- Loss of appetite
- Tummy twinges
- Vulva colour
- Excess weeing
- Metallic taste
- Period pain
- Tender breasts
- Missed period
- Morning sickness
- Leg cramps
- Food cravings
- Feeling hot
- Feeling pregnant
- Larger breasts
- Changes in nipples
- Low libido
- Tingling nipples
- Shortness of breath
- Where else to find help
- How can you tell if you’re pregnant?
- How reliable are home pregnancy tests?
- Alternative ways to check for pregnancy
- Can you feel anything in your stomach at 1 week pregnant?
Early signs of pregnancy can be wide and varied but, they are there - you need to know what to look for and that's where we can help.
If you suspect you might be pregnant but it's too early to take a pregnancy test (usually 21 days after unprotected sex), and definitely too early for an ultrasound scan, then look out for the subtle signs of pregnancy that we outline below, such as pregnancy cravings. You know your body better than anyone.
While you think it might be too early to tell a study from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says pregnancy symptoms start to appear five or six weeks after your last menstrual period, showing that people report symptoms as early as 36 days after their last menstrual period.
Early signs and pregnancy symptoms can show as soon as four days after conception. “For most people, one of the early signs of pregnancy is a missed period,” Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife, and co-founder of My Expert Midwife, explains. “Some people feel tired and a little sick before this. It’s these symptoms that are the most common in early pregnancy. They show around six weeks from your last period and improve from about 12 weeks onwards.”
In this article we share insights after consulting with the experts and parents who have been through it, to define the early signs such as morning sickness and other symptoms, and we've listed them below with clear explainers.
Early signs of pregnancy
1. Loss of appetite for favourite foods
Pregnancy can really mess with your eating habits, that’s for sure. As well as pregnancy symptoms such as craving foods you may not usually like, you can actually lose a taste for some foods and drinks that are usually a big part of your normal diet, sometimes put off by their smell. People sometimes go off staples such as coffee, tea, or fatty foods. “Changes in tastes and a heightened sense of smell are very common and can persist throughout pregnancy but do tend to be strongest early on”, Dr Prudence Knight, GP at Lancaster Medical Practice explains.
What else could it be?
- Infection - According to Patient UK, both short and long-term infections can cause loss of appetite. colds, flu, urine infections, chest infections, stomach upsets and similar bugs can often be the culprit. Long-lasting and pre-existing infections the person may have lived with for a long time, can also cause appetite disruption.
- Medication - Many medicines can cause appetite loss, including some antidepressants, those used to treat ADHD, chemotherapy medicines, type 2 diabetes treatments, and strong painkillers.
- Mental health - Conditions such as anxiety and depression can cause low appetite.
- Thyroid problems - Hypothyroidism (where the body doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone) can result in decreased appetite. Any ongoing appetite issues should be discussed with your GP.
2. Weird feeling in stomach like twinges, pinching and pulling
Some people experience a weird feeling in their stomach in the early stages of pregnancy that replicate the sensation of their muscles being pulled and stretched. Sometimes referred to as ‘abdominal twinges’, these tingles are nothing to worry about. About 1 week after conception stomach pain can be felt sometimes.
Layla Rumble, midwife at The Portland Hospital, which is part of HCA Healthcare UK, said, “Abdominal twinges and mild pains are very common during pregnancy and usually nothing to worry about. Twinges and abdominal pain are usually caused by constipation, ligament pain, or trapped wind – all of which are normal parts of pregnancy.
“As pregnancy symptoms go, twinges and pains can be alleviated by regular light exercise, eating smaller, frequent meals, having plenty of fiber-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water to help empty your bladder regularly.
“If you find that you experience intense and ongoing pains or pain accompanied by bleeding, it is important to seek medical advice from your midwife or GP to rule out anything serious,” she adds.
What else could it be?
- Heavy exercise - This could have resulted in muscle strain. Information from the National Library of Medicine suggests that exercise-related abdominal twinges can occur in any region of the abdomen, and can be sharp or stabbing or present as cramping, aching, or pulling.
- Tension - If your workouts have been focussed on ab workouts, the tension in your abdominal region can cause tummy twinges and pinches.
- Digestive issues - Peptic ulcers, celiac disease, gluten intolerance, gastroenteritis, and food poisoning can all result in muscle spasms or twitches.
- Stress - Stress can have a multitude of negative effects on your body, and stomach upsets and unusual feelings in the area can be some of them.
- Hormonal changes - Non-pregnancy-related hormonal changes can mimic pregnancy symptoms, and don’t necessarily mean you’re pregnant.
3. Vulva change in colour
One of the early signs of pregnancy and one of the more subtle pregnancy symptoms can be a change in colour of your vulva and vagina. Your vulva and vagina are usually pink, but this changes to dark purplish-red as your pregnancy progresses. This happens because there is increased blood flow to the area. This change is one that midwives refer to as Chadwick’s sign, sometimes also referred to as Jacquemier’s sign when the vaginal tissue appears bluish in colour. It’s one of several changes that can indicate you are likely pregnant. It usually happens between six to eight weeks after conception.
Registered Midwife Louise Broadbridge says "Pregnancy can bring about lots of changes. Some expected, some not so much. One of the changes that may come as a surprise is a change in colour and or shape of your vulva. The majority of these changes are due to increases in levels of oestrogen and progesterone as this help to increase the blood flow throughout your body - vulva included!
