Itchy Breasts and Other Early Signs of Pregnancy
15 Early Symptoms of Pregnancy
When you are enduring that endless two-week wait (the dreaded TWW) between conception and the time of your next period, any little twinge can feel like indisputable proof that you're pregnant!
Feeling pregnant: Is that possible before I missed my period?
Many women do not have any early signs of pregnancy before four to six weeks in, but many do experience one or more of the symptoms listed below. Many of these symptoms are the same as those felt with PMS or other non-pregnancy related issues, so don't take any one symptom too seriously.
The best and clearest evidence that you are pregnant will be your missed period and a positive pregnancy test taken at the time your period is due. While many tests can be taken earlier than this, they are less reliable when taken before the time you expect your period. So if you do one and get a negative, you will want to take another one several days later, anyway!
1. Tender or Swollen Breasts
This can be an early (one to two weeks after conception) sign for some women. Your breasts may feel tender, swollen, and somewhat sore. According to Dr. Hanh Cottrell, MD FACOG, an expert on reproductive endocrinology and infertility, "The hormones associated with pregnancy are responsible for these changes: hCG, estrogen, progesterone and prolactin. These hormones then later aid in the process of breast lactation and nursing."
Why are my breasts itchy?
Breasts often itch before or during your period or during pregnancy, since your breasts might swell as a result of the surge of hormones.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS.
2. Itchy Nipples in Early Pregnancy
In early pregnancy, your nipples may be itchy, sore, or extra sensitive, and sometimes darken in color.
Why are my nipples itchy?
Pregnancy triggers a surge of hormones that cause an increase of blood flow to the area. Also, as breasts grow, their sensitive skin stretches, which can make it itch. Try applying moisturizer to ease the itchiness.
But wait! This could also be caused by: PMS, a new bra, or that lotion you just started using.
3. Spotting (Implantation Bleeding)
One of the earliest and lesser-known pregnancy symptoms is a slight bleeding or spotting five to twelve days after conception. When the embryo implants itself into the uterine wall, a little of the uterine lining might be dislodged and show up in your underwear. This is known as "implantation bleeding" and can also be accompanied by some cramping that feels like PMS. Not all women experience implantation bleeding, so it is not considered a reliable pregnancy sign.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: the start of your actual period, abrasion from sex, or infection.
4. Higher Basal Body Temperature
Many women take their temperature each morning upon waking as a way to track their ovulation when trying to conceive. Normally, your temperature will spike after ovulation, then slowly decline as your period draws near. But if you are pregnant, your temperature does not drop, and in fact may continue to rise (sometimes called a triphasic pattern). These changes in temperature are small, often only a few tenths of a degree, and must be carefully measured at the same time each day before you have gotten out of bed.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: illness or not talking your temperature at the same time each morning.
Feeling tired or more easily fatigued can be an early symptom of pregnancy starting as early as a week after conception. Your regular schedule, work, exercise, or errands may suddenly seem exhausting.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: stress, especially if you have been on the trying to conceive (TTC) roller coaster for awhile, illness, or depression.
An increase in headache intensity or frequency can be caused by hormonal swings early in pregnancy.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: stress, PMS, allergies, illness, or caffeine withdrawal.
Morning sickness doesn't always happen in the morning—nausea at any time of day can be an early pregnancy symptom, and often shows up between two and eight weeks after conception, although not for all women. If you experience nausea or vomiting, try eating bland, small meals more frequently throughout the day. Many women report that their nausea disappears like clockwork at the start of the second trimester, though others do experience it throughout their entire pregnancy.
How does your stomach feel during pregnancy?
Many women report conflicting feelings of nausea and hunger when they first become pregnant.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: stress (again!) or an upset stomach from illness or food poisoning.
8. Frequent Urination
About six to eight weeks after conception, some women notice they are making more frequent trips to the bathroom, both during the day and at night. This will probably only get worse as the pregnancy progresses and the growing baby competes with your bladder for space!
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: drinking a lot of liquid, diabetes, or a urinary tract infection.
