How early can you really tell if you are pregnant?

If you have been trying to conceive then you are probably finding that the wait from ovulation to positive pregnancy test feels like an absolute lifetime. 

There’s nothing quite so addictive when you want to fall pregnant than looking for symptoms everywhere.

Was that a twinge? Are my boobs bigger? Is this a period or implantation bleeding?

You could drive yourself a little crazy. Many women experience absolutely no early pregnancy symptoms at all. For some ladies, their body just doesn’t react strongly to the pregnancy at first. They don’t feel any different, so they just carry on, assuming their period will arrive on schedule in the next few days. 

How soon can you tell if you are pregnant

The best way to confirm you are pregnant is with a positive pregnancy test!

There are various different types you can try, from simple strips that show up with a line to a digital display that shows “pregnant” or “not pregnant” to confirm levels of HCG. This is the hormone produced by the placenta after implantation has occurred. 

Some tests can pick up levels of HCG five days before your expected period. So if your period is due on the 15th of the month, you could test positive on the 10th. 

BUT everyone is different. A negative result five days, or even two days, before your period is due does not mean you are not pregnant. Many women find they need to wait until AFTER they have missed their period to get a positive result. 

Rise of pregnancy hormone in early pregnancy Rise of pregnancy hormone in early pregnancy

I tested negative twice with my first pregnancy. I thought I was definitely not pregnant. Then I felt so ill a couple of days before my period that I decided to do just one more test. Boom! I was pregnant, and I had thought I most definitely wasn’t. 

Early pregnancy symptoms

So if you just cannot wait for your period’s due date to take a pregnancy test, how else can you tell if you are pregnant?

There are lots of symptoms to look out for! Unfortunately, they’re not particularly pleasant, but if you are pregnant then it’s all for a good cause!

You may not experience any of these symptoms at all, but some of these things could happen several days before you are able to get a positive pregnancy test result. 

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1. Light spotting

Implantation bleeding is what occurs when the fertilised egg attaches to the lining of your uterus. 

Some ladies may mistake implantation bleeding for the start of their period. So how on earth can you tell the difference?

An implantation bleed will be much lighter, lasting only a few days. It may be pinkish in colour, or very dark brown to black. This type of bleeding will occur a few days before your period is due. 

This does make it confusing, as you may assume you’re definitely not pregnant this month when in fact all signs are good!

I had very heavy bleeding in the first eight weeks or so of both pregnancies. Because it lasted so long, it can’t be attributed to implantation bleeding. Although it was investigated, no cause was ever found for my heavy bleeding but I have two very healthy children as a result. 

So, implantation bleeding will only last for two to seven days. Possibly even less than this! You may just wipe and notice a little pinkish tinged discharge, then think “that’s weird” and carry on with your day. 

Timing is everything with implantation bleeding, so track your cycles and you will get a better idea of whether it’s your period or a sign of early pregnancy. Implantation bleeding will typically occur around a week before your period is due. 

What to do

If you suspect it could be implantation bleeding, use a sanitary pad and avoid using menstrual cups or tampons. 

Keep track of the number of days it occurs and how heavy it is, which could give you a good indication of whether it is an actual period or implantation bleeding. 

2. Swollen boobs

The hormonal changes that happen in your body as a result of pregnancy. As progesterone levels rise, your boobs can start to feel sore, sensitive or tender to the touch. 

Bras that are usually comfy suddenly feel tight or like you want to get them off because they just don’t feel right any more. 

Your breasts will go through a LOT of changes during your pregnancy. This is because your body is gearing up for breastfeeding. 

The fat layer in your breasts will thicken and your milk glands will get bigger. Plus the blood flow to your breasts will increase. 

All of these things can begin to happen as early as 10 days before your missed period. 

What to do

Stop wearing bras with underwear. Ditch them in exchange for some supportive sports bras or maternity bras. 

At this stage its probably a little early to be investing in nursing gear, so stick to the sports bra option. Go for something with no padding or underwear to help keep you comfy. 

3. Nipple changes

Nipples get bigger when you are pregnant! Nobody told me about this and I can remember one day during my pregnancy looking down and thinking “woah, those used to be half the size!”

In the early days of pregnancy you may feel your nipples tingling and notice they are extra sensitive. 

You won’t see any growth in the first month of pregnancy, but watch out for strange feelings around this area ahead of your missed period. 

4. Mood swings

You may think your PMSing when actually your haywire hormones are because of baby, not your usual pre-period moodiness. 

You may find yourself quick to agitation, or crying at the silliest of things. 

It’s easy to miss mood swings, because at the time you won’t necessarily think anything is wrong. You’re just feeling annoyed today! Or you just watched something on TV that made you feel particularly sad and tearful. 

Your other half may well be the first to notice this one!

