12 Early Signs of Pregnancy That May Mean a Baby’s on Board
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Swollen breasts, wonky cravings, moodiness…all those seemingly no-brainer early pregnancy symptoms can be easily ignored if the big tell-tale pregnancy symptom isn’t there: the missed period. But here’s the thing, you can experience early pregnancy symptoms before you miss your period. And for folks who have irregular menstrual cycles, that pregnancy symptom is not something to bank on. So, what are the most common—and some unexpected—early signs of pregnancy? Read on to find out.
Early Sign of Pregnancy #1: Missed Period
Typically, a missed period is the giant flag signaling that there’s a baby on board. That’s because, once fertilization occurs, your body begins to produce hormones that put a stop to ovulation. That means the lining of your uterus stays put and is not kicked out of your body by way of your period. However, as anyone with an irregular menstrual cycle knows, missing your period isn’t always a sign of pregnancy. (Stress, too much exercise, hormone imbalances, and more can play a role in missing periods.)
Early Sign of Pregnancy #2: Implantation Bleeding
This early pregnancy sign may occur after a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of your uterus. During the baby-making process, hormonal shifts and/or the breakage of some blood vessels might cause light bleeding. The kicker: Implantation bleeding occurs around the same time that your period would have arrived making this early pregnancy sign and confusing one! (Of those who reported bleeding during their first trimester, about 15% said it happened around the time of their expected period.) Implantation bleeding—which is light and painless—often lasts just one or two days. (Learn more about implantation bleeding.)
Early Sign of Pregnancy #3: Heightened Sense of Smell
Roughly 67% of expecting mothers surveyed said that they dealt with an increase of “smell sensitivity” during early pregnancy. For some, that heightened sense of smell is one of the first signs of pregnancy. While there’s little science around this phenomenon, there’s been anecdotal evidence of this early pregnancy sign for over 100 years! (Burnt, spoiled, or cooked food, plus cigarette smoke and perfume tend to be the most bothersome during the early stages of pregnancy.)
Early Sign of Pregnancy #4: Lots of Bathroom Trips
Surprise: You don’t need a big baby pressing on your kidneys to send you to the bathroom on a regular basis. Having to pee more often is actually an early sign of pregnancy…a sign that can emerge before you even miss a period. That’s because, from the start of pregnancy, your body’s blood supply increases, and your kidneys need to work overtime to filter all that extra blood to remove waste. (Waste exits your body as urine.)
Early Sign of Pregnancy #5: Metallic Taste in Mouth
Did you know that your taste buds can actually change during pregnancy? In fact, one report noted that almost 93% of moms-to-be surveyed experienced some type of change in taste during pregnancy. This taste change is officially dubbed dysgeusia, and it can cause a sour or metallic taste in your mouth…even if you’re not eating anything. It’s thought that this phenomenon is brought on by (of course!) notable changes in hormones during early pregnancy. While there’s not a ton you can do to reverse this taste change, some experts recommended drinking lemonade. The acid in the drink is thought to counteract the metallic taste. (PS: Dysgeusia often fades as your hormones begin to adjust in the second trimester.)
Early Sign of Pregnancy #6: Food Aversions
Dysgeusia can do more than make it feel like you’ve got a mouthful of coins. Those hormonal-spurred taste changes can make you hate a food you normally crave…or crave foods you normally poo-poo. Some common food aversions include:
Early Sign of Pregnancy #7: Fatigue
Many newly pregnant folks feel extremely tired. This seemingly out-of-nowhere early sign of pregnancy happens because of the high levels of the hormone progesterone now suddenly pumping through your system. At the same time, your heart is pumping harder and stronger to accommodate the uptick in blood flow, which can lower your blood sugar and blood pressure, adding to the fatigue. (Another energy-sapper: Low iron levels. Learn more about this common pregnancy problem.) Like other early pregnancy symptoms, intense tiredness often eases up after week 13 of pregnancy…though it often returns come trimester number three! Combat all this pregnancy fatigue with some good old-fashioned rest! Expecting parents need a few more hours of sleep each night than usual—and if they can’t get it, they should supplement nighttime sleep with daytime naps—notes the American Academy of Family Physicians. (Learn how to catch more ZZZs during pregnancy.)
