When you’re trying to get pregnant, you want to know as soon as possible whether you have your hoped-for little one just starting to grow inside you*. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably picking up on every single twinge and wondering if it’s one of the early signs of pregnancy.
That two weeks between ovulation and the date you expect to (and don’t want to!) get your period are SO hard. In those two weeks it’s really easy to obsess over whether that little ache or mild hint of sickness was one of the early signs of pregnancy.
In this post I’m going to take you through 20 of the most common early signs and symptoms of pregnancy that you may pick up on even before you miss your period.
Disclaimer: There are really only two ways to know for sure – missing your period completely, and taking a pregnancy test!
*This article assumes a positive pregnancy test will be welcome. If you are here with signs of an unwanted pregnancy, I hope you get the result you are looking for. In the case of a positive test, I encourage UK readers to visit the British Pregnancy Advisory Service website for further support.
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How early do pregnancy signs and symptoms start?
Apart from the obvious symptom of no period, most noticeable symptoms start after weeks 4 to 5 of pregnancy (with “week one” starting on the first day of your last period). These symptoms are usually things like the classic nausea or morning sickness and food cravings.
However, the very early processes of pregnancy can bring some signs and symptoms even before that. During implantation (when the embryo attaches to the lining of the uterus), you may experience some early signs of pregnancy. Shifts in hormones can manifest some symptoms too.
If you want to learn more about the process of becoming pregnant, I found these incredible videos.
If you want to support that phenomenal process properly, start getting in your prenatal vitamins NOW if you aren’t already. Even if you don’t know whether you’re pregnant, your body needs all those extra nutrients to help support fertility.
I’ve got separate posts on pregnancy supplements and natural ways to protect your fertility, but meanwhile I highly recommend starting on Ritual prenatal multivitamins with vegan omega DHA as soon as possible.
How soon after unprotected sex can you test for early pregnancy?
That depends when in your cycle you had sex.
Most pregnancy tests are at their most accurate on the day after your missed period. Some claim to be able to accurately predict pregnancy up to 6 days earlier. However the further away from your next period you are, the less reliable any test will be.
If you watched those videos, you’ll see becoming pregnant takes a fairly long time from when you first got frisky. Difficult as it is, waiting until you’ve missed your period is the best way to avoid heartache at false results. Also, if you’re trying to be eco-conscious, hold on at least until the day it’s due. Most pregnancy tests go heavy on the single-use plastics so please be considerate of your environmental impact.
If you really can’t wait until your period to test, these highly sensitive test strips* are fantastic. They are economical, very accurate and aren’t covered in a massive plastic shell. They’re less fancy than the digital ones, but they’re as kind to the planet as a pregnancy test can be. They’re also the exact same ones used by the NHS so you can rest assured they are high quality.
*Not an affiliate link, by the way! I just genuinely rate these tests and believe in cutting back on landfill wherever possible.
20 early signs of pregnancy to look out for
So, onto the good stuff at last. Here are 20 signs of early pregnancy you may experience in the two weeks after ovulation, before your period is due:
1) Light spotting
This might happen during the implantation process I mentioned earlier. It’s caused by blood vessels bursting as the blastocyst (the early bundle of cells) embeds in your uterine wall.
It can be very difficult to tell the difference between spotting and the light bleeding that occurs at the start of your period. Firstly, spotting caused by implantation is a different colour to normal period blood. Usually it will be darker and a pink to brown hue, as opposed to the red of early period spots. It will also be very short-lived, possibly only occurring once and barely noticeable on the toilet tissue.
2) Tender breasts
Hormonal shifts often result in tender breasts in early pregnancy and can be felt as early as week 4. Other changes to breasts such as tingling, aching or growing may also indicate the beginnings of pregnancy. This is the week of your period though, so consider whether you usually get tender breasts premenstrually.
Pregnancy nausea is most commonly referred to as morning sickness, but I assure you it can strike at any time! It’s the classic early pregnancy symptom that you see in the movies and can begin as early as week 4.
No-one’s 100% sure why nausea is so common in early pregnancy, but evidence suggests that it’s a good thing. Honest! The body is trying to protect the fragile new embryo from any external toxins that may contribute to pregnancy loss.
If you’re already experiencing morning sickness (or want to be prepared for when you do!) check out my post on natural morning sickness remedies.
Levels of the hormone progesterone go through the roof during early pregnancy and can make you feel super sleepy. Plus, let’s face it, your body is hard at work creating the beginning of a new human – it’s tiring work!
5) Needing to pee – all 👏 the 👏 time 👏
During pregnancy, the body needs to pumps more blood. This in turn makes the kidneys ramp up the amount of fluid they produce. The result? Constant trips to the loo, I’m afraid. Get used to it because this is usually a recurring theme throughout pregnancy!
6) Mild cramping
In one study, 28% of women reported experiencing some light cramping around the same time as implantation spotting. If you feel some cramping, take a note of what day in your cycle it is. If it is earlier than any menstrual cramping you may usually feel, it could be implantation pain.
As you may be starting to realise, many early pregnancy symptoms very similar to regular premenstrual symptoms. It helps if you have been tracking your cycle changes for some time before trying to get pregnant. That way you know what is unusual for your body.
If you’re not pregnant this time, take a look at my guide for how to get pregnancy fast and naturally.
Early hormonal changes during early pregnancy often slow down the digestive system, which may result in some uncomfortable bloating. Likewise…
Things can get a bit blocked up due to the sluggish digestive system in early pregnancy. It’s therefore wise to make sure you’re getting plenty of fibre in your diet to keep things flowing!.
I didn’t have constipation problems at all with my pregnancy, probably because I had a fully vegan diet. Loads of fruit and veg most likely kept this pregnancy symptom at bay. Whatever your diet, check out out my guide to healthy plant-based nutrition during pregnancy. Whether or not you’re vegan, it will help you to get the nutrients you and your baby need.