5. Weird food cravings

Did you used to absolutely adore tomatoes and now feel like just the thought of them will make you vomit?

Maybe you usually live for your morning coffee, but suddenly the idea of caffeine makes you want to flee as fast as you can from all coffee shops. 

You may also start to crave things you usually don’t eat very much, or things that you can usually just enjoy as the odd treat but not cannot stop thinking about. 

If your cravings for food and drinks has changed, this is a sign you could be pregnant!

The change to your appetite for certain foods and sudden hunger for things you used to hate is down to hormones. It can also be because of changes to your senses, such as taste and smell. 

What to do

Embrace the weirdness! If you want to eat a whole jar of pickles, then eat them. Try to keep up with a normal, balanced diet but satisfy your cravings (within reason) while you’re at it. 

Some pregnant ladies may experience a condition known is pica, which is where they crave odd non-foods during pregnancy. This may be things such as coal and rocks. 

This is very rare and something to chat with your doctor about to get advice. 

6. Elevated basal temperature

If you have been keep tabs on your basal body temperature in order to track your cycles and pinpoint ovulation, then you’ll be familiar with the term. If not you may be thinking, What?

Basal body temperature is the lowest body temperature attained during rest. You can estimate it by measuring your temperature immediately after waking up, before you even get out of bed. 

Ovulation causes the basal temperature to increase by at least 0.2C (0.4F). 

If you are pregnant, you may see a spike in a basal body temperature a week after ovulation. 

Keeping track of your basal body temperature to track ovulation is also a good sign that you may have had sex on the right days to catch the egg. 

This method is by no means an exact science and only really works if you have been keeping a really close eye on your basal body temperature for several weeks so you can see real patterns emerging. 

7. Headaches 

Ouch. This is one you could easily shrug off as just a headache. But, headaches are a common symptom of the first trimester. 

This could be down to rising hormone levels and blood volume as your body is changing to nurture your baby. 

Figuring out whether your headache is down to pregnancy or not can be tricky. If it feels as if it’s in your sinuses then it’s a potential sign of pregnancy, as nasal congestion is common in early pregnancy. 

Migraine headaches are another common pregnancy symptom. These are definitely not fun! They can also cause nausea and vomiting. 

Your early pregnancy headaches may also be down to ditching coffee, which means you could be suffering from withdrawal symptoms for the caffeine. 

What can you do

If your headache is really bad, or a migraine, then get loads of rest and stick to a darkened room with no noise. 

You should avoid aspirin and ibuprofen during pregnancy, so opt for paracetamol instead. 

Drink plenty of fluids and try to avoid any triggers such as certain foods or smells that may set off a headache. 

8. Dizziness

Feeling dizzy was one of the first symptoms that I felt during my first pregnancy. I can pinpoint the exact moment I felt a wave of dizziness hit me while I was sitting down at work one day. 

The dizziness did not stop for several weeks. It wasn’t bad enough that I was falling over, but it was a strange feeling!

Dizziness in pregnancy can happen due to the hormonal changes you go through as your body reacts to the pregnancy and increase in blood flow. This can cause the body to relax the walls of your blood vessels and cause blood pressure to fall. 

What can you do

Sit down immediately! Try to stay still and take even, calm breaths. 

Dizziness could also be down to you eating less due to hormones putting you off food. Try to eat something! Go for smaller, bland meals, such as bananas and toast. Eating little and often can help.

Remember to drink plenty of water and don’t rush around too much. 

Call your doctor if you feel so dizzy that you faint. 

9. Gas

You may find yourself burping or farting more than often. This may be down to the increase of progesterone and oestrogen in your body, which causes the muscles in your body to relax. 

A common symptom of pregnancy is that your intestinal muscles relax, causing digestion to slow. This can then cause the gas to build up in your body. 

What can you do

In the early weeks the increase in gas will be easier to control than when you are heavily pregnant and the gas has nowhere to go but out!

For now try to laugh it off if it happens and don’t fight it too much. Stick to foods that don’t make you as gassy, and avoid foods that are fried along with fizzy drinks. 

10. Constipation

The pregnancy hormones cause your digestion to slow right down and this causes constipation. 

It may be too early in your pregnancy for this to occur but many ladies in the first few weeks of their pregnancy report this condition. 

What can you do

Eat foods that are high in fibre to help your bowels keep moving. This may include cereals, wholegrain rice and pasta plus fruits. 

Prunes and prune juice can be great at helping you produce a bowel movement if you are getting desperate. 

Remember to drink lots of water too. 

11. Cramping

The cramps will not be as strong as normal period cramps. They may feel a lot lighter and may last just a day or two, but can also last for months. If they are mild they are nothing to worry about. 

This is a sign of the normal physical changes happening to your womb as your baby implants and the placenta develops. 

