Pregnancy symptoms - early signs of pregnancy

Woman taking pregnancy test

Early pregnancy symptoms, in the first four weeks after ovulation, might include tingling or sore breasts, general fatigue or even a strange taste in your mouth. But the very earliest signs you might be pregnant are many and varied. Here are some to look out for.

First signs of pregnancy | Common pregnancy symptoms | Unusual pregnancy symptoms | No symptoms – could I be pregnant?

What are the first signs of pregnancy?

Hormonal changes in the first two weeks following conception can cause lots of early stage symptoms that might just tip you off before you've been anywhere near a pregnancy test, though it's important to note that not all women will experience (or notice!) them. The most common signs that you could be pregnant include:

  • A sharp, but not painful, feeling in your lower abdomen, which may be the fertilised egg burrowing into the womb lining (known as implantation)
  • Slight spotting or bleeding , often brown in colour. This is also caused by implantation of the fertilised egg, and is known as implantation bleeding
  • Extreme tiredness or feeling like you’re coming down with a virus
  • Sore boobs – either a feeling of ‘heaviness’, that makes it uncomfortable when you take your bra off, or a tingling sensation in the nipples
  • A dull back ache, like period pain
  • A slight increase or change in cervical mucus (it’s often thinner and there’s more of it)
  • Heightened sense of smell, or sensitivities to certain smells – coffee is a common one
  • A funny taste in your mouth, often described as metallic
  • Suddenly getting spots or, if you usually suffer with spots or acne, they might suddenly clear up
  • Dizziness
  • Flushes

Confusingly, lots of these symptoms could as easily be signs of your period arriving, and there’s no way to be certain until you get a positive pregnancy test. However, some women report ‘just knowing’ they were pregnant and even being aware of when the embryo implanted.

How soon can you find out if you are pregnant?

You can take a pregnancy test the week after your missed period, which will give you an accurate result. If you can't wait that long, you can take one a couple of weeks after having sex, but may not get a reliable result. The good news, however, is that a positive result during this period is much more reliable than a negative one, so be sure to take another test after your missed period, just to be certain. If you’re finding the not knowing agonising, read more about the two-week wait and early symptoms to pass the time.

The very earliest you are likely to experience any signs of pregnancy is when the embryo implants around five to 10 days after ovulation. If you listen to the apocryphal tales, however, there will always be someone telling you they ‘just knew’ they were pregnant, practically before they’d put their underwear back on.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy at four weeks?

Later on, after the time your period is due, you might experience some of these common early signs of pregnancy:

I had period-like cramps, ironically. I was down in the dumps because I thought my period was on the way. But it never surfaced and I did a pregnancy test instead.
  • Your period being late (rather obviously)
  • Darkened nipples – turning from pink to light brown
  • Nausea or morning sickness – you might start feeling queasy at about six weeks pregnant but it could be as early as two weeks sometimes. It can also hit at any time of the day or night (deep joy), but don't worry – it's usually gone by 16 weeks
  • Needing to urinate frequently, usually after around six weeks of pregnancy
  • Headaches
  • Feeling very emotional or crying a lot
  • Being very hungry or having loss of appetite
  • Heartburn is usually something that plagues women in later pregnancy but changing hormones can cause heartburn in the early stages of pregnancy, too.

Woman with headache - pregnancy symptoms

Unusual pregnancy symptoms

Some signs of early pregnancy sound utterly baffling but plenty of women report the same weird and wonderful experiences. These are a few common, but nonetheless strange, signs of pregnancy:

  • Burping more than usual
    I had a horrible taste in my mouth, I couldn't eat garlic or drink Coke.
  • Suddenly becoming travel sick
  • Having very vivid dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Cramps in the legs
  • Hip ache
  • A bright red rash, which can be an oestrogen surge
  • A blocked or runny nose
  • Gagging when brushing your teeth
  • Excess saliva or a dry mouth
  • Constipation (and, conversely, diarrhoea)
  • Feeling sensitive to particular colours – some women report certain hues actually make them feel sick
  • A strange smell to your urine
  • Just ’knowing’. Lots of women experience a weird sense of just feeling a bit different. Spooky.