This increase in blood flow may result in your vulva looking slightly swollen and this can last throughout pregnancy. In addition, you may notice that your skin both on the inner and outer labia appears darker in colour and their shape a little different. Added to this the blood vessels in the area may be more prominent due to the increase and various veins are a common side effect of pregnancy."
What else could it be?
- Grooming - All of the maintenance we perform on our vaginal area can contribute to a change in colour. If you have been using razors or hair removal creams you could be suffering from reddening or a rash.
- Washing - Also, watch out for washing products that aren’t sensitive to the hormone balance as this can have an effect too. Look for gentle products to prevent irritation to your vagina.
- Normal changes to the area - Lesley Gilchrist tells us: “This purple-blue discolouration of your vulva (and vagina, which can be seen during an examination) can be observed as early as four weeks of pregnancy but, unless you are regularly looking at your vulva, you may not be aware of it as it won’t feel any different. Although many women experience this change in colouration, the absence of Chadwick’s sign does not mean that you are not pregnant.”
4. Peeing more often
It is possible that in the early stages of pregnancy you might feel an increased need to wee, feeling like you’re forever making trips to the toilet. You could notice this feeling, especially at night time.
Dr Prudence Knight, GP at Lancaster Medical Practice tells us. “As pregnancy symptoms go the need to wee a lot can be common and is caused by changing hormones in the early days, as are tender, swollen breasts which are sensitive when touched.” Plus Medical News Today says that frequent urination in early pregnancy is initially due to increasing levels of progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormones. This need to pass urine more often is mainly noticed during the first trimester, and some might go on to experience urinary incontinence as the foetus grows and presses on the bladder, urethra, and pelvic floor muscles.
What else could it be?
- Drinking too much fluid or caffeine - It is normal to wee between six to eight times in a 24-hour period, if you’re urinating much more often than this it could be that you’re drinking too much fluid or caffeine. Caffeine in particular acts as a bladder irritant, causing increased urination.
- Urinary tract infection - Information from Health Partners states you could also have a bladder infection or be suffering from an overactive bladder. If it’s painful or you have any concerns, speak to a GP about your symptoms.
- Vaginitis - With vaginitis, the vagina or vulva might be inflamed and sore usually due to infection. Frequent urination combined with genital discomfort can be signs of the condition. Vaginal discharges of varying colours might also be present.
- Bladder stones - Although more common in men, bladder stones happens when the body's minerals form clumps in urine. They cause frequent urination, along with burning, and abdominal discomfort.
5. Metallic taste
One of the early signs of pregnancy and one of the stranger pregnancy symptoms could be a strange, sour, slightly metallic taste in your mouth in the early stages. A study shared on Taylor & Francis online showed that this happens because of the pregnancy hormone progesterone which is known as dysgeusia, which is a taste disorder causing an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Experts have discovered that pregnancy hormones play a role in controlling our sense of taste, so they might fluctuate wildly throughout your pregnancy. However, dysgeusia usually disappears after the first trimester. Drinking plenty of water and practicing good oral hygiene can alleviate the symptoms until they disappear by themselves.
What else could it be?
- Gum disease - According to the NHS, gum disease can cause a metallic taste in the mouth - what the person is actually tasting is decay from the bacteria in their mouth.
- Colds or sinus infections - We all know that colds disrupt the senses, and although losing taste can be a side-effect, sometimes colds can make things taste metallic.
- Indigestion - When stomach acids travel back up the esophagus and reach the back of the throat, a bitter and metallic taste can occur - this is called dysgeusia.
- Medications - Some medications cause a metallic taste, but this should disappear when the body metabolises them. There are also serious illnesses that are linked to tasting metal such as problems with your liver or kidneys, so it’s best to speak to a professional if you have any concerns.
Hormonal fluctuation during pregnancy can cause bloating, with Medical News Today suggesting the hormones relax the womb and the digestive muscles, with the resulting slow digestion causing bloating. Slow digestion can also lead to constipation, further increasing the chances of bloating.
Women with an existing diagnosis of IBS could also find pregnancy causes their symptoms to get worse, with increased bloating happening alongside abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea. It is also suggested that heightened emotions and awareness of a changing body can cause women to feel bloating more keenly than they would if not looking out for a pregnancy.
What else could it be?
- Certain foods - Lots of foods can bloat you, so if you’re experiencing this feeling after eating foods such as grains, beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, or even artificial sweeteners it may just be wind.
- Food intolerances - Bloating can also be a sign of food intolerances or conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). If you think it might be IBS, take a look at our IBS symptoms and remedies guide to see if any of this can help to relieve the bloating you’ve been experiencing. A low FODMAP diet is also recommended to alleviate symptoms.
7. Period pain
This is one of the most contradictory pregnancy symptoms but, you may actually get pains that resemble your period around the same time that you are expecting your period. This is one of the less common signs of pregnancy but shouldn’t be discounted. Many people experience this pain as the womb expands, stretching the ligaments as your bump grows to accommodate the baby.
Advice from the NHS says that stomach pains and cramps in pregnancy are common and usually nothing to worry about. They suggest if the pain is mild and goes away if you change position, rest, have a poo or pass wind, they shouldn't be a sign of anything serious. If not caused by stretching ligaments, constipation and trapped wind are often the culprits.
