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The Signs and Symptoms of Early Pregnancy

Am I Pregnant?


Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

"Am I pregnant?" is probably the most common health question women ask. It can be confusing, as every pregnancy is different -- meaning, you may not have the same symptoms from one pregnancy to another. For example, during one pregnancy, you may experience incredible breast pain or nausea and vomiting, while during another pregnancy, you might not experience these symptoms at all. That said, there are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate pregnancy.

Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms

  • Swollen, tender, or sore breasts and/ or nipples - Often, this is the first physical sign of pregnancy. In fact, some women know when they are pregnant based on this sign alone. The reason breasts and/ or nipples are often sore, swollen, or tender during early pregnancy is because the breasts are undergoing changes to prepare for breastfeeding.

    Breast