Have you noticed some changes in your body recently, especially in the waistline? If you’re sexually active, you might be wondering whether it’s weight gain or pregnancy.

Women can experience pregnancy symptoms in different ways. Some signs and symptoms that come with extra weight gain might mean that there’s another health issue.

Dr. Gerardo Bustillo, a California-based OB-GYN, says he’s had patients who were very surprised to find out they were pregnant. “It all hinges around what kind of menstrual pattern a woman has,” he says.

For some women, their menstrual cycle is very regular and they can tell something is different as soon as a period is missed. Others have irregular cycles, meaning periods are unpredictable. They may not suspect anything if one doesn’t come when expected.

According to Bustillo, overweight women are less likely to feel fetal movement. And if a woman doesn’t feel like she looks different in the mirror, she may not notice extra weight.

One way to clear up any misunderstanding is to take a home pregnancy test. But if you’re not ready for that step, there are other physical signs that can also be present if you’re pregnant.

This is often one of the first signs of pregnancy. Nausea and vomiting, also known as morning sickness, tend to start anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks after conception.

The symptoms can vary. Some women don’t experience any morning sickness, while others have severe bouts of nausea. Some women only vomit when they’re pregnant.

Progesterone, a pregnancy hormone, makes the bowels move less quickly. As a result, constipation is pretty common.

A woman who may have been regular before pregnancy might start to have trouble going to the bathroom.

If you find yourself running to the bathroom a lot more than usual, this could be a sign of pregnancy. You might also feel thirsty and have the urge to drink more liquids than before.

Feeling tired is a common symptom of early pregnancy. As hormones change, you may find yourself wanting to nap more often.

Some vaginal spotting around weeks 6 to 9 is not uncommon. If the bleeding happens 6 to 12 days after conception, it’s may be implantation bleeding. This can also occur with some slight cramping.

Women who aren’t sexually active could shrug this off as an irregular period.

If you’re not someone who usually has headaches, it could be a sign of pregnancy. Hormone spikes can cause headaches for some pregnant women. Learn more about hormonal headaches.

Pain in the lower back may also be a sign you’re carrying a baby. It’s common for women to experience aching in their lower back throughout pregnancy.

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded if you stand up too quickly is another common experience for pregnant women. During pregnancy your blood vessels dilate, causing a drop in blood pressure.

Anemia is common in women. But when they become pregnant, their blood volume is expanded, so they become more anemic.

The craving for ice, specifically the need to chew ice, is often associated with anemia.

The skin around your nipples may start to get darker if you’re pregnant. Some women will also have a discharge from nipples (early milk production). This can happen early in the pregnancy. It’ll be milky in color.

If the discharge is colored or bloody, it could indicate other health issues, such as a tumor. In this case, you should notify your doctor right away.

Dr. Katayune Kaeni, a psychologist specializing in maternal mental health, says you shouldn’t speculate or comment on whether or not you think a woman’s pregnant.

Bustillo agrees: “It would be dangerous to ask based on weight gain if someone’s pregnant. There are too many reasons people gain or lose weight.”

In situations such as public transportation, it’s OK to be courteous and offer a seat to someone. You can do this without asking if a woman is pregnant.

In most cases, a woman will tell you if she wants you to know she’s pregnant.

SHOULD I ASK IF SHE’S PREGNANT?“We have no idea what a person’s going through. We don’t know if they’ve gained weight, are or aren't pregnant, or were pregnant but just had or lost a baby. It's really nobody else's right to ask, assume, or comment on a person’s body.” – Dr. Katayune Kaeni, psychologist

There are reasons besides pregnancy that a woman may gain weight around the middle or feel bloated. These include:

See your doctor if you’re worried you’re gaining weight for one of these reasons.

Don’t ignore pregnancy symptoms. Any unexpected, uncomfortable changes to your body should be checked out by a doctor.

Take note of your symptoms and make an appointment. Your doctor can perform tests to tell if you’re pregnant or need treatment for another condition.


Rena Goldman is a journalist and editor who lives in Los Angeles. She writes about health, wellness, interior design, small business, and the grassroots movement to get big money out of politics. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, Rena likes to explore new hiking spots in Southern California. She also enjoys walking in her neighborhood with her dachshund, Charlie, and admiring the landscaping and architecture of LA homes she can’t afford.