Weird, Early Symptoms of Pregnancy Before Your Missed Period
The nervous two-week wait before a pregnancy test is a rite of passage for women. Whether you're praying for a positive or crossing your fingers that it's just really bad PMS, read on and entertain or torture yourself with these weird, early symptoms that sometimes mean pregnancy (and sometimes don't...).
When to Call Your Doctor
Hey, I'm just like you, I Google 100% of everything before I take it up with my doctor—much to her chagrin. Still, this article is not meant to be used as a tool for diagnosis. Always consult a physician for medical advice and if you're feeling unwell, having strange symptoms after unprotexted sex, or have questions about your fertility you should definitely call your doctor.
12 Weird Early Symptoms of Pregnancy
Overview of Early Pregnancy Signs
- You feel like you have a cold
- Food tastes different than it normally does
- Sudden intolerance to smoke and caffeine
- Nausea and gagging
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling extra sad or anxious
- Increased sense of smell
- Swollen breasts and breast pain
#1: Feeling Like You're Coming Down with a Cold
Reaching for the tissues in June? Early pregnancy (annnnd, well, the whole pregnancy) can cause rhinitis of pregnancy which is basically a stuffed up, runny nose that can also lead to a scratchy throat. Why? The extra estrogen that surges during pregnancy can cause an increase in congestion and the extra blood flow (yep, pregnancy creates more blood!) also contributes to swelling in the sinuses.
Later, the drippity drop of mucous may also make morning sickness and nausea worse. Yay.
If constantly dabbing at your nose with a kleenex is irritating the skin around it grab gentle lotion or chapstick and apply it to the affected areas during your bedtime routine.
#2: Everything Tastes Either Incredible or Incredibly Awful
Suddenly it tastes like your fruit salad from the deli has been seasoned with an entire shaker of salt and your tongue is on fire after eating licorice and all you can think about at 3 AM is that can of Spaghetti-Os in the pantry. Why does this happen in early pregnancy? It's probably safe to chalk it up to rapidly changing-hormones but no one really knows for sure. The good news is that this symptom usually disappears in the second trimester.
#3: Sudden Intolerance for Smoke and Caffeine
Smells or tastes that you once enjoyed can suddenly send your stomach lurching thanks to a shift in hormones. Likewise, what your body could once tolerate, it may become more sensitive to such as caffeine, causing you to shake, sweat, and feel nauseous.
#4: Random Nausea and Gagging
Thank that sweet, sweet feminine classic, estrogen for the combination of a heightened sense of smell and lovely nasal drainage that accompanies pregnancy for this unpleasant symptom.
To ease early pregnancy nausea eat a hearty, if not bland breakfast as soon as you wake up and try to squeeze a brisk walk in before you head out to work or school. You can also replace your regular minty toothpaste with a milder flavor to reduce gagging and vomiting while brushing your teeth.
#5: Everything is Exhausting
Sleepiness in the week leading up to your period is totally typical, especially if you haven't been getting enough Z's, exercise, or iron. But if you're worn out just from curling your hair or looking for any opportunity to plop down on the couch and stare off into space there's a good chance early pregnancy is the cause.
Gulp extra water and indulge in those staring-off-sessions - growing a human is exhausting.
#6: Shortness of Breath
Huffing and puffing walking up the steps to your apartment? This is a symptom that will follow most women through their entire pregnancy but can be especially alarming (and annoying) in the beginning of pregnancy when the body requires more oxygen to grow the embryo.
#7: Feeling Down, Anxious or Just Plain Off
This is a tricky, vague symptom of early pregnancy that can be attributed to premenstrual symptoms or just being human. However, if you suddenly find yourself in tears over a toilet paper ad or fuming about something a friend said on Facebook when you're typically stoic it might be a good idea to check the calendar to see where you're at in the two week wait.
#8: Your Sense of Smell is Totally Out of Control
Did you just smell your partner walk in the door all of the way from the upstairs bathroom? If you're pregnant you can blame - that's right, say it with me - estrogen for your heightened sense of smell. From roses to ravioli, everything is going to start smelling much stronger, sometimes for the better but usually for the worse.
Time to start opening some windows.
Speaking of Windows...
#9: Increased Gas
It's no secret that gas and increased flatulence is a symptom of pregnancy, but for many women this can be one of their first clues to the impending changes, even before a pregnancy test. That's because the surge of progesterone that happens when you conceive relaxes your body's muscles as it prepares for childbirth. This can result in a some sneaky little slips. Whoops!