Can pregnancy symptoms come and go?

Yes. It’s actually quite normal and your symptoms could change week by week. Hormone levels are fluctuating and your body is getting used to them and then needing to ‘catch up’ again.

It’s true that often when you have a miscarriage your symptoms of pregnancy will disappear, but it also happens often for no reason whatsoever, so unless you have other cause for concern it’s best to try not to worry. Easier said than done, we know.

Could I be imagining my symptoms?

Yes, unfortunately. If you’re trying to conceive, you obviously are hoping to notice symptoms and it’s very easy to get carried away and convince yourself you are pregnant. It’s also true that early pregnancy symptoms mirror the symptoms of PMS (nausea, cramps, light bleeding, feeling emotional) and it’s virtually impossible to distinguish between the two because of the pregnancy hormone, progesterone, which is present in higher levels in the period following ovulation – whether you are pregnant or not. Think of it as nature’s somewhat annoying way of keeping you on your toes (or just prolonging the agony).

Could I be pregnant but have no symptoms?

It’s entirely possible to have few or no symptoms of pregnancy, or for symptoms to be very mild. Lots of women have no real symptoms until around week eight and then they disappear again as soon as the placenta kicks in, not long after. If you’re just a bit run down anyway, you could easily miss signs that hint at pregnancy.

Bear in mind that not everyone is reaching straight for the sick bucket and sleeping the clock round moments after the egg is fertilised. Just think how many women get to the second trimester with no idea they were pregnant at all!

It’s understandable to worry if you’ve got a positive pregnancy test but, weeks later, feel no different. Talk to your midwife or GP if you’re really concerned, but otherwise just try to think that you’re one of the lucky ones.

Can pregnancy symptoms tell you whether you are having a boy or a girl?

No, but it is fun to try guessing! Lots of women anecdotally report having more sickness with a girl than they did with a boy, which is thought to be because of the slightly increased levels of oestrogen when carrying a girl. But if you’re much more sick in this pregnancy than during a previous one, chances are the only thing it might ‘mean’ is that you’re carrying twins.

Here are a few more old wives’ tales (just for fun) about pregnancy symptoms that are said to indicate the sex of your baby in early pregnancy:

  • Sugary cravings mean a girl, savoury a boy
  • Cold feet indicates a boy
  • Glowing skin and glossy hair is a boy

And finally, our favourite…

  • If your left breast is larger than the right it’s a girl, if the right one is bigger it’s a boy.

Like we said, fun to think about but don’t go putting any money on it.

How can I know for sure I’m pregnant?

A pregnancy test (either a home pregnancy test or one carried out by your GP) is the only way to get a surefire answer, especially if your periods are usually irregular, in which case a missed period could be hard to spot. It’s easy to convince yourself you’re pregnant when in fact all your ‘symptoms’ could simply herald the arrival of your period. If you get a negative pregnancy test and your period doesn’t arrive, repeat the test a week later.

If you have a positive pregnancy test, congratulations! Time to start reading up on the dos and don'ts of pregnancy, continue taking your folic acid and perhaps, rather excitingly, start sharing tips and stories with other women at your stage of pregnancy in Mumsnet Talk’s antenatal clubs.

Try to see your doctor or a midwife as soon as possible – the first of your antenatal appointments is known as a booking appointment and usually takes place between eight and 12 weeks. At this appointment, you’ll be asked a lot of questions about your health and cycle, and given information about screening and scans.

Mumsnetters describe their pregnancy symptoms

Woman early pregnancy talks to nurse

  • “Needing to pee, all the time.”
  • “Burping and feeling generally washed out.”
  • “Murderous, splitting headache about 10 days after ovulation.”
  • “Everything smelled strange, then cigarettes became the work of the devil.”
  • “My nipples were darker and a bit bumpy.”
  • “A vivid red, sore and itchy rash on my arms and legs, which I put down to putting on sunscreen too soon after shaving my legs, but my GP spotted as an oestrogen surge.”
  • “Late period followed by a positive pregnancy test. Mine's not very original, is it?”