A bloated belly; unexplained acne; ‘just knowing’; turns out Laura-from-year-8-Geography was a little hazy on *some* of the early signs of pregnancy (and no, for clarity, you can’t get knocked up doing lengths in the local baths).
But certain tell-tale signs can be your first clue that something’s cooking; even when your embryo’s still smaller than a pea.
Whether you’ve been trying for a little one or not, getting wised up on these giveaway symptoms is no bad thing. And whilst pregnancy’s different for everyone, there are sure to be a few clues afoot.
Here’s what to look out for, according to Dr Virginia Beckett, Consultant Obstetrician and Spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
1. Missing your period
First things first – the most common (and obvious) sign that you might have a bun in the oven is your skipped period. ‘It’s the most reliable symptom,’ says Dr Beckett. Although pregnancy isn’t necessarily a forgone conclusion of irregularities in your cycle. ‘Missed periods could be late due to stress or other health issues,’ points out Beckett.
2. Unusual Spotting
Light spotting of pinkish blood in your knickers is another clue. ‘Some women may notice spotting around 10-14 days after conception,’ says Dr Beckett.
This is nothing to worry about. ‘It’s caused by the fertilised egg nestling in womb,’ explains Beckett, ‘and it won’t look like a normal period’. You might also see some new discharge. ‘Increased levels of vaginal discharge, which is usually wet and clear, is normal’.
Contrary to popular opinion, throwing up in early pregnancy 'aint limited to the breakfast show hours. The bad news is, you might well feel – or be – sick at all times of day. ‘It’s due to your changing hormones,’ says Dr Beckett, ‘and can happen at any time’. The good news is, this shouldn’t last throughout your pregnancy, and should clear up by around week 20.
4. Weird cravings
If a packet of McCoy's salt and vinegar with sliced pear on top is currently calling your name, it could be another clue. Craving odd combinations and certain flavours is a symptom your nan will have warned you about – and not without reason. ‘Women tend to experience pregnancy symptoms in different ways,’ says Dr Beckett.
‘These happen at different times and with different levels of severity, but many tend to be felt most acutely in the first trimester and less so as pregnancy continues’.
5. Achey boobs
‘A common sign of early pregnancy is breast tenderness,’ says Dr Beckett. Again, that’s down to hormonal changes. ‘It’s normally a mild ache or pain that is more acute when pressure is applied,’ she adds, ‘although this can also be a pre-menstrual symptom. You might also notice that your boobs look more veiny, and that your nipple darkens in colour and becomes harder.
6. New toilet habits
Constipated? But needing to wee *loads*? Not an urban myth. Even when your baby’s barely large enough to fit in your palm, let alone press on your bladder, you might well see your number of trips to the loo shoot up. ‘It’s due to increased blood flow to the kidneys after conception,’ explains Dr Beckett, ‘and that leads to an increase in urine production’.
7. Feeling knackered
‘Significant energy and resources are required in pregnancy,’ points out Beckett, ‘so women might find themselves very tired at various points throughout’. It’s hardly surprising, considering you’ve got to grow a whole other human. And you thought your Sunday fun run was exhausting.
How early will I start to see pregnancy symptoms?
‘It’s different for every woman,’ says Dr Beckett. Whilst some might start to see signs like spotting from as early as 10 days after conception, there will be those who sail through pregnancy without any sign of a craving for almond butter spread on coal. ‘If you’re unsure,’ says Dr Beckett ‘you should visit a healthcare professional, who will be able to help’.
How early can I tell I’m pregnant?
‘With some pregnancy tests, it’s possible to get an accurate response four or five days before your next period is due,’ says Dr Beckett. Pregnancy tests work by monitoring the concentration of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels in your urine. ‘This is a hormonal marker which starts to show up around six days after fertilisation,’ explains Beckett, ‘it’s found in the cells in the placenta and nourishes the egg after it’s been fertilised’.
So is it worth shelling out for a swanky ‘early’ test? ‘There are a number of tests available,’ says Dr Beckett, ‘many promising greater sensitivity and earlier results, but it’s really best to wait until the first day of a missed period, and then wait a few days before testing again if a period doesn’t come’.
It’s worth mentioning that false negatives are more common than false positives when it comes to testing. ‘The tests can be inaccurate for a number of reasons, again, if unsure, I’d advise contacting a healthcare professional,’ says Dr Beckett.
Will I feel pregnant at four weeks?
Ah, ‘feeling’ pregnant. It can be pretty hard to know what to look out for. ‘First-time mums usually don’t start to display a bump until at least 12 weeks,’ says Dr Beckett (at four weeks, an embryo is about the size of a poppy seed). ‘But this can be slightly less if you’ve already given birth as the muscles in the womb and abdomen will have already stretched’.
‘Women experience symptoms of their first trimester, and indeed throughout their pregnancies, very differently, but some will feel bloated and their bump may feel hard or tight,’ she continues. ‘If you experience discomfort that prevents you from going about your day-to-day life though, you should contact your midwife for advice’.
If you’re worried about your pregnancy and COVID-19, please use the RCOG website.
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