9) Mood swings
Again, hormonal shifts including boosted levels of oestrogen and progesterone in early pregnancy are responsible for this one. If you don’t normally have mood swings before your period, it may be an early sign of pregnancy.
10) Temperature changes
If you notice yourself feeling hot or cold for not particular reason it may be another early sign of pregnancy. You might also feel your temperature change more noticeably in response to the environmental temperature or during exercise.
11) Changes in blood pressure
This will be difficult to determine unless you’ve got a BP machine at home or are having a general checkup. If you can check your blood pressure though and it’s higher or lower than usual, it may be a sign of early pregnancy.
If you’re experiencing an unusual number of headaches at this time, it may also be an early sign of pregnancy.
If you feel the need to take a painkiller, paracetamol is your safest option in early pregnancy. Always check that your painkiller of choice is suitable for pregnancy and check with your pharmacist if unsure.
Dizziness usually arrives in the second trimester, but you may experience it in response to temperature changes or morning sickness. In this case, dizziness may be an early sign of pregnancy.
Also, the body creates a lot of heat during early pregnancy (insert bun in the oven pun) and this can trigger dizziness too.
If you’re pregnant and in warm or stuffy rooms, you may experience dizziness or fainting as an early pregnancy symptom.
14) Bleeding gums
Again, this usually arrives in the second trimester but bleeding gums can also be a symptom in very early pregnancy.
The excuse-for-everything, a surge in hormones is largely to blame but like all pregnancy symptoms it does pass.
For UK mamas, free dental checks are offered to you throughout your pregnancy and for a year postpartum.
If you’re pregnant, remember to ask your midwife about this dental charge exemption and get your teeth checked regularly.
15) Smell and/or taste sensitivity
A heightened sense of smell (hyperosmia) is a super common symptom in early pregnancy.
Oestrogen surges are the culprit. For many women it can feel like even a low level smell is completely overtaking all their senses. Couple this with morning sickness and some strong food smells can become incredibly unpleasant!
If you’ve noticed sensitivity to smell and it’s triggering morning sickness, check out my post on natural morning sickness remedies.
I highly recommend investing in a high quality diffuser and filling your home with essential oil scents you love.
Make sure they are safe for use in pregnancy first though. My morning sickness post has a list of what essential oils are safe to use in pregnancy.
The diffuser will come in handy throughout pregnancy, during labour and even into baby and toddler life too.I bought one during pregnancy with my daughter who is now nearly 6 and I’m still finding it invaluable for cold/flu season (eucalyptus) and sleep problems (lavender).
16) Implantation pain
Along with spotting, some women experience pain caused by the implantation of the blastocyst into the uterine walls.
Annoyingly, the implantation process happens so close to when your period is due that it’s hard to tell the difference. Fortunately you don’t have to wait much longer to find out!
17) Excess wind
If you’d pictured pregnancy as your chance to shine like a lustrous fertility goddess in a meadow, well… now isn’t when that happens – think bloating and excess wind instead!
Blame the progesterone again for this one. The surges in this hormone during early pregnancy can have the effect of relaxing your intestines. Nice.
I don’t want to completely destroy the goddess vision though!
In the second trimester you’ll likely get the pregnancy glow, complete with luscious hair and fresh new energy 👩🦱
18) Shortness of breath
Is there anything progesterone can’t do?? 🙄
While busily creating an extra cushy uterus lining ready for baby, it’s also increasing the amount of air the body needs.
This can have the effect of making you feel short in breath. You may find yourself sucking in larger amounts of air and feeling like it’s not enough.
Shortness of breath isn’t a reliable early sign of pregnancy, but if it comes with other symptoms it gives a clue.
This symptom often makes mums-to-be feel rather anxious as they think it might be a sign of pregnancy loss.
Firstly, I want to reassure you that is IS a myth. Shivering itself is absolutely NOT a sign there is anything wrong with your baby.
Again, it’s those pesky hormones playing around and it will most likely subside. The majority of women are hotter than usual in pregnancy so, for now, grab a jumper until it warms up.
HOWEVER, if you are pregnant and shivering continues throughout your pregnancy, please make sure you discuss it with your midwife. There are some medical conditions that include shivering as a symptom and they should not go untreated during your pregnancy.
20) Food and drink aversions
Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows about pregnancy cravings and the famously bizarre cravings of pregnant women.
But what about food and drink aversions, where you simply can’t tolerate eating or drinking something you normally enjoy?
This early sign of pregnancy is due to human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the pregnancy hormone that turns tests positive.
hCG levels rise rapidly in pregnancy, causing nausea, cravings and aversions. HCG peaks at 11 weeks of pregnancy and the second trimester is generally much easier going for negative symptoms.
So if you’re pregnant and mourning the loss of your favourite food, don’t fret. It will most likely come back with a vengeance later on!
One last piece of advice…
If there’s one thing you need to know about early pregnancy signs, it’s this: try and forget about them. I know it’s hard – believe me, I’ve been there.
But I urge you to spend time being present with your family as they are right now.
Whether it’s you and a partner, you alone, or you have older children, a positive pregnancy test changes everything for you all.
Take the time to appreciate and give thanks for what you have right in this present moment. Savour those treasured moments as they are. The two week wait will go quicker if you soak in that truly precious time with your loved ones.
I hope you’ve found this list of early pregnancy signs helpful and wish you all the best in your pregnancy journey. If you find yourself staring at a disappointing negative test in a few days time, please head over to my post on improving egg quality to make sure you are giving yourself the best chance possible to conceive.
If your test comes out with a joyful positive, congratulations! Check out some more of my pregnancy articles below to help you have the most ethical and empowering pregnancy possible.