Some women experience a dull ache in their lower back, sometimes even before the baby has grown large enough to cause weight gain or spinal imbalance. Later in the pregnancy, many women have back pain because they are compensating for the weight of the baby with altered posture both while awake and while sleeping. But you might also feel it earlier, when pregnancy hormones trigger a series of changes in your ligaments.
Is back pain a sign of pregnancy?
It might be, but it is certainly not proof that you are pregnant.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS, improper or excessive exercise, stress, or poor posture.
10. Food Cravings
Some women experience aversion to certain foods or a heightened sense of smell. Pickles and ice cream are famous pregnancy cravings, but the array of food and drinks that appeal to pregnant women is as varied as can be!
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS or a nutrient-poor diet.
11. Food Aversions
Equally common as cravings, strong aversions to particular tastes (spicy foods, coffee, alcohol) and a heightened sensitivity to certain aromas (food, gasoline, cigarette smoke, perfume, cleaning supplies, anything!). A good prenatal supplement can sometimes ease some of these symptoms.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS, a cold, or the flu.
If you're trying to get pregnant, you should start taking prenatal vitamins. This is the supplement that I took because it includes folate, which is crucial for a growing baby's brain development. It also has probiotics and ginger, which can help combat digestion issues and morning sickness, and is vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
12. Mood Swings
Many women experience mood swings during pregnancy and surprise themselves with surprisingly strong emotional reactions to situations that might not normally upset them. Changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone influence neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that regulate mood.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS, stress, lack of sleep, or legitimate emotional triggers.
Many women report feeling achy and crampy when the embryo implants in the uterine wall. As mentioned earlier, they might also notice spotting or drops of blood when the embryo dislodges some of the uterine lining.
Is lower abdominal pain a sign of pregnancy?
If you notice a twinge of pain or pain that feels somewhat like the onset of menstruation, there's a chance this might be caused by the implantation of the embryo. If you stomach feels hard or swollen, this is unlikely a sign of early pregnancy, since it's too early. Your abdomen isn't likely to look or feel any different until later.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS or stomach issues.
14. Acne or Skin Breakouts
Many women—more than half—develop acne during early pregnancy. For some it's just one pimple, but for others, it can be severe. Hormone surges in the first trimester are to blame.
But wait! This symptom could also be caused by: PMS, stress, or clogged pores.
15. A Missed Period
A missed period is the most important symptom on this list, and it's the first thing your doctor will ask you about. Usually, a woman gets her period around the same time every month, anywhere from 21 to 35 days apart, although many women have irregular cycles. A menstrual period is considered late when it has not started for five or more days after it was expected.
Although pregnancy is the most common reason for a missed period, there are many other causes of menstrual irregularities: Stress, strenuous exercise, weight loss or gain, hormonal imbalances, menopause, or other medical conditions.
But How Can I Know If I'm Pregnant?
You can drive yourself nuts watching for the signs and symptoms of early pregnancy—of which you may experience only a few, or none! If you can make it through your two-week wait, from ovulation to missed period, a pregnancy test is the best and most straightforward proof that you are indeed pregnant.
Pregnancy tests work best when taken at or after the time you expect your period. If the pregnancy test result is negative and you still haven't gotten your period, try another one in a few days to be sure.
Frequently Asked Questions
If my breasts itch, I'm exhausted, and the smell of coffee makes me gag, does that mean I'm pregnant?
There are many possible reasons for your symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you're pregnant is to take the pregnancy test at the proper time.
If I have ALL of these symptoms, does that mean I'm DEFINITELY pregnant?
No, it does not. This is just a list of common symptoms you may or may not be feeling. A woman who has none of these symptoms might be pregnant. The only way to know for sure is to take the test properly.
It's not "morning sickness" if it happens later in the day, right? I felt sick and queasy after I ate lunch.
The term "morning sickness" is confusing since the nausea caused by hormone surges during pregnancy can happen at any time of day. In fact, only 2% of pregnant women experience morning-only food aversions, nausea, and vomiting. It could be called “morning, afternoon, and night sickness” or simply “constant nausea.”
How does your stomach feel in early pregnancy?
Inside, you may experience bloating and nausea. To the touch, you're unlikely to feel any different. In other words, the implanted embryo in your uterus is so tiny that you won't be able to feel any difference with your hands or see it with your eyes.