Pregnancy causes significant changes in your body over time, but in the early stages, those changes may be slight to nonexistent. With many women experiencing inconsistent cycles due to stress, medications, PCOS, or other underlying health problems, the first thought doesn’t always land on “I’m pregnant!” So what are some of the early signs of pregnancy? When should you take a test? And when should you consult a doctor?
What Happens First During Pregnancy (Symptoms)
A Late or Missed Period
If you're in your childbearing years and a week or more has passed since the expected start date of your period, you may be pregnant. However, many other factors can contribute to an irregular cycle, and a late period doesn’t always mean an early pregnancy.
Tender or Swollen Breasts
In the early stages of pregnancy, your hormone levels begin to change, which can result in tender, painful, or swollen breasts. Early pregnancy breast pain is often focused around the nipple and areola and is characterized as a heavy, dull pain that makes the breasts tender to the touch.
Nausea, With or Without Vomiting
About 70% of women experience nausea and vomiting in early pregnancy. This symptom –also known as morning sickness, is a result of a rise in human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). Pregnant women begin to produce HCG shortly after a fertilized egg implants itself into the uterine lining. Implantation can occur anywhere from 8 to 18 days after fertilization, but typically happens around day 14. If you’re experiencing nausea, our Morning Sickness Tea is an all-natural tea formulated with herbs like Red Rooibos and Ginger to relieve nausea, cramping, and indigestion during the early stages of pregnancy.
You may find yourself feeling fatigued during early pregnancy. This is due to an influx of hormones, namely progesterone, that your body produces in the first 8-12 weeks before the placenta takes over. Another factor that contributes to this feeling of exhaustion is the increase in blood volume to supply the developing placenta and fetal circulation.
Less Common Symptoms
In addition to the more common symptoms, some women may experience:
- Frequent urination
- Light spotting or implantation bleeding
- Mood swings
- Food aversions and sensitivity to certain smells
- Sinus pressure/congestion
What Else Could It Be?
The inconvenient truth about early pregnancy symptoms is that they are remarkably similar to symptoms experienced during premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Many women experience breast swelling and tenderness, fatigue, and mood swings, and some even report feeling nauseous before their menstrual cycle begins, all tapering off once they get their period. Experiencing these symptoms without a positive pregnancy test is unrelated to early pregnancy:
- Nausea and vomiting could result from food poisoning, a virus, or a hormonal imbalance.
- Missed or delayed periods could be related to new birth control, extreme weight changes, an advanced workout regimen, or breastfeeding.
- A feeling of fatigue may be brought on by stress, allergies, or improper nutrition.
- Breast tenderness and swelling could be triggered by a change in birth control or hormone levels.
What To Do Next
If you are experiencing early pregnancy symptoms coupled with a late or missed period, it’s time to take a pregnancy test. There are two main types of pregnancy tests –urine tests and blood tests. Urine tests can be completed using an over-the-counter pregnancy test kit and are available in varying price ranges. Blood tests are conducted by a medical provider and require a sample of your blood. Another less common way to confirm a pregnancy is through an ultrasound, this procedure is also performed in the office by your healthcare provider.
Pregnancy tests work by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a hormone your body produces only while pregnant. In urine tests, a piece of reactive paper detects the HCG, resulting in a positive test. A positive result –which can come in the form of a plus sign, double vertical lines, or digital screen, means you’re pregnant while a negative result means you are not. It’s recommended you collect a urine sample from your first-morning pee when the concentration of HCG is at its highest. It's also recommended that you take multiple pregnancy tests using this urine sample to confirm the same result. For many of these tests, HCG can be detected around 10 days after conception. However, taking an in-home pregnancy test after your missed period (around 14 days after conception) will be less likely to result in a false negative.
Blood tests are typically reserved for special circumstances –like those undergoing fertility treatments, or if the doctor believes there could be a complication with the pregnancy. Blood tests are more sensitive to HCG levels and can determine how much HCG is in your bloodstream. Knowing how much HCG you’re producing is beneficial in determining if the pregnancy is progressing as it should. HCG levels typically double every two days within the first few weeks of becoming pregnant. If these levels aren’t rising, this could indicate a complication with the pregnancy. If your HCG levels are higher than normal, it can indicate you’re carrying multiples.
If you need a free pregnancy test or ultrasound, you can use your zip code to find a free pregnancy testing center.
When To Consult a Doctor
Once you’ve received multiple positive pregnancy tests, you should schedule an appointment with an obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN). OB/GYN doctors provide care to women during pregnancy and labor, deliver babies, and also provide postnatal care. The American Pregnancy Association recommends you make an appointment with your doctor for your first prenatal visit within eight weeks of your last menstrual period. Adequate and timely prenatal care is critical to a healthy pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins in early pregnancy aids in the development of the fetus and can reduce the risk of neural tube defects. Our Total Prenatal + DHA has essential nutrients like Folate, Vegan DHA, and Iron to help mom and baby thrive. It’s also important to note that even if you’re not a first-time mom, every pregnancy and baby is different.
Your OB/GYN can determine things like:
- Your due date
- Any pregnancy risk factors
- Your best schedule of prenatal care
As always, if you have any questions, reach out to our Customer Obsession Team.