pregnancy at all in these first few weeks.
The good news is that there are now lots of pregnancy tests which can produce a positive result from as soon as your period is due. However, the sensitivity of home pregnancy tests varies and some women may find they don’t get a positive result until a later stage than others.