#10: Your Breasts Hurt and Look Larger, Fuller, or Darker
One of the first signs of pregnancy is changes in the breasts. This can include darkening and deepening veins (like a roadmap on your chest), darker and larger areolas, and of course, soreness and pain, especially on the sides, around your armpit areas and even leading down into your upper arms.
This totally uncomfortable symptom occurs because breast tissue is sensitive to progesterone, a hormone that's released in a woman's body when she becomes pregnant. It's also the reason many of us experience breast discomfort and pain before our periods, when progesterone is also higher.
#11: Cramps and Lower Abdominal Pain
Cramps, twinges, and pains in your lower back or on one side of your lower abdomen can indicate implantation. Each month when you ovulate your eggs are released from either the tube on the left or the right leaving soreness. Pain in your back and lower stomach can indicate a fertilized egg attaching to the uterus.
Cramping will likely continue in the first few months of pregnancy as the uterus expands for your growing baby. To ease the pain forego over the counter pain relievers which can be harmful in pregnancy and instead take a warm, relaxing bath to take your mind off those twinges and pangs.
#12: Totally Unexplained Dizziness, Vertigo, or Becoming Lightheaded
Feeling like you just stepped off a roller-coaster after vacuuming or getting up off the couch too quickly can be an early sign of pregnancy--and morning sickness. While the nausea and vomiting may never come, dizziness is just as yucky.
As your hormones begin to rise blood vessels relax and widen, contributing to those freaky dizzy spells of early pregnancy.
The Two Week Wait
Should You Avoid Anything in the Two Week Wait?
If you suspect you may be pregnant here are some things to hold off on until you can test and find out for sure:
- Consuming Alcohol This should be pretty obvious but it's also highly (and hotly) debated as to whether this "rule" is really necessary. Suffice to say, most doctors advise against consuming alcohol during pregnancy as doing so can harm a growing fetus.
- Smoking If it's not good for you, it's certainly not good for a wee one!
- Caffeine Some doctors will okay a small intake every day (like a small morning cup) but caffeine can also cause unpleasant reactions in a pregnant woman like dizziness, sweating, and lightheadedness.
- Aspirin and Ibuprofen Neither are considered safe during pregnancy unless recommended by a doctor.
- Deli Meats and Soft Cheeses Though contracting listeriosis--a food borne infection--isn't necessarily life-threatening in a healthy person, it can cause miscarriage because fetuses are much more vulnerable to illness and infection than healthy adults. Lunchmeat and soft cheeses (like feta and blue cheese) can carry listeria, the bacteria that causes listeriosis.
- Scooping Cat Litter Besides the smell of the ammonia in cat-urine being totally gross, cat feces contain the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis--another disease that can prove fatal to a growing baby. If you can't get out of this chore just make sure to wash your hands really good afterward (hey you should be doing that anyway!)
- Saunas, Hot Tubs, and Hot Baths Excessive heat can cause a growing baby to develop birth defects because baby can't regulate his/her own body temperature. So while you can cool down quickly, baby can't. A good way to judge your water temp is to make sure that your skin isn't turning pink. It's also a good idea to let your limbs drape out of the tub.
When is the Best Time to Test for Pregnancy and What is the Best Way to Test?
The pregnancy hormone HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) isn't detectable until at least two weeks after conception--basically around the time of your missed period. Conception happens at the time of ovulation and most women ovulate two weeks before their period. While some early detection pregnancy tests claim to be able to tell you earlier than that, your best bet is to wait until the day after you expected your period to test. Hey, pregnancies tests aren't cheap, and taking one too early may result in a false-negative.
How Early Can You Actually Take a Pregnancy Test?
I've read different old wive's tales across the internet on how to test for pregnancy at home - pee in vinegar, pee in baking soda, pee, well, all over. But the best place to pee if you want to find out whether or not you have a baby on the way is right on a scientifically developed home pregnancy test.
With both of my pregnancies I confirmed early on that I was pregnant using a First Response Early Result Pregnancy Test. As for how early you can actually test before you're pregnant, the general rule is 6 days before your missed period if you're using one of these early response tests. Follow the directions on the box and if you get a negative result but still don't get your period, test again in two days since the pregnancy hormone (that turns the second line on these tests pink) doubles every 48 hours.
Did You Take a Test?
Is your period late but you're still pulling up negatives on your pregnancy tests? Check out my article Why Would You Have a Late Period if You're Not Pregnant? for some of the most common reasons why.
How Did YOU Know You Were Pregnant?
© 2013 Kierstin Gunsberg