Some women don’t suspect they’re pregnant until they miss their period. This usually happens about 15 days past ovulation (DPO). Ovulation occurs when an ovary releases an egg. The egg travels to the fallopian tube and awaits fertilization by a male sperm. A fertilized egg then continues its journey to the uterus.
There are different symptoms that may indicate a pregnancy. After conception, your body produces a pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is responsible for several pregnancy symptoms. These symptoms vary for every woman and every pregnancy.
Some women don’t have pregnancy symptoms until weeks after their first missed period. But others have symptoms as early as eight DPO, or soon after a fertilized egg implants on the lining of the uterus.
Women who are trying to conceive might pay close attention to their bodies to see if they notice any subtle changes that suggest an early pregnancy. But if you take a pregnancy test shortly after implantation, the test could return a negative result due to your body producing low amounts of the pregnancy hormone.
Even when it’s too early for a pregnancy test to detect a pregnancy, there are other telltale symptoms that you’re expecting:
1. Implantation bleeding
A fertilized egg implants itself on the uterine wall about eight to 10 days after ovulation. Implantation can cause light bleeding or spotting. Implantation bleeding can occur around the time when you expect a menstrual cycle, so you may mistake implantation bleeding for your period.
Implantation bleeding doesn't last as long as a menstrual cycle, and it’s usually lighter than a normal period. Implantation can cause early pregnancy symptoms such as lower abdominal pain that mimics menstrual cramps, and/or a higher basal body temperature. Implantation bleeding stops on its own. If you are concerned about bleeding, see your healthcare provider.
2. Dizziness and headaches
Early pregnancy can also trigger mild headaches or dizziness because of hormonal changes and fluid volume changes. These symptoms occur because of changes in blood volume and blood circulation. Fainting is rare, but it can happen. To combat headaches and dizziness, keep fluids in your body and drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
3. Tender, swollen breasts
Higher hormone levels can also cause changes in breasts and sensitivity soon after conception. This is because of an increase in blood flow to your breast tissue. Your breasts may become swollen and sore, and you may have nipple sensitivity. Wearing a bra can be uncomfortable, but these symptoms usually disappear within a few weeks as your body adjusts to hormonal changes.
4. Constipation or gas
Increased hormone levels not only affect your breasts and nipples, but they can also affect your digestion tract. Digestion can slow down, resulting in fewer bowel movements or constipation.
Constipation increases the risk of abdominal bloating, cramping, and gas. Increasing your water and fiber intake and limiting carbonated drinks and gas-producing foods (broccoli, beans, dairy, etc.) can ease constipation and flatulence.
5. Morning sickness
Many women experience morning sickness at some point during their first trimester. This includes nausea and/or vomiting. Although this is an early pregnancy symptom, it can happen at any time during pregnancy.
Some women don't have vomiting and nausea, but others experience both symptoms soon after ovulation. The sickness may only occur in the mornings, or throughout the entire day. Certain foods, odors, and smells may trigger sickness.
6. Increased urination
If you're constantly running to the bathroom to urinate — despite the fact that you're not drinking more liquids — it may be another early symptom of pregnancy. Blood flow increases to your kidneys during pregnancy. This response causes your kidneys to produce more urine, which can start shortly after conception.
Increased urination typically slows down within the first trimester, but increases again as you move toward the end of your third trimester. In the third trimester, increased urination is due to the growing uterus putting added pressure on your bladder.
7. Unusual tastes, smells, and cravings
Early pregnancy can also heighten your senses. You may become overly sensitive or have a low tolerance for certain tastes. Some of the foods and drinks you love may no longer appeal to your taste buds, or they may taste funny.
Some women complain of a metallic taste in their mouths. You may also crave new foods. For example, you may have been a coffee drinker, but now you can’t tolerate the flavor and suddenly prefer tea. You can blame hormonal changes on strange tastes, smells, and cravings.
Your body will produce more of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy. Progesterone prepares the uterus for pregnancy. Higher levels can make you feel more tired than normal. You may go to bed early and sleep throughout the night, yet wake up feeling unrefreshed. Extreme fatigue and exhaustion may only occur during early pregnancy, or it might last for the entire pregnancy. It's important that you listen to your body and get enough rest.
To combat fatigue, also try exercising for 30 minutes a day to boost your energy level, eat a balanced diet, and avoid stimulants like caffeine.
If you’re experiencing your first pregnancy, you may not recognize early pregnancy symptoms. You may not be aware that symptoms can develop soon after ovulation.
Taking a home pregnancy test is one of the best ways to find out if you’re pregnant. But if you take the test too soon, you may receive a negative result despite being pregnant. You can retest at home after your first missed period for a more accurate result. Or, schedule a urine or blood test with your doctor to confirm the pregnancy.
How soon can a home pregnancy test positively detect a pregnancy?
Home pregnancy tests measure the level of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the urine. Urine usually has less measurable hormones than blood, so urine tests may not be as accurate early in the pregnancy. Several factors can impact the accuracy of the home urine pregnancy test. The type of test or brand, error in interpreting the results, female cycle length, and interference from another diagnosis or treatment are a few examples. The best time to take a home pregnancy test is at the time of a missed menstrual cycle. However, even on the first day after a missed period, more than a third of pregnant women will have a negative home pregnancy test result.Kimberly Dishman, MSN, WHNP-BC, RNC-OBAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.