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When do pregnancy symptoms start?

Could you be pregnant? Not all women have early pregnancy symptoms, but many do. You may notice some of these symptoms around the time you’ve missed a period - or a week or two before or after. 

When do pregnancy symptoms start?

It’s difficult to determine when pregnancy symptoms will start because the experience is different for every person. Some women feel the first symptoms of pregnancy a few days after conception, while others don’t notice any differences for a few months. Additionally, you can’t use previous pregnancies as a baseline either; symptoms might appear at different stages in every pregnancy.

If you miss your period and are experiencing morning sickness, tender breasts, fatigue, and spotting, you may want to take a home pregnancy test. Before you start budgeting for baby gear and newborn baby clothes, drop by the doctor’s for a blood test or ultrasound to get confirmation. 

Early pregnancy symptoms

While your pregnancy tests and your GP can offer definitive answers, these pregnancy symptoms may be early indications that you’re expecting. Remember, just because you’ve had some of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have a bun in the oven. You could also not experience any of them and still go on to have a full-term pregnancy.

1. High basal body temperature

If you’ve been keeping track of your basal body temperature, you might notice that it elevates by around 1 degree when you conceive and remains slightly higher than normal throughout your pregnancy. Although this is not a proven early pregnancy symptom (there may be other reasons why your basal temperature is elevated) it could give you an advance clue.

2. Breast changes

A symptom commonly associated with pregnancy is sensitive, swollen breasts. The soreness and tenderness are due to an increase in estrogen and progesterone, and it may feel like an exaggerated version of how your breasts feel before you have your period. These symptoms usually appear about 1-2 weeks after conception and should diminish significantly as your pregnancy advances. 

Some women may also notice their areolas get darker and increase in diameter early in pregnancy. You may also pick up on tiny bumps growing in size and number on your areolas. These bumps, known as Montgomery’s tubercles, were always present, but become more prominent as your body prepares to produce more oils that lubricate your nipples.

3. Spotting

Some women have light spotting as an early symptom of pregnancy. This is known as implantation bleeding and it usually occurs 6 to 12 days after conception. If you notice light spotting around the time your period is due, it could be an early pregnancy symptom indicating that an embryo has implanted itself into the uterine wall. Spotting may be accompanied by twinging cramps that are similar to what you would experience during your period. 

The main distinguishing factor between implantation bleeding and your period is that the former is usually light brown or medium pink, while the latter is red. Implantation bleeding is also much lighter and not continuous, lasting a few hours to a couple of days.

It’s worth noting that spotting can sometimes occur mid-cycle before your usual period, especially if you have a disrupted or irregular cycle. Mid-cycle brown discharge may also be because you’re reacting to a vaginal exam or rough sex.

3. Smell sensitivity

You may have a heightened sense of smell early on in your pregnancy. Many women report smell sensitivity, where previously mild odors become strong and unappealing, as one of the first symptoms of pregnancy.

4. Fatigue

Are you feeling exhausted all of a sudden? Loss of energy may be due to rapidly increasing levels of progesterone when you’re pregnant. A significant amount of energy also goes into building a placenta, making you feel more drained than usual. Fatigue appears as early as one week after conception. It typically goes away on its own in the second trimester, but it may return as you approach your delivery date. 

5. Morning sickness

Some women don’t experience that telltale, queasy feeling commonly known as morning sickness until around a month or two after conception, though for others this symptom may show up as early as two weeks into the pregnancy.

Despite the name, morning sickness doesn’t just happen in the morning; pregnancy-related nausea (with or without vomiting) can hit you at any time of day. Hormones, mainly a rising level of progesterone (though hCG and estrogen also play a role), can cause your stomach to empty more slowly, hence this early pregnancy symptom.

6. Frequent urination

Two to six weeks after conception, you may notice a strong frequent urge to urinate. This increased need to pee is a result of the pregnancy hormone hCG increasing blood flow to your kidneys to help them efficiently rid your body of waste. This symptom is also due to your growing uterus beginning to exert some pressure on your bladder. Frequent urination will continue as your pregnancy progresses.

7. Abdominal bloating

It can be difficult to distinguish between pre-period bloat and early pregnancy bloating, but many women experience this symptom soon after they conceive. You may notice that your clothes feel more snug than usual at the waistline, even early on when your uterus is yet to expand. 

Bloating is caused by the hormone progesterone, which helps to slow down digestion so that the nutrients from the foods you consume can enter your bloodstream and reach your baby more efficiently.

8. Constipation

Bloating is often accompanied by constipation. You can control constipation by incorporating fiber into your diet, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly. 

9. Changes in cervical mucus

An early symptom of pregnancy to look out for is changes in cervical mucus. You may notice that it becomes creamy and stays that way even after ovulation. You may also notice increased vaginal discharge, known as leukorrhea. 

10. Mood swings

Mood swings start as early as four weeks into your pregnancy. They occur partly because of hormonal changes that affect neurotransmitters.  

11. Missed period

If you typically have regular periods, a missed period is a good reason to do a pregnancy test as it may be an early symptom of pregnancy. If you have irregular periods or you don’t keep track of your cycle, you may notice other symptoms first.

Final thoughts

Pregnancy symptoms are different from woman to woman, making it impossible to predict when they will start. For most women, the first sign of pregnancy is usually a missed period. The most common symptoms to follow are fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and frequent urination. These symptoms can be mild or severe. If your pregnancy is confirmed, make a budget for shopping for newborn baby clothes and essential maternity accessories.

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