Think you're pregnant? If you’re the impatient type, here are the most common first symptoms of pregnancy that can start as early as the week before your period. If you've already experienced a few, it may be time to head to the drugstore to pick up a pregnancy test or schedule an appointment with your ob-gyn.
Sore Breasts: Your breasts may be extra tender as early as a week or two after conception. “You’re making so much estrogen and progesterone in early pregnancy that the glands in the breasts start growing,” explains Jasbir Singh, M.D., an OB-GYN at Baylor Medical Center at Waxahachie in Texas. This hormone surge causes breasts to retain more fluids and feel heavy, sore or more sensitive than normal PMS tenderness.
Cramps & Backache: Many women mistake these common early signs of pregnancy for PMS symptoms, but actually they’re caused by hormonal changes and the growth of the uterus. When it comes to cramps, this pregnancy sign is actually triggered by implantation—when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. Your uterus may be stretching a little now (hence the cramps) to prep for its massive expansion over the next nine months.
Implantation Bleeding: If you notice that your "period" seems way shorter or different from usual, it may be a sign of pregnancy. When the fertilized egg implants into the plush lining of the uterus about six to 12 days after conception, spotting—light vaginal bleeding—may occur. This is harmless, but if you suspect you’re pregnant, let your doctor know, just in case it’s something else. (If the bleeding occurs as late as 12 days after you conceive, you may think it’s your period.)
“In the first trimester, bleeding should be evaluated for three things in particular—miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or certain types of infections,” Singh says. “Implantation bleeding is sort of a diagnosis of exclusion. That means we rule out the bad things before we can determine this is what it is.”
Fatigue: During the first few weeks, your body is working 24/7 behind the scenes to support the pregnancy, and fatigue is a normal response. The extra progesterone produced after conception causes your basal body temperature to rise, which in turn contributes to a lack of energy, explains Karen Perkins, M.D., an OB-GYN with A Woman’s Choice at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. Your heart also pumps faster, as it has to deliver extra oxygen to the uterus; this, too, can make you feel tuckered out.
So what should you do? “Take prenatal vitamins early on, eat a healthful diet, drink plenty of fluids to keep your blood pressure high enough, and rest when you can,” Singh says.
Pregnancy Nipples: Are your nipples looking darker these days? Pregnancy hormones also affect the activity of melanocytes, or cells in the nipples responsible for their color. "Darker-complexioned women may not notice this until later in pregnancy—say, around 10 weeks or so," says Goist.
Nausea: While full-blown morning sickness—which affects up to 85 percent of all preggos—likely won't strike for a few more weeks, some women may experience more subtle motion sickness as an early pregnancy symptom. "I've had patients tell me they'd suddenly get queasy from reading in the car or would feel sick during flights," says Goist.
This can start as early as two weeks after conception. “Progesterone causes a lot of things to slow down,” Singh says. That includes your digestive processes, sometimes resulting in constipation or indigestion. Since your stomach doesn’t empty as quickly as it normally does, it thinks there’s too much going on in there and wants to purge in some way—either into the gut or out through the mouth. Nausea also is related to human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone that can be detected in the mother’s blood or urine even before a missed period. The higher the HCG level (as with twins), the sicker you may feel.