Early Sign of Pregnancy #8: Nausea and Vomiting
Roughly to 70% of moms-to-be experience nausea and vomiting, with these early pregnancy symptoms usually kicking in at about 6 weeks of pregnancy and peeking at around 9 weeks. While we call this particular early pregnancy symptom “morning sickness,” it can occur any time of the day or night. And for some, it may even last longer than the first trimester! To help, stay hydrated, eat small meals, snack on bland items like crackers…and you may want to consider a short and quick sniff of isopropyl alcohol. A 2018 study found that smelling a dab of isopropyl alcohol on a cotton pad can help stop nausea and vomiting for short periods. (The study was isopropyl alcohol, which is pure alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is isopropyl alcohol that’s been mixed with water, so if that’s all that you have, give it a try.) Learn more ways to ease your morning sickness.
Early Sign of Pregnancy #9: Tender Breasts
Early-pregnancy hormonal changes might zero right in on your breasts, making them extra sensitive and even sore from the get-go. This early pregnancy symptom might remind you of how your breasts feel before your menstrual period…only more so. The good news? Your breast discomfort most often begins to fade after a few weeks as your body adjusts to the influx of pregnancy hormones, making way for other breast-related pregnancy symptoms, like darker and larger areolas (the area around your nipple) and more prominent veins on the surface of your breast.
Early Sign of Pregnancy #10: Constipation
While constipation is most likely to occur during your third trimester, all of that fatigue-causing progesterone can slow how quickly food moves through your digestive system, causing constipation, as early as the second or third month of your first trimester. To help ease your symptoms, eat up to 30 grams of fiber-rich foods daily, drink plenty of water, and schedule 20 to 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week.
Early Sign of Pregnancy #11: Bloating
While it may take several weeks—or months—to have a noticeable baby bump, the hormone soup flowing through your body can very easily cause your belly to feel bloated early in pregnancy. Much like other early pregnancy symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish early pregnancy bloating from premenstrual bloating.
Early Sign of Pregnancy #12: Headaches
Headaches can be a common early pregnancy symptom…that usually improves as your pregnancy progresses. (Phew!) In the first trimester, your changing hormone levels and blood volume likely play a part in your early pregnancy headaches. Also, other early pregnancy signs can trigger headaches, too, like hunger or a sudden stop in coffee consumption due to food aversions, or the dehydration that can go hand-in-hand with morning sickness. If your head pain is severe, persistent, or brings about dizziness or vision changes, contact your healthcare provider asap. Otherwise, most pregnant folks can safely take acetaminophen (Tylenol) to treat occasional headaches, but check with your doc or midwife first.
More Pregnancy Need-to-Knows
- Dr. Harvey Karp’s Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy
- Advanced Maternal Age: Your Guide to Pregnancy After 35
- How to Handle Hemorrhoids During Pregnancy
- Natural Ways to Relieve Pregnancy Heartburn
- Cleveland Clinic: Am I Pregnant?
- MemorialCare: What Color Is Implantation Bleeding?
- Patterns and predictors of vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy, Annals of Epidemiology, July 2010
- A longitudinal descriptive study of self-reported abnormal smell and taste perception in pregnant women, Chemical Senses, June 2004
- Pregnancy and olfaction: a review, Frontiers in Psychology, February 2014
- Changes in Gustatory Sense During Pregnancy, Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 2002
- UT Southwestern Medical Center: 5 weird pregnancy symptoms you might not know about
- Pregnancy Birth and Baby, a national Australian government service: Appetite changes and food aversions during pregnancy
- Stanford Health: First trimester fatigue: How long it lasts, how to ease it
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Sleep and Pregnancy
- Quantifying the global rates of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy: a meta analysis, Journal of Population Therapeutics and Clinical Pharmacology, 2013
- Inhaled isopropyl alcohol for nausea and vomiting in the emergency department, Canadian Family Physician. August 2018
- National Library of Medicine: Isopropyl Alcohol
- Mayo Clinic: Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens first
- National Health Service: Breast Changes During and After Pregnancy
- Cleveland Clinic: Pregnancy Constipation
- NewYork-Presbyterian: Pregnancy Symptoms
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