We occasionally read a news article about a woman who has gone into labour and they had no idea they were even pregnant.  Most of us wonder how you could get through eight or nine months of pregnancy without realising you were pregnant, but it is possible.  It is rare, but some women do not show clear signs of pregnancy and may discount any symptoms they do have.  It would certainly be quite a shock if your confirmation of pregnancy came when you were in labour! However, there are some general signs to watch out for if you think you may be pregnant.

Not everyone has the same pregnancy symptoms, and quite often a woman’s symptoms vary from one pregnancy to the next.

Here are some of the possible signs and symptoms that you might start to experience in the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Missed period

Of course the most commonly known indication of pregnancy is a missed period.  However some women who have erratic periods normally, may not recognise that a period is late or missed.  In addition, some women will continue to have periods for some or all of their pregnancy, so while it is a good indicator for most women, it is not 100% accurate.  Likewise, women can miss a period for other reasons such as stress, or diet, so take a pregnancy test before jumping to conclusions and telling everyone you are pregnant!

Early spotting/cramping in the first week or two after conception

Many women might think their period has arrived early, but this can be one of the first signs of pregnancy.

Breast changes/pain

These changes can start to happen within a couple of weeks of conception, you may notice enlargement of the breasts, tenderness and pain.

Fatigue and Headaches

There are a lot of hormonal changes going on in your body when you are pregnant, so you may notice general tiredness and fatigue.  If you suddenly feel a need for an afternoon nap, or an early night, then this could be another sign of pregnancy.  If you think you might be pregnant, always check before taking headache pills to ensure they are safe to take in pregnancy.

Frequent urination and/or constipation

You might find yourself visiting the toilet to pee more than usual.  Adding extra fibre to your diet will help with constipation problems.

Mood swings

You might find yourself emotional, weepy and easily upset.   These could continue throughout the pregnancy as hormone levels change.

Bloating

Suddenly your favourite jeans won’t zip up properly.  This can also be a sign of being pre-menstrual, but if it continues then it could be a sign of pregnancy.

Increased basal body temperature

If you have been keeping track of your basal body temperature before pregnancy, this could be a reliable indicator.  After ovulation, progesterone causes a woman’s temperature to rise. Sometimes a woman will see a second rise in temperature around 7 days past ovulation. When this happens, it can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy.

Morning sickness/lightheadedness

In general morning sickness starts at around six weeks of pregnancy, however some women will feel the effects from earlier on.  Morning sickness can, in reality, occur any time during the day, and around 80% of women will experience some type of morning sickness.

Pregnant women can feel nauseous and lightheaded.  The change in the hormonal level within your body can change the way you react to food smells and taste.

Because the growing baby demands blood supply, less blood supply is available to the mother, which can cause lightheadedness and, in some cases, fainting.

Morning sickness can vary in intensity, and not every pregnant woman will experience it.  Some women suffer from intense sickness, and if it is interfering significantly with your life, you will need to see your doctor about it.   Remember that your body is supporting a growing baby and you need to be able to eat and drink sufficient amounts, if morning sickness is interfering with that you may need medical intervention.

Food cravings and aversion

You might take a strong dislike to the aroma or taste of certain foods.  On the other end of the scale, you may develop cravings, possibly for something you wouldn’t normally touch!

Phantom pregnancy

It is possible to have a “phantom pregnancy”, in which you have many of the symptoms of being pregnant, including loss of periods, morning sickness, and “feeling the baby move”.   Therefore confirmation of pregnancy with a test is a good step to make sure you are on the right track.

Home pregnancy test

A home pregnancy test measures the amount of pregnancy hormones in your urine.  It can usually pick up measurable amounts within a couple of weeks of pregnancy and they are usually reliable.  It is best to wait until you have a late period before testing, as you will have a higher level of the pregnancy hormones and it will be more reliable.

If you are getting negative results on a home pregnancy test but still noticing symptoms of possible pregnancy, wait a week and do another test.  If that is still negative, you should visit your doctor to get a confirmation test.

You can choose a digital pregnancy test or non-digital test.  The digital ones display a clearer result (pregnant/not pregnant), but are more expensive.  However if you think you will be testing regularly, it may be worth the extra cost.

A non-digital test will usually display a line or symbol for a positive or negative result.  Whichever option you choose, read the instructions carefully first so you know what you are looking for in results from that brand of test.

This list is not definitive.  Experiencing some of these symptoms may just mean your period is due, or you have a viral infection developing.  Some women do not experience many pregnancy symptoms at all – and I’m sure most women would be happy to avoid morning sickness altogether.

If you have done a home pregnancy test and it is positive, congratulations!  The next step would be to see your health care professional for a confirmation test and planning the next steps in pre-natal care,