When you are eager to get pregnant, you could be closely tracking your ovulation and mating with your partner accordingly. And, you may want to know the result as soon as possible, rather than wait until you miss your period. But can you know if you are pregnant even before you missed your period?
A missed period could be the first major sign of pregnancy. But only a pregnancy test, a blood test, or an ultrasound scan may confirm your pregnancy. Although some changes begin to happen even before you miss your period, they are not accurate and may not necessarily confirm the pregnancy.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you how pregnancy symptoms vary from PMS symptoms, the possible symptoms of pregnancy before a missed period, and whether you can rely on them to confirm pregnancy.
PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms
PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) and pregnancy symptoms are quite similar, but some of them (such as basal body temperature, darkening areolas, nausea, food aversions on cravings) may become more pronounced and severe in pregnancy. Taking a pregnancy test could be the best way to figure out if these are signs of conception or the effects of PMS (1).
Early Symptoms Of Pregnancy Before Missed Period
While a missed period is a prominent sign of pregnancy, there could be other bodily symptoms you experience before your period is due. Keep reading to know more about them.
1. Implantation bleeding and cramping
If you have unprotected sex during your fertile window, there is a chance that you might get pregnant. Implantation takes place when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. If that happens, you may experience implantation bleeding around the same time your period is due (2).
Implantation bleeding is light, and you may notice just a few drops of blood in your panty or while wiping your vagina. Therefore, you may or may not notice it.
2. Basal body temperature
Basal body temperature is considered to be an indicator of ovulation. A week or so before ovulation, your basal body temperature may be around 97 to 98°F, which is the average in the pre-ovulation state (3). One to two days after ovulation, your BBT usually increases by 0.5 to 1°F and decreases after your period ends. Most women tend to feel warmer during pregnancy, but there is no evidence to suggest that this is due to high basal body temperature.
The changes in the basal body temperature are subtle and not easy to measure. Moreover, you need to track it through the month, which makes it a less practical indicator of ovulation or pregnancy.
3. Sore, tender, and heavy breasts
When you conceive, hormonal changes in the body could result in tender or swollen breasts with veins around the breast becoming visible, darkening of the areola, and tingling of the breasts. These changes may occur as early as one to two weeks after conception.
These symptoms may be similar to those of PMS but may be severe if you’re pregnant. If your period is late and you notice breast changes along with other symptoms, take a pregnancy test to be sure (4).
Fatigue without reason may also be an early symptom of pregnancy. A spike in the levels of progesterone hormone could make you tired and sleepy all the time (5). Additionally, as the body begins to produce more blood to support your fetus’ growth, you may feel exhausted, especially if you don’t get enough minerals, vitamins, iron, and fluids in your diet.
If you’ve been planning to conceive, talk to your doctor and take prenatal vitamins, avoid caffeine and associated products, and sleep well to fight fatigue. Note that fatigue could also be due to other health issues such as anemia, hypothyroidism, etc., and may not be the sole indicator of pregnancy.
Nausea or morning sickness is a classic sign of pregnancy that you may be able to notice in the early stages. It could become prominent in the initial weeks around the missed period, even before your pregnancy is confirmed. You may feel dizzy, weak, and feel like throwing up at times.
You may feel nauseous at any time of the day, but early mornings could be the worse, which is why it is referred to as morning sickness. About 50 to 80% of women experience morning nausea, but the severity may vary (5). The condition may be worse in your first pregnancy but may subside with the eventual ones.
This symptom may start anytime between two and eight weeks after conception.
6. Bloating and feeling of tightness
You may feel your tummy is protruded, and your pants may get tight. A heavy or bloated feeling in the stomach is a common symptom of pregnancy before missed periods (6).
Bloating could be followed by farts and burps because of the progesterone hormone, which retards your digestion (5). However, bloating could happen due to other indigestion issues too.
7. Food aversions
You may start disliking the foods you once loved and even become averse to them, so much so that their smell or taste might make you nauseous (5). Aversion to foods could be common early in the pregnancy when nausea and vomiting are present. Some may get their appetite back by the second or third trimesters, but others may have to deal with it through the pregnancy.
While the suggested cause of food aversion is an increase in the progesterone levels, there is no substantial evidence to support the theory.
Dizziness and lightheadedness could also come early on in pregnancy, due to a change in the blood volume and pressure when the blood vessels dilate early in the pregnancy (7).
9. Mood swings
Feeling moody? It could be due to the hormonal changes after conception. The variations in the hormone levels may affect the neurotransmitters of the brain, resulting in enhanced emotions from spells of weeping to sudden anger outbursts (8). However, it is difficult to relate mood swings to pregnancy as women have mood swings before their period as well.
An increase in progesterone levels might affect your digestive system. Your bowel movements may get harder as the hormones cause the food to pass slowly through the digestive system. If you develop constipation before your period is due, and you’ve had unprotected sex during the fertile period, you may have to take a home pregnancy test (7).
11. Headaches and backaches
Low blood sugar levels may cause headaches, as the brain cells try to cope up with the lower levels of sugar supply. If you have frequent headaches, then it could mean that the female sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone are preparing the womb for the baby (9).
