Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens right away
The earliest symptoms of pregnancy can appear in the first few weeks after conception. Here’s what you may experience, from nausea and tender breasts to dizziness and mood swings.
Are you pregnant? The proof is in the pregnancy test. But even before you miss a period, you might suspect — or hope — that you’re pregnant. For some women, early symptoms of pregnancy begin in the first few weeks after conception.
Classic symptoms of pregnancy
In addition to a missed period, the earliest symptoms of pregnancy might include:
- Nausea with or without vomiting. Morning sickness, which can strike at any time of the day or night, sometimes begins as early as three weeks after conception. Nausea seems to stem at least in part from rapidly rising levels of estrogen and progesterone, which cause the stomach to empty more slowly. Pregnant women also have a heightened sense of smell, so various odors — such as foods cooking, perfume or cigarette smoke — might cause waves of nausea in early pregnancy.
- Tender, swollen breasts. Your breasts might provide one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. As early as two to three weeks after conception, hormonal changes might make your breasts tender, tingly or sore. Or your breasts might feel fuller and heavier.
- Increased urination. You might find yourself urinating more often than usual, especially at night.
- Fatigue. Fatigue also ranks high among early symptoms of pregnancy. During early pregnancy, levels of the hormone progesterone soar — which can put you to sleep. At the same time, lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure and increased blood production might team up to sap your energy.
- Food aversions or cravings. When you’re pregnant, you might find yourself turning up your nose at certain foods, such as coffee or fried foods. Food cravings are common, too. Like most other symptoms of pregnancy, these food preferences can be chalked up to hormonal changes — especially in the first trimester, when hormonal changes are the most dramatic.
Other symptoms of pregnancy
Sometimes symptoms of pregnancy are less familiar or obvious. If you’re pregnant, you might experience:
- Slight bleeding or cramping. Sometimes a small amount of spotting or vaginal bleeding is one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. Known as implantation bleeding, it happens when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus — about 10 to 14 days after fertilization. This type of bleeding is usually a bit earlier, spottier and lighter in color than a normal period and doesn’t last as long. Some women also experience abdominal cramping — similar to menstrual cramping — early in pregnancy.
- Mood swings. The flood of hormones in your body in early pregnancy can make you unusually emotional and weepy. Mood swings also are common, especially in the first trimester.
- Dizziness. As your blood vessels dilate and your blood pressure drops, you might feel lightheaded or dizzy. Early in pregnancy, faintness also can be triggered by low blood sugar.
- Constipation. An increase in progesterone causes food to pass more slowly through the intestines, which can lead to constipation early in pregnancy. Constipation can be aggravated by prenatal vitamins containing iron.
In addition, your basal body temperature — your oral temperature when you first wake up in the morning — might provide an early clue about pregnancy. Basal body temperature increases slightly soon after ovulation and remains at that level until your next period. If you’ve been charting your basal body temperature to determine when you ovulate, its continued elevation for more than two weeks could mean that you’re pregnant.
Are you really pregnant?
Unfortunately, these signs and symptoms aren’t unique to pregnancy. Some can indicate that you’re getting sick or that your period is about to start. Likewise, you can be pregnant without experiencing any of these signs and symptoms.
Still, if you miss a period or notice any of the tip-offs on these lists, you might want to take a home pregnancy test — especially if you’re not keeping track of your menstrual cycle or if it varies widely from one month to the next. If your home pregnancy test is positive, make an appointment with your health care provider. The sooner your pregnancy is confirmed, the sooner you can begin prenatal care.