However, if you believe you might be pregnant and experience bleeding or spotting, regular cramping, unusual vaginal discharge, lower back pain, pain or burning when you pass urine, or severe pain or cramping that isn't alleviated after resting for 30 to 60 minutes, you should seek immediate medical advice.
What else could it be?
- Period pains - Muscle cramps in your tummy, back, and thighs can be normal for most women expecting their period; this might mean your period is on its way and you aren't pregnant.
- Exercise - With a lot of women experiencing this kind of pain frequently, if it’s not your period, it could be a result of exercise or overexertion.
- Infection - Our expert Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife says: “Low abdominal cramps can be one of the common pregnancy symptoms felt in the early pregnancy as the womb grows, the ligaments that hold it move and stretch, and there’s increased pressure on your bladder. These pains should ease with rest and a warm hot water bottle or heat pack. Consult with your midwife or doctor if they don’t, so that infection, thrush, or other problems can be excluded.”
8. Tender breasts
As early as 1-2 weeks after conception you might notice a difference in your breasts. Your nipples might be sensitive to the touch, they may be sore or they may change shape and become swollen – meaning your bra might not fit as well as normal. Dr. Knight said: “Your breasts may become sore around the time your period is due and they usually increase in size during early pregnancy.”
Gynecologist and Obstetrician Dr. Nisarg Patel says "Breast tenderness, also known as mastalgia, can be described as a feeling of soreness, discomfort, or pain in the breast tissue. It can affect one or both breasts, and it can vary in intensity and duration."
What else could it be?
- Hormone fluctuations - Dr. Nisarg Patel says "One of the most common causes of breast tenderness is hormonal fluctuations. These can occur during different stages of life, such as puberty, menstruation, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menopause."
- The pill - Breast pain and tenderness can be the result of hormonal birth control. Combination pills are more likely cause breast pain as a side effect. Dr. Nisarg Patel adds "Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can affect the size and sensitivity of the breast tissue, causing swelling, tenderness, and pain. Hormonal fluctuations can also occur due to the use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
- Your period – many early signs of pregnancy are similar to when you’re having a period or are due on.
- Medication - Some antidepressants and other medications can also cause breast pain, so it’s recommended to thoroughly read the enclosed leaflet to learn about side effects.
- Breast injury - Dr. Nisarg Patel syas "Another possible cause of breast tenderness is breast injury. This can happen due to an accident, sports activity, surgery, or trauma to the breast. You may feel a sharp or shooting pain at the time of injury, followed by bruising, swelling, and inflammation. A breast injury can also lead to infection or abscess if not treated properly."
9. Bleeding or 'spotting'
About a week after conception, the embryo pushes itself into the wall of the uterus (or womb), this is known as 'implantation' . This causes some light bleeding or spots of blood to appear in your knickers. You may even get stomach cramps while the embryo is moving.
A recent study shows that vaginal bleeding in the first trimester occurs in about one fourth of pregnancies. And while there is no definitive research proving that bleeding is always implantation, anecdotal reports from pregnant mothers suggests this. Bleeding can spotting can be one of the more confusing pregnancy symptoms.
What else could it be?
- Your period - although some women still get light periods throughout their pregnancy, spotting can still be a sign that your period is coming.
- The pill - Changes with the pill; such as forgetting to take it or taking it during your seven-day break, can result in abnormal bleeding. Dr. Nisarg Patel told us "Hormonal birth control methods such as pills, patches, rings, injections, implants, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can affect your menstrual cycle by altering the levels of estrogen and progesterone in your body. Depending on the type and dose of hormones you use, you may experience lighter, shorter, or less frequent periods. Some women may even stop having periods altogether while using hormonal birth control."
- Infection - Vaginitis and other yeast and bacterial infections can cause light bleeding or spotting between periods and should be treated by your GP.
- Bleeding from sex - This can be a sign of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Vaginal dryness (atrophic vaginitis) can sometimes cause bleeding after sex, and can be mistaken for pregnancy spotting.
- Hormonal changes - An imbalance of hormones can cause spotting, but this usually affects perimenopausal or menopausal women. Thyroid issues can also cause spotting between periods, or the absence of periods altogether.
10. Missed period
This is the most common pregnancy symptom and is usually the first one you might pick up on. It happens around 4-5 weeks after the embryo has attached itself to the wall of the uterus, the wall builds itself up so the embryo is well-cushioned – rather than break down and cause a period.
You can't be pregnant and have a genuine period, but bleeding while can be common during the first trimester of pregnancy. Speaking to Parents, Obstetrician and Gynecologist Michele Hakakha, M.D. said "Pregnant people can certainly have vaginal bleeding during a pregnancy, but when they bleed, they are not having a 'period.'"
She adds "Many people experience something called 'implantation bleeding,' This can occur at the time the fertilized egg, known as the embryo, reaches the uterus and nestles itself into the lining of the uterus."
What else could it be?
- Stress - If you're stressed, this can cause your menstrual cycle to be longer or shorter, or stop periods altogether; they can even become more painful.
- Changing contraception - Some types of contraception will stop your periods altogether, and they can be affected by swapping contraception methods. This shouldn't be a cause for concern, and should return to normal when your body adjusts.
