When a person becomes pregnant, their body undergoes a wide range of changes to support the pregnancy.
Some of the early signs of pregnancy are obvious — menstruation stops and breasts become tender — while other symptoms, like food aversions and difficulty sleeping, are more discreet.
Katherine MacLean, MD an OB/GYN with Main Line Health, says each person and each pregnancy is going to be different, and there’s really no way to predict how you will feel during the early days of pregnancy.
Where one person will experience a slew of very early signs within the first week of pregnancy, another might not experience any symptoms until they’re several weeks into the pregnancy.
Here’s what to know about the early signs of pregnancy:
What are early signs of pregnancy?
“If your cycle is regular and predictable, if you haven’t had a period in a few days from when it was due, you should take a pregnancy test,” Dr. MacLean says. The first clue is when your period is a week late. Those who have irregular periods should pay attention to bodily changes and take a pregnancy test if they have any suspicions they could be pregnant.
Dr. MacLean says about 10 percent of people can have some light spotting around the time of when their missed period would be due. This spotting occurs when the fertilized egg implants in the uterine lining.
It can be difficult for some people to differentiate between spotting and a light period. The key difference is that any bleeding from spotting would be very light, and you may only require one to two pads or tampons in the span of 24 hours.
What are other early signs of pregnancy?
As the body produces more hormones to support the pregnancy, additional signs and symptoms will appear.
Progesterone and estrogen production ramps up during pregnancy to support the health of the placenta and uterus and help the fetus develop. These hormones are largely responsible for many of the changes that set in after becoming pregnant.
Soon after the missed period, breasts will enlarge and become tender. Some people will experience shortness of breath, especially after physically exerting themselves. Others will have difficulty sleeping, and about half of pregnant people will experience fatigue.
Food aversions or cravings may set in. “In the early part, you are more likely to have food aversions,” Dr. MacLean says.
These symptoms may set in as early as six weeks of pregnancy, but the majority of people will start experiencing the token signs and symptoms of pregnancy around eight weeks.
Later on in the first trimester, there may be some increased frequency of urination. Nausea, which may occur with or without vomiting, typically peaks around nine weeks.
Most people won’t experience changes in discharge until later on in their pregnancy. At that time, the discharge develops a thin, white consistency. According to Dr. MacLean, there are typically no signs of early pregnancy discharge at the start of your pregnancy.
IAre any early signs of pregnancy a cause for concern?
f you are vomiting more than three times a day or have experienced weight loss from nausea or vomiting, you should consult a doctor, says Dr. MacLean.
While discharge is a common pregnancy sign, discharge that causes itching or irritation should be evaluated and treated.
Vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain could also be due to an underlying issue and should be brought to your provider’s attention, says Dr. MacLean.
Each pregnancy and each person is going to be different. What you experienced with previous pregnancies can give you an idea of what you may experience with future pregnancies, but that’s not always the case.
“Everyone is different in how they go through pregnancy,” says Dr. MacLean.
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.