What can I do

Try natural remedies such as soaking in a warm bath, resting plenty, and holding a hot water bottle in the area to ease the discomfort. 

12. Lower back pain

This can go hand in hand with the cramping. It’s very natural, although it won’t feel great if you’re trying to carry on with your normal life!

What can I do

Try similar respite as described for cramping such as a warm bath. You could try adding some epsom salts to the water. 

An elastic belly band may also provide some support and relief from the pain. 

13. Bloating 

Does your belly feel bloated, tight and uncomfortable. This is not because of an early baby bump! It’s down to your digestive system slowing and the extra gas your system may be producing. 

It can feel uncomfortable, and increase feelings of morning sickness, but it’s normal. 

14. Fatigue 

There are a lot of changes going on in your body, so being tired is pretty expected!

During the first trimester is when most pregnant ladies report feeling especially tired as their body diverts energy to helping the placenta grow and nurturing the pregnancy. 

Raised progesterone levels can also make your feel sleepy. 

What can I do

Apart from resting up and drinking lots of fluids, there’s not a whole lot you can do! Try to stay active with gentle exercise such as a daily walk. The fatigue will pass after the first trimester. 

15. Nausea and vomiting 

This is often called morning sickness which is extremely misleading as it can last all day and all night!

It is an unpleasant symptom of pregnancy, but for many women it clears up after the first trimester. 

There is a more serious form of sickness in pregnancy called hyperemesis gravidarum. This condition is what plagued all three of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancies, and more recently comedian Amy Schumer’s first pregnancy. 

This involves a great deal of vomiting and can be serious as you may become dehydrated and struggle to get enough nutrients from food.

Vomiting and sickness could also indicate a UTI infection in the bladder, which is more common in pregnant ladies. Seek medical attention if you are worried. 

What can I do 

There are a lot of theories about what can help with morning sickness. But for some women nothing gets rid of it completely. 

There are a few things you could try to ease your suffering: 

  • Many people swear by ginger as a way to combat morning sickness. Have it in ginger biscuits, or try this recipe for a pregnancy nausea popsicle! 
pregnancy nausea popsicle recipepregnancy nausea popsicle recipe
A ginger peach green tea popsicle could help with your morning sickness
  • Keep snacks next to your bedside. Many pregnant ladies find it helps to have something in their stomach before they even get out of bed. Have some dry crackers or ginger biscuits next to your bedside so that you can munch on one as soon as you wake up. 
  • Try an anti-nausea band. These apply pressure to your forearm and many pregnant ladies swear by them!
  • Drink lots of fluids. Sipping little and often can prevent vomiting so keep a water bottle on you at all times. 
  • Eat smaller meals. Stick to smaller meals but eat more throughout the day. You may also find that eating cold food is better for your stomach than hot food. 
  • Eat plain food. Stick to foods high in carbs such as bread, rice, pasta and crackers. 

16. Frequent trips to the toilet

During pregnancy your body will be producing more blood to facilitate changes to your body and nurture the growing baby. 

This may lead to an increase in fluids in your body. As a result you may find yourself heading to the toilet more often. 

What can I do about it

This is a symptom that can last for the entire pregnancy, so get used to it, drink lots of fluids and always make sure you will be near a toilet wherever you go. 

Whatever you do, don’t stop drinking fluids as you need about 300ml additional fluids every day during pregnancy. Try to have a bottle of water with you at all times and take small sips rather than gulping down a huge glass all in one go. 

17. Metallic taste 

An odd, unpleasant or metallic taste in the mouth is quite a common symptom pregnant women experience. 

The change is down to hormones, which can influence your senses and so cause your taste and smell to go haywire. 

What can you do

Try rinsing your mouth with a salt water solution. Add a teaspoon of salt to 8 ounces of water and stir to dissolve. Swill this in your mouth for a minute then spit it out. This may only provide a temporary relief. 

You could also eat sour flavours such as lemonade or foods marinated in vinegar such as pickles. This can help to break down the yucky taste in your mouth and produce lots of saliva to help to wash it away. 

18. Stronger sense of smell

As part of the hormonal changes, you may find that you become averse to certain smells. You may also find you are more sensitive to smell, so walking by a restaurant might make your stomach churn as the scent is so strong. 

If the intense smells are unpleasant then this can exacerbate pregnancy nausea too. 

What can you do

Avoid cooking foods that cause a bad reaction. If you find certain places you used to visit smell so strongly you feel ill, avoid those triggers too. 

19. Rumbling tummy and hunger

Have you noticed your tummy is particularly noisy, gurgling and spluttering when you normally don’t have this issue at all?

This can be due to changes in your digestive system brought on by hormonal changes. You may also find your appetite increases and you are constantly hungry. 