- Weight gain or loss - These can both contribute to changes to your period, including a missed one. It doesn’t automatically mean you’re pregnant, but it’s best to take a test if you want peace of mind either way. Medical Educator Brian Clark told us "If a woman misses her period but is not pregnant, there are several potential causes to consider. Hormonal imbalances, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or thyroid disorders, can disrupt the menstrual cycle. Excessive exercise, sudden weight loss or gain, stress, and certain medications can also affect menstrual regularity. Medical conditions like premature ovarian failure or certain reproductive disorders may lead to missed periods. It is important for individuals experiencing missed periods to consult a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation to determine the underlying cause."
11. Nausea/Morning Sickness
Some people complain of feeling nauseous throughout their whole pregnancy and others manage to escape it, it's one of the more well-recognised pregnancy symptoms. Morning sickness will normally show up between 2-8 weeks into your pregnancy. One theory is that it is caused by an increase in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone apparently softens the muscles in the uterus ready for labour but it also softens the stomach muscles causing nausea and sickness.
Dr Prudence Knight, GP at Lancaster Medical Practice tells us “Morning sickness is also common and can take on several forms for different people, such as feeling nauseous at certain times of the day or all day. Vomiting, dizziness, or a combination of all these things.
What else could it be?
- Food poisoning - Feeling nauseous can last for some time after food poisoning.
- Stress - Nausea can be one way your body reacts to feelings of stress, due to hormonal changes and fight or flight responses. Dr. Nisarg Patel had some insights regarding this issue, saying "Stress and anxiety are common causes of nausea in women of childbearing age who are not pregnant. When we experience acute stress or anxiety, our bodies produce hormones that can cause us to feel nauseous. Finding ways to cope with stress and anxiety is important, and your Dr can help with this."
- Generalised stomach upsets - other stomach upsets can also cause you to feel queasy. Dr. Nisarg Patel spoke to us about this issue, saying "Digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers, or acid reflux could also be causing your nausea. Your Dr can help diagnose any underlying issues and prescribe medications to manage symptoms. Additionally, making changes in diet such as limiting processed foods and avoiding trigger foods can help reduce symptoms."
12. Fatigue and tiredness
Feeling more tired is one of the early pregnancy symptoms that can also start as early as the first week and is because your body is working overtime to get ready for the baby.
Layla Rumble adds, “Pregnancy is a tiring process and can take its toll on energy levels as your body changes. Therefore, it is very common to feel tired and exhausted during pregnancy, particularly during the first trimester when your hormones fluctuate the most.
The rapid increase in oestrogen levels in the first trimester, along with a constantly increased level of progesterone hormones throughout pregnancy, play a significant role in the onset of most pregnancy symptoms, including fatigue.”
What else could it be?
- Psychological - According to the NHS, unexplained tiredness is one of the most common reasons people see their GP. The causes can be psychological, physical, and lifestyle related. Common psychological causes include stress, emotional shock, depression and anxiety.
- Physical - Although physical causes require further investigation, the report suggests the biggest causes of unexplained tiredness to be iron deficiency anaemia, hypothyroidism, and sleep apnoea.
- Lifestyle - these causes are often related to the busy world we live in, that doesn't allow us to easily switch off. Being busy can cause people to consume too much alcohol or caffeine, and replace nutritious meals with sugary and high-fat snacks. Alcohol, caffeine and too much or too little exercise are cited as the main causes of unexplained lifestyle-related fatigue. If not related to pregnancy, unexplained fatigue should always be discussed with your GP.
While having backache is one of the very common pregnancy symptoms, usually felt in the later stages of pregnancy due to the extra weight, it can also be one of the early signs of pregnancy. The ache will be similar to the stomach cramps and aches you get when you’re on your period. And it’s just because your body is getting ready for the baby.
Early pregnancy backache occurs because the ligaments in your body automatically respond to a pregnancy by becoming softer and stretchy, to prepare your body for labour. This extra stretchiness can put strain on lower back joints and the pelvis, resulting in lower back pain.
Medical Educator Brian Clark tells us "During early pregnancy, women may experience backaches due to various factors. One common cause is hormonal changes, particularly the increase in the hormone relaxin, which loosens ligaments and joints in preparation for childbirth. This hormonal shift can lead to strain on the back muscles and cause discomfort. As the uterus expands, it can place pressure on the back, contributing to backache."
What else could it be?
- Your period - According to Healthline, lower backache specific to women, can be a sign that your period is due to start. It is also commonly associated with endometriosis, a condition where tissues lining the uterus grow outside of it instead; lower back and pelvic pain are some of the most common symptoms of the condition.
- Musculoskeletal problems - can also cause lower back pain, including muscle strain, sciatica, herniated discs or disc degeneration. Treatments for the pain depends on the underlying cause, and in many cases your GP can easily treat it. If your symptoms don't improve or suddenly get worse, a follow up with your GP for further investigation and treatment will be required. Brian Clark says "It's important to note that backaches are not exclusive to pregnancy. If not pregnant, backache can be related to multiple factors, such as poor posture, muscle strain, spinal conditions, kidney infections, or other underlying medical conditions. It is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the exact cause of backache in non-pregnant individuals."