You could also experience lower back pain as your ligaments loosen up, and your body prepares to carry the weight of the baby (7). Implantation cramping, bloating, and constipation may also cause backaches during early pregnancy. Your sleeping positions could also be a cause of back pain.
If the pain is unbearable, go to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Avoid taking over-the-counter painkillers, as self-medication can be harmful if you’re pregnant.
Drooling is not a common symptom, but some women may produce excess saliva (referred to as ‘Ptyalism gravidarum’) if they are experiencing nausea or vomiting.
A couple of case studies reported excess salivation in pregnant women during the first trimester of pregnancies. However, further studies are needed to decide if this is an early pregnancy symptom (10).
Women may also feel thirsty in the early stages of pregnancy (11), which could be due to an increase in blood volume or excessive urination. You may drink more water, and that may cause frequent urination, which in turn could make you feel thirsty again!
14. Urge to pee
An increased urge to pee is a typical pregnancy symptom that you may experience during the first few weeks. This could be due to the excess production of the blood, owing to the many hormonal changes that occur after conception (4). The kidneys work to filter more blood, filling up the bladder, and making you pee frequently.
15. Shortness of breath
You may begin having shortness of breath in the first few weeks of pregnancy since your body requires more oxygen and blood to share with the growing fetus. It may continue throughout the pregnancy as the baby grows, and the need for oxygen and nutrients increases (12). Having an exercise routine, sitting in a proper posture, taking slow deep breaths, wearing loose clothes, etc., could help in regulating your breathing.
Some of these pregnancy symptoms are similar to those of PMS and may be ignored by most women. Also, a few others could be due to other medical conditions and should be checked by a doctor.
Are These Symptoms Reliable Enough To Confirm Pregnancy?
The symptoms we mentioned above are only possible indicators and not definitive signs that confirm a pregnancy. So even if you experience one or more of these symptoms, it may not always necessarily mean that you are pregnant. They are only the indicators of a possible pregnancy. Your pregnancy can be confirmed when a pregnancy test shows a positive result.
How Soon Can You Experience Pregnancy Symptoms Before A Missed Period?
You may start experiencing pregnancy symptoms around a week and a half before your period is due, or 12 to 15 days after ovulation (or conception, as it happens around ovulation time) (13). However, the onset of symptoms differs from one woman to another. Some women experience symptoms such as nausea, tender breasts, fatigue, sleepiness, and bloating within a week of conception.
Symptoms such as increased frequency of urination will usually occur around the time your period is due. Symptoms such as vaginal discharge, changes in the areola, and elevated body temperature appear eventually and can only be detected on close examination.
What Can Be The Other Causes For A Delayed Period?
Your period could be delayed due to many reasons other than pregnancy. They could be hormonal changes, excessive weight gain or weight loss, eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia), stress, polycystic ovary syndrome, travel, thyroid, birth control pills, or drug use (14).
So, it is possible to miss your period and not be pregnant.
Is It Possible To Be Pregnant And Get Your Period?
You are unlikely to get your period if you are pregnant. But as mentioned before, you may notice light bleeding or spotting in the early stages, also referred to as implantation bleeding. Sometimes, bleeding could be due to an infection, miscarriage, placental issues, or an ectopic pregnancy.
How Long Should You Wait To Take A Home Pregnancy Test?
Ideally, you should wait for one to two weeks from the time of ovulation to take a home pregnancy test (13). But you might get an accurate result if you wait until a week after your missed period. Home pregnancy tests detect hCG, which could peak during this period.
Right from the day you have sex during the ovulation period, your body is in the process of developing a new life inside you. While signs and symptoms before a missed period could indicate pregnancy, only a test may give you precise results.
If you are experiencing one or more of the early pregnancy symptoms and you think you could be pregnant, even though your pregnancy test result is negative, consult your doctor about it. Sometimes home pregnancy tests taken too early or late may also give a false negative. A doctor may suggest blood tests at a specific time for correct diagnosis.
Have you experienced any of these symptoms when you were trying to get pregnant? How did you confirm your pregnancy? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
2. Vaginal bleeding in pregnancy; NHS
3. Hsiu‐Wei Su et al.; Detection of ovulation, a review of currently available methods; Bioeng Transl Med (2017)
4. What are some common signs of pregnancy; National Institutes of Health (2017)
5. Am I pregnant? Early signs and symptoms; NCT
6. Signs of Pregnancy/The Pregnancy Test; University of Rochester Medical Center (2019)
7. Body changes and discomforts; Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2019)
8. First Trimester; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (2018)
9. Headaches in Early Pregnancy; University of Rochester Medical Center (2019)
10. Shunji Suzuki et al.; Ptyalism gravidarum; N Am J Med Sci. (2009)
11. Thirst; NHS inform (2019)
12. Common symptoms during pregnancy; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (2018)
13. Pregnancy; U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2017)
14. Suzannah Smith; 9 Reasons Your Period Is Late (If You’re Not Pregnant); Texas A&M Health Science Center (2016)