What can you do

Eat a balanced and healthy diet with three proper meals a day and healthy snacks in between. Drink plenty of fluids too. 

20. White discharge 

If you have been tracking your menstrual cycle to get pregnant, you will have noticed that your vaginal discharge changes throughout the month. 

During early pregnancy you may notice a white or yellow-ish discharge. This could be down to hormonal changes happening or the closure of your cervix as your body changes to support the pregnancy. 

This is nothing to worry about, but do contact your doctor if the discharge is a bright yellow or green and smells bad. This could be a sign of a yeast infection which is common in pregnancy. 

21. Catching colds and flu

Got a runny nose? Sneezing constantly? Think it’s just a cold? It could actually be caused by your pregnancy!

Many ladies report having a runny nose and feeling unwell during the early weeks. This is because pregnancy can lower your immunity and make you more vulnerable to coughs and colds. 

What can you do

Get plenty of rest, which may mean taking time off work to recover, and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. 

22. Heartburn

As pregnancy hormones cause your body’s muscles to relax, this may cause the valve between your stomach and oesophagus to loosen. 

Stomach acid can then leak upwards, causing heartburn. 

What can you do about it

You can take heartburn medication such as Rennie during pregnancy. A glass of milk may also help. 

Try to stay upright after eating for at least an hour to help keep your food down. 

23. Stuffy nose

It’s not a cold but your nose is constantly feeling stuffy! This is caused by hormonal changes during pregnancy. 

It’s difficult to tell the difference between a stuffy nose brought on by pregnancy and just a normal sinus issue. But if you are experiencing this with some of the other symptoms on the list then it could be a good sign you are pregnant. 

What can you do

Sleep in a more upright position using pillows to prop you up and get comfortable. A warm shower before bed can also help as steam can relieve the congestion. 

You could also try nasal drops which you can get from any pharmacy. 

24. Shortness of breath

The increase in progesterone can cause you to breathe more often. This may feel like shortness of breath, but actually the hormone expands your lung capacity so that you can carry more oxygen around your body. 

What can you do

Try to sit up straight and give your lungs room to slow down. It’s also important to give yourself lots of rest and sit down if you do feel out of breath. 

25. Excessive saliva

You may find yourself constantly swallowing back saliva. Excessive production of saliva is a normal part and can be blamed on hormones, nausea, or heartburn. 

You may find that you produce so much extra saliva you actually have to spit it out. Yuck!

What can you do

There’s not a whole lot you can do, but taking small and frequent sips of water may help. You could also try sucking on a hard sweet, as this will help you swallow the saliva without it being quite so unpleasant. 

26. Spots

Were you expecting a pregnancy glow and ended up with a huge breakout of acne instead?

It’s an annoying but common part of pregnancy and as your hormones change in the earliest weeks of pregnancy you could see it before a positive test. 

The hormones associated with pregnancy may cause your skin to produce more oil which in turn causes spots. 

What can you do

Manage your acne by washing your skin twice a day with a gentle cleanser. Avoid wearing too much makeup as this can irritate the blocked pores. 

Important early pregnancy symptoms you should never ignore

Most doctors will tell you to stay away until you have had a positive pregnancy test. There’s not much they can do for you until it’s been confirmed you actually are pregnant!

But there are a few symptoms that may indicate something serious is going on. Do not ignore these warning signs if you think it could be pregnancy related. 

Painful cramping

Cramping during early pregnancy should be extremely mild. It may include some lower back pain but it should not be on the same level as intense period pain cramps. 

Pain that is very strong, and is concentrated to one side, should be assessed by a doctor. Pain isolated to one side could indicate an ectopic pregnancy and this needs to be treated immediately. 

Very heavy bleeding

If the bleeding is very heavy, intense and last for more than a day, you should consult your doctor. It is particularly important that you do this when it is combined with severe pain as described above. 

If you suspect you are pregnant, avoid using tampons or menstrual cups to deal with the bleeding as these could cause infection or additional issues. 


Dizziness is normal in early pregnancy, but if you are passing out, then you should see your doctor. This could be dangerous and may indicate your blood pressure has dropped too low and would benefit from some medication to help or investigation to assess the underlying cause. 

I hope you found this list useful and gives you an idea of what to look out for in your early pregnancy. Remember, you may experience none of these in that frustrating two week wait. 

The most reliable symptom of early pregnancy is a positive pregnancy test! 

If you do get a positive on a test, congratulations! Check out this post on the 11 things pregnant ladies must do after a positive test.

Weird signs of early pregnancy before you can take a testWeird signs of early pregnancy before you can take a test
25 early symptoms of pregnancy that may occur during the two week wait to take a test25 early symptoms of pregnancy that may occur during the two week wait to take a test