14. Leg cramps
As pregnancy symptoms go, it’s quite common for people to suffer from leg cramps during pregnancy and you might notice it a lot more in the early stages. According to a Harvard study, this has been linked to having less calcium in your blood because it’s being taken by the baby.
Dr. Nisarg Patel told us "Leg cramping during early pregnancy is quite common – in fact, as many as 70% of women experience them at some point in their first trimester. This happens because your body is undergoing a lot of hormonal changes, which can lead to an imbalance in electrolytes such as magnesium and calcium. This imbalance can cause your muscles to spasm or cramp, leading to leg cramps."
What else could it be?
- Muscle strain - Putting too much strain on leg muscles or a heavy leg day at the gym, can result in leg cramps.
- Being cold - Being cold especially at night, can cause the muscles in your legs to tense and spasm.
- Dehydration - The fluids you drink allow your muscles to relax, and if they become dehydrated, cramping can occur.
- Sitting still - Long periods of sitting can leave muscles in the same position for too long, leading to spasm and cramping. If you sit for long periods of time, try and factor in time to move around if possible. Dr. Nisarg Patel weighed in on the other potential factors for us, letting us know "Common medical conditions like arthritis, restless legs syndrome, and dehydration can also result in painful leg cramping. Additionally, if she has recently started any new medications or supplements that could affect her levels of calcium or magnesium, these too could be contributing factors."
A study by Stanford Medicine suggests the precise cause of early pregnancy headaches isn't clear. In the first trimester, fluctuating hormones levels and blood volume may be responsible. Dull overall headaches can be accompanied by stress and fatigue, while sinus are often linked to the nasal congestion and runny nose common to early pregnancy.
Hunger and low blood sugar can also trigger headaches, and suddenly stopping coffee can cause withdrawal headaches. Women suffering nausea and vomiting can also become dehydrated, also bringing on headaches. The risk of migraine can also increase during pregnancy, sometimes along with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.
What else could it be?
- Tension - The NHS has extensive advice on the causes of headaches outside of pregnancy. Tension headaches are one of them; these are common and can be treated at home. However, you'll need to see a GP if you experience them frequently, or they become more severe.
- Dehydration - When dehydration occurs, your brain and other tissues shrink and as your brain shrinks, it moves away from the skull. This places pressure on nerves and causes headaches.
- Eye strain - This can cause discomfort and headaches and is caused by improper focusing. Headaches can also be triggered by too much screen time.
- Alcohol - Alcohol is a diuretic and quickly leads to dehydration and resulting headaches.
- Changes to routine - Something as simple as changing your routine can result in a headache; if you’re concerned about the number of headaches you’re getting, speak to a GP.
16. Food cravings
Having random pregnancy cravings is another one of the most common early signs and pregnancy symptoms. It’s caused by your body craving what it needs. Some people say they crave mud when they’re pregnant, and this may be due to a lack of iron in their blood. Others want combinations like fish and ice cream. This could be because of a lack of protein and sugar.
It doesn’t necessarily mean your cravings will be weird and wonderful though, just a craving for cheese could mean you need more calcium, especially if it’s linked with your cramps. This can start early on and last throughout your pregnancy. While you should give in to these cravings and listen to your body if you can, do it safely and ask your Dr or midwife if ever you’re unsure.
Dr. Nisarg Patel offered his insights on the matter, saying "There are several potential explanations for why pregnant women experience food cravings. One is believed to be hormones; during pregnancy, a woman’s body produces more estrogen and progesterone, which can trigger cravings for certain foods.
Also, a pregnant woman’s sense of taste and smell can become heightened due to changes in her hormones. This could lead to an increased desire for certain flavors or smells that she might not have noticed before.
Another possible cause of food cravings during pregnancy is the body’s need for nutrition due to the growth of the baby. Pregnant women are advised to get adequate amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients through their diets-- it could be that their bodies are sending signals that they need these nutrients if they are craving particular foods."
What else could it be?
- Poor diet - Healthline have identified a number of physical and mental reasons for food cravings. Predominantly, lack of a certain nutrient could mean your body starts craving that certain food. Be aware that craving sugar can be a sign of diabetes, along with frequent urination and fatigue - consult a GP if you are concerned.
- Stress - persistent stress causes adrenal glands to release cortisol, in turn increasing appetite and the motivation to eat. If stress isn't alleviated, the constant need to eat can remain.
- Depression - Craving comfort foods is common when you're depressed, offering a quick fix to lift your mood.
17. Feeling hot
You might not even notice the difference yourself, but if you’re trying for a baby you may have been charting your basal body temperature. This is the temperature of your body at rest. Throughout your cycle, your body temperature fluctuates and if it has been high for 18 days or more, it’s likely that you’re pregnant. The normal temperature is 96-98°F and when you are ovulating or pregnant, it may be around 97-99°F.
Dr. Nisarg Patel tells us that feeling hot during early pregnancy is normal. He said "Feeling hot during pregnancy is normal, as your body undergoes many physical, hormonal, and metabolic changes to support your growing baby. Some of the factors that contribute to feeling hot during pregnancy are Increased blood volume; Your blood volume increases by up to 50% during pregnancy, which can cause your blood vessels to dilate and make you feel warmer.
