Early pregnancy symptoms

early pregnancy symptoms

You’ve woken up feeling a little peaky. Your breasts are a little tender. You’ve got a sneaking suspicion. But before you start planning your Baby Shower outfit it’s time to get the facts. How early on do pregnancy symptoms really start?

Before you can even think about peeing on a stick, there are some signs that you might be growing more than the bloat from last night’s bolognese. Here’s the rundown of the super-early pregnancy symptoms you could be experiencing - and how early you can spot them.

What pregnancy symptoms should I be looking out for?

Life’s little joke (by which I mean, the way it tries to mess with you on a regular basis) is that most of your very early pregnancy symptoms mimic those you’d expect just before your period. Which is the complete opposite of being pregnant. Thanks, Mother Nature.

If you’re particularly in tune with your cycle then you might notice something out of the ordinary. Like these early pregnancy symptoms:

  • Raised basal temperature. More than just being a bit hot, your basal temperature is often used as a way of working out your most fertile times of the month. So, if you’ve been taking your temp first thing in the morning to identify ovulation, then you might find it’s around 1 degree higher in the very early stages of pregnancy.
  • Tender and swollen breasts. Increased oestrogen and progesterone are the culprits here, getting your breasts ready to make milk. You might even find your areolas (the area around your nipples) get darker and bumpier. Nothing to worry about, just another way your body gets ready to nurse your baby.
  • Sensitive sense of smell. This is one of the first pregnancy symptoms a lot of women report having. So if things start smelling seriously gross for no reason, then something might be baking in your oven!
  • Implantation bleeds - from the moment the fertilised egg attaches itself to the wall of your uterus - might take you by surprise (or make you think it’s just an early period). This bleeding is usually medium pink or light brown, rather than the usual bright red of your period.
  • Feeling unduly exhausted? Falling asleep on the commute? Your body has started sending its main reserves straight to growing your baby. And, sorry to report, this is pretty much the state of things for the next 9 months!
  • Toilet trips. Find yourself having to go a lot more than usual? The pregnancy hormone, hCG, increases the flow of blood to your kidneys. This is so you can get rid of your (and your baby’s) waste more effectively. But the downside is - more trips to the loo for you.
  • Mood swings. As early as 4 weeks into your pregnancy, you can start feeling on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. Again, it’s pregnancy hormones that are to blame, and this is likely to be a feature until your baby makes their appearance. Sorry!
  • Changes in cervical mucus. Ah, what a delightful phrase. But, however icky the word might make you feel, getting to know your discharge can give you huge insight into your cycle and your body. And discharge that stays creamy means you’re probably pregnant - yay!

    How early on do pregnancy symptoms start?

    But come on, can you really tell before your missed period that something is up?

    Well, the very early pregnancy symptoms we mentioned above can be spied at around 2-4 weeks after conception. But if you’re not sure whether you snapping at your husband for eating the last of the Pringles is PMS or the beginnings of motherhood, then there are slightly more obvious symptoms from around 4 weeks.

    Symptoms from 4 weeks after conception:

    • Bloating. Progesterone is slowing down your digestion to make sure more nutrients reach your baby. Make sure you’re eating enough fibre to “move things along”.
    • Missed period. This is the biggy really. As long as you have a pretty regular cycle, missing your period is an obvious sign that you’re expecting.
    • Morning sickness. Which, I’m sorry to inform you, isn’t confined to just the morning. Persistent nausea (at any time of day or night) is probably the most famous pregnancy symptom. But don’t expect to hurl into the office waste paper bin, you might just feel a bit green.
    • Heartburn and indigestion. Along with the bloating, this is another symptom of a slowed digestion. Smaller meals, lots of chewing, and keeping some Rennies on hand can help.
    • Food aversions. Suddenly sick of strawberries? Can’t stand the smell of tuna? Then it might be time to head to Boots. Food aversions are an evolutionary survival skill to make sure you don’t poison yourself while pregnant. We’re no longer foraging in the undergrowth, but our bodies still look out for us if things in the fridge are smelling funky!
    • Excess saliva. This particularly weird symptom actually makes sense when you consider the heartburn and indigestion you’re dealing with. Excess saliva helps protect your teeth, mouth and throat from all that extra stomach acid. Even if it is annoying.

    When to pee on a stick

    Pregnancy tests have come a long way since the Look Who’s Talking movies.

    These days you can buy tests that give you a result a few days before the date of your missed period. But they can be pricey. For more reliable results, wait to pee until the day after your missed period. And, if you’re not sure or your cycle isn’t that regular, then aim for 21 days after you last had unprotected sex.

    Modern pregnancy tests measure the levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG in your urine. And they’re incredibly accurate, measuring very small amounts. A positive result is almost always correct, but false negatives can happen. If you’re unsure, then wait a few days and test again. hCG doubles every day if you’re pregnant, so it becomes easier and easier to tell as time goes on.

    What’s next?

    So, you got a smiley face/blue line/tiny fanfare…what happens next? 

    Your doctor won’t ask you to do a blood test to confirm, as modern tests are so reliable. But you’ll need to contact your GP surgery and make an appointment to see the midwife. And then the whole rollercoaster of the 1st Trimester begins!

    You can find info from the good old NHS here.

    And why not check out our article on the 1st Trimester here.