Woman with stomach ache

Early signs of pregnancy

Early pregnancy symptoms, in the first four weeks after ovulation, might include tingling boobs, tiredness or even a strange taste in your mouth. But the very earliest signs you might be pregnant are many and varied.

What are the first signs of pregnancy?

Hormonal changes can cause lots of pregnancy symptoms from the early days. The most commonly experienced hints 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), also caused by implantation of the fertilised egg
  • 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
  • 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

Irritatingly, lots of these symptoms could as easily be symptoms of your period being imminent, 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.

If you’re finding the not knowing agonising, read more about the two-week wait and early pregnancy symptoms to pass the time.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy at four weeks?

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

  • Your period being late (rather obviously)
  • Darkened nipples – turning from pink to light brown
  • Nausea or morning sickness – this more usually kicks in at about six weeks pregnant but can be earlier
  • Needing to urinate frequently
  • 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 hormone changes can cause heartburn early on, too

Woman with headache

What is the earliest you can have pregnancy symptoms?

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, there will always be someone telling you they ‘just knew’ they were pregnant, practically before they’d put their underwear back on, however.

Weird 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
  • A bright red rash, which can be an oestrogen surge
  • Suddenly becoming travel sick
  • Having very vivid dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Cramps in the legs
  • Hip ache
  • 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 nauseous
  • A strange smell to your urine
  • Just ’knowing’. Lots of women report a weird sense of just feeling a bit different. Spooky.

Can pregnancy symptoms come and go?

Yes. It’s actually quite normal and your pregnancy 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.

Could I be imagining my pregnancy 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. Think of it as nature’s way of keeping you on your toes (or just prolonging the agony).

Can you be pregnant but have no pregnancy 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.

Should you find you don’t escape scot-free, try these tips for coping with pregnancy sickness.

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. If you’re much more sick in this pregnancy than your last though, 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 kit or at your GPs) is the only way to get a surefire answer. 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 talks to nurse

  • “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.”
  • “So tired I kept falling asleep during the day.”
  • “Needing to pee, all the time.”
  • “Horrible taste in my mouth, I couldn't eat garlic or drink coke.”
  • “I went off my wine. VERY unusual.”
  • “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.”
  • “Nipples 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?”