Increased metabolic rate - your body needs more energy and calories to nourish your baby, which can raise your basal body temperature and make you sweat more. Hormonal fluctuations - the changes in your estrogen and progesterone levels can affect your body's temperature regulation and cause hot flashes or sudden bursts of heat."
What else could it be?
- Illness - Your temperature is likely to rise if you’re feeling unwell with a cold or the flu or other infection causing a spike in temperature. Dr. Nisarg Patel says "If you have a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, along with other symptoms such as chills, headache, sore throat, cough, or body aches, you may have an infection that needs treatment."
- Your period - Temperature fluctuations are normal during different stages of your cycle.
- Hormonal changes - Changes to hormones can make your body more sensitive to even the slightest changes in body temperature, causing you to be aware that you feel very hot.
18. 'Feeling' pregnant
Many people will notice that they feel uterine cramping as one of the early signs of pregnancy. You could even feel period-like cramps or even pain on one side. The most common reason for this kind of cramp is that your uterus is growing. This is normal pain and should be expected in a healthy pregnancy. You may also feel ‘full’ or ‘heavy’ around your uterus, and actually, it’s not uncommon to hear that in early pregnancy some people describe feeling like they were about to start their period any minute.
What else could it be?
- Your period - If you are due on your period you may get pre-menstrual cramps.
- Medical issues - The Cleveland Clinic states that conditions such as uterine tumours, menopause or other cancer can cause changes to hormone levels. These changes can mimic pregnancy symptoms such as absent periods, tiredness or weight gain.
- False pregnancy - Sometimes those trying for a baby might become so consumed with the idea of being pregnant, they manifest pregnancy symptoms - this is called pseudocyesis.
19. Larger breasts
You might already know that one of the early signs of pregnancy, and one of the more common pregnancy symptoms many people experience is changes to their breast tissue. Towards the end of the first trimester or the beginning of the second trimester, you may notice that your breasts begin to grow. This is because the tissues inside the breast are preparing for nursing.
Dr. Nisarg Patel expanded on this for us, explaining "The primary cause of enlarged breasts during pregnancy is the increased production of hormones in a woman’s body, particularly progesterone and estrogen. These hormones help to prepare your body for breastfeeding, so it is perfectly normal for your breasts to grow larger when you are pregnant. Other symptoms that may be associated with breast enlargement include tenderness and soreness."
He adds "Another potential cause of enlarged breasts during pregnancy is fluid retention. When our bodies are stress, they release certain hormones that lead to the storage of excess water in our cells and tissues. This can result in swollen breast tissue. Fortunately, this type of swelling usually goes away after delivery or can be managed through lifestyle changes such as drinking more water or doing light exercise on a regular basis."
What else could it be?
- Your period - Breast tenderness and swelling can be another sign that you’re expecting your period.
- Foods and drinks - Some with high levels of caffeine or salt can cause breast swelling.
- Medications - Contraceptive medications can cause increased breast size.
- Breast cancer - Katie Clark from The Breastfeeding Mama shared insights on the reasons breast tenderness is related to non-pregnancy issues. She said "Tender breasts isn't typically a symptom of breast cancer, but it can be related to inflammatory breast cancer in rare situations."
- Fibrocystic breast disease - noncancerous lumps can develop in your breasts and cause swelling. Any changes you are concerned about should be seen straight away by your GP.
20. Changes in nipples
You may notice changes in your nipples as one of the early signs of pregnancy. They may also become larger and darker as your pregnancy progresses. You may also notice small, goosebump or pimple-like white areas on your areola, but don’t panic, these are totally normal. They’re called Montgomery’s tubercles.
Dr. Nisarg Patel tells us "One of the main causes of nipple changes during early pregnancy is hormonal changes. Pregnancy hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, increase the blood flow and sensitivity of the breasts and nipples. This can result in soreness and tenderness; many pregnant women experience sore or tender nipples as one of the first signs of pregnancy. This can start as early as one or two weeks after conception and last until the end of the first trimester or longer. The nipples may feel sensitive or painful to touch, especially when wearing tight clothing or bras."
"Enlargement can occur - the breasts and nipples may also grow larger during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. This is due to the development of the milk ducts and glands that prepare the breasts for lactation. Some women may need to buy new bras or use breast pads to accommodate their changing sizes."
What else could it be?
- Cancer - Changes in nipples should be examined as part of your regular check against breast cancer, follow these easy steps to checking your breasts for peace of mind. Dr. Nisarg Patel advises "If the nipples bleed or develop crusty sores, it could indicate a rare form of breast cancer called Paget's disease of the nipple. This type of cancer affects the skin cells of the nipple and areola and can cause itching, burning, scaling, or ulceration. It may also be associated with a lump in the breast or underarm. Paget's disease requires surgery and other treatments depending on the stage and extent of the cancer."
- Ageing - Changing estrogen levels can cause normal changes to the nipple size and appearance.
- Weight loss - It might seem strange, but losing weight can also change the size and appearance of your areolas.
21. Low libido
It’s common to suffer from a low libido during the early stages of pregnancy. Your breasts may be sensitive, causing you a bit of pain, plus feeling nauseous and tired could reduce your sexual appetite.
Dr. Nisarg Patel says "The most common cause of low libido in early pregnancy is hormonal changes. The hormone progesterone increases significantly during the first trimester, which can lead to fatigue and a decrease in sexual desire. Other hormones like estrogen can also contribute to a decrease in libido, as they can cause vaginal dryness and reduce your interest in sex."
He adds "Another common cause of low libido is the physical side effects that come with pregnancy. Morning sickness, fatigue, and swelling of the ankles and feet are all very common and can lead to decreased energy levels which may affect your sex drive. Also, many women experience changes in their body image during pregnancy which can reduce their level of sexual arousal."
What else could it be?
- Exhaustion - There are lots of reasons why you have gone off sex, and exhaustion is a common one - nobody is in the mood when all they want to do is sleep.
- Stress - Chronic stress can alter hormone levels, and result in a low libido. It is also a distracting emotion that can take your mind off wanting sex.
- Vaginal dryness - This will make sex uncomfortable, resulting inevitably in you not wanting it.
- Hormones - Lower hormones as you age can lower your desire for sex.
- Medication - Some medicines for high blood pressure and depression are known to lower libido.
- Contraception - Some pills, patches and the implant can have similar side effects.
- Alcohol - Too much of it can dampen that desire.
- Long-term conditions - Living such conditions can cause physical and emotional reasons for not wanting sex.
22. Tingling nipples
Some people get a tingling feeling in their nipples as one of the early signs of pregnancy. The surge in hormones in your body causes an increased blood supply to your breasts, which causes this tingling sensation.
Dr. Nisarg Patel says "Some pregnant women may feel a tingling sensation in their nipples. This is also related to the increased blood flow and hormonal activity in the breast tissue. It is usually harmless and temporary, but it can be annoying for some women."
What else could it be?
- Your period - Your menstrual cycle appears to be responsible for a lot.
- Infection - Conditions such as thrush of the nipple area can cause tingling. Dr Nisarg Patel felt it's important to add "If only one nipple or areola changes in size, color, shape, or texture or feeling, it could indicate an underlying problem such as a benign tumor, a cyst, or a ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). A benign tumor is a noncancerous growth that can cause pain or discomfort. A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can cause lumpiness or tenderness. A DCIS is a precancerous condition that involves abnormal cells in the lining of the milk ducts. These conditions require further tests and treatments depending on their nature and severity."
23. Shortness of breath
In the early stages of pregnancy, an increase of progesterone in your body causes you to breathe more often, which can feel like shortness of breath. You’ll also increase the amount of air you take in with each breath. The feeling might be a bit unusual, but it’s usually harmless.
Dr. Nisarg Patel offered some explanations, saying "There are several potential causes of shortness of breath during early pregnancy. One common cause is lower levels of oxygen due to hormonal changes in the body. As your uterus expands to accommodate your growing baby, it may push on your diaphragm and lungs, making it more difficult for you to breathe deeply.
Increased levels of progesterone can also lead to breathing difficulties as it relaxes the smooth muscles in your airways which can cause a feeling of breathlessness. Changes in blood volume and circulation may also be a factor. Another common cause of shortness of breath during early pregnancy is anxiety or stress.
Stress hormones like adrenaline can speed up your heart rate, causing you to take shallow breaths that don't provide enough oxygen to your body. Anxiety can also cause tightness in your chest, making it harder to take a full breath. Finally, anemia can cause shortness of breath during early pregnancy due to low iron levels. Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout your body."
What else could it be?
- Chest infections - Your airways can become swollen, or fluids can build up in your chest leaving you short of breath.
- Colds - Colds can have a similar effect to chest infections.
- Allergies - These can cause distinct disruptions to your airways, impacting the ability to breath.
- Anxiety disorders - Fight-or-flight mode releases adrenaline causing body temperature to rise. Extra oxygen is sent to your muscles, resulting in shortness of breath. If this symptom is impacting your daily life you should speak to a professional about it. Dr Nisarg Patel advises "If you're still having difficulty breathing, talk to your doctor about other potential treatments such as medications or therapy. They can work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses the underlying causes of your breathlessness."
Where else to find help
If you have any concerns at any stage of your pregnancy or need further information, see your midwife, GP or visit the NHS' page on signs and symptoms of pregnancy.
How can you tell if you’re pregnant?
The most effective way to confirm you’re pregnant is via a pregnancy test. These can be bought for at-home use, or you can take a test at your GP’s office. Pregnancy tests check for the presence of the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), in your urine, which the body produces after you conceive.
GP’s can also test for pregnancy via a blood test, as they can check for the hormone in your blood as well as urine. Blood tests can tell if you are pregnant about six to eight days after you ovulate.
How reliable are home pregnancy tests?
According to the NHS, home pregnancy tests are reliable as long as you follow the instructions correctly. It may not be reliable if you didn’t follow instructions or you’ve taken the test too early.
Most pregnancy tests can be taken after the first missed period, with any tests taken before this time running the risk of being inaccurate. Professionals also recommend avoiding drinking too much fluid ahead of doing a test, as it can dilute the level of HGC.
Negative tests may not be reliable if you’ve taken it too early, as the level of HGC might not be enough at the time of taking it. Tests can also vary in their sensitivity and so it’s recommended you read instructions thoroughly before using one, as there’s no guarantee each one will be the same.
Alternative ways to check for pregnancy
If you don’t want to buy a test yet, there are other ways you can find out whether it’s likely you’re pregnant or not. But keep in mind that this is in no way accurate, and pregnancy tests are the best way to confirm your pregnancy.
All of the symptoms listed above can be early signs of pregnancy, but don’t always mean that you are. If you’re experiencing several of them at once, it could be a sign that it’s time to take a test.
Clearblue has a free online quiz which asks you about any symptoms, as well as what contraceptives you’ve been using, if applicable. It takes minutes and they can give you advice on whether or not to use one of their tests.
You also know your own body better than anyone, so you might identify significant changes to your mood, physical changes to your body especially around the stomach. If you have regular periods, any changes to that routine could indicate you’re expecting too.
Can you feel anything in your stomach at 1 week pregnant?
Most people have no pregnancy symptoms at week 1, while others may experience symptoms such as fatigue, breast tenderness, and mild cramping within the first 5-6 days after unprotected sex, all bodies are different and to be sure, leave it 21 days after unprotected sex before taking a test.
Important terminology explained
- ADHD - Short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD is a condition where a person ca be restless and having trouble concentrating. Symptoms include a short attention span, fidgeting and acting without thinking.
- Antidepressants - A class of medications used to treat major depressive and anxiety disorders. They can also be used in the treatment of chronic pain, and addiction.
- Anxiety - A feeling of unease, worry or fear, ranging from mild to severe.
- Bladder stones - Hard lumps of minerals that form inside the bladder when it's not completely empty. They may not cause symptoms if small enough to be passed through the bladder when you pee.
- Celiac Disease - A condition where your immune system attacks your own tissues after eating gluten, preventing you from taking in nutrients. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach aches and bloating, and the condition is treated with a gluten-free diet.
- Chadwick's Sign - A non-specific, early sign of pregnancy typically characterised by a bluish discoloration of the cervix, vagina, and vulva. This usually presents six to eight weeks after conception, usually disappearing shortly after birth.
- Chemotherapy - A type of cancer treatment using anti-cancer drugs as part of a regimen to cure cancer, prolong life or reduce symptoms.
- Constipation - Where you find it hard to pass stools or pass them less often than usual.
- Depression - A low mood that lasting for weeks or months and affecting your daily life. Symptoms include feeling unhappy or hopeless, low self-esteem and difficulty finding pleasure in your activities.
- Disc degeneration - When your spinal discs wear down - these are the cushions between your vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and help you move, bend and twist. Degeneration is a normal part of aging.
- Dysgeusia - A taste disorder where people feel that all foods taste sour, sweet, bitter or metallic.
- Fibrocystic breast disease - A common and benign change within the breast, where breast tissue becomes dense or bumpy.
- Gastroenteritis - inflammation of the stomach and intestines usually from bacterial or viral infection, causing vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Gluten intolerance - Another term for Celiac Disease.
- Gum disease - Characterised by red and swollen gums. Symptoms include bleeding gums, swollen gums and bad breath.
- Herniated disc - A slipped or prolapsed disc, where the cushion of tissue between the bones in your spine pushes out of place.
- Hypothyroidism - An underactive thyroid condition where your thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Symptoms include feeling tired all the time, weight gain and feeling cold.
- IBS - Short for irritable bowel syndrome, IBS is a common condition affecting the digestive system. Symptoms include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation to varying degrees and length of time.
- Implantation - The stage of embryonic development where the blastocyst hatches, attaches, adheres, and invades into the wall of the female's uterus.
- Indigestion - The name given to symptoms like heartburn and bloating that happen after eating. Symptoms include heartburn, bloating and feeling sick.
- Iron deficiency anemia - A condition where a lack of iron results in a reduction in the number of red blood cells.
- Jacquemier's sign - A purplish discolouration of the mucous membrane of the vagina occurring early in pregnancy.
- Libido - The psychological drive or energy to engage in sexual activity.
- Menopause - When a woman stops having periods, usually occurring between 45 and 55 years old.
- Morning sickness - A type of nausea affecting pregnant women, typically occurring in the first few months. It can affect women at any time of day, not just the morning.
- Peptic ulcers - A lesion in the lining of the digestive tract, caused by the digestive action of pepsin and stomach acid.
- Pseudocyesis - A condition where a person has all signs and symptoms of pregnancy with no foetus present.
- Sciatica - Pain caused by an irritated nerve, usually affecting one side starting from the lower back or bottom and spreading down one leg.
- Sinus infection - Where the sinuses become swollen, usually caused by an infection.
- Sleep apnoea - When your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.
- Thrush - A yeast or fungal infection that can affect the vagina and vulva.
- Type 2 diabetes - A condition that causes too much sugar in your blood, causing serious health problems if not treated.
- UTI - Short for urinary tract infection, this is an infection of your bladder, kidneys or the tubes connected to them.
- Vaginitis - Soreness and swelling in and around the vagina, often caused by an infection or irritation.
- Vulva - Term describing all structures forming the female external genitalia. These are the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibular bulbs, vulva vestibule, Bartholin's glands, Skene's glands, urethra, and vaginal opening.
Goodto's panel of experts:
Lesley is a highly qualified registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife who has worked in some of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe. She has extensive experience as a labour ward co-ordinator and as a community midwife, and is now an expert in pregnancy, childbirth and postnatal care, with a particular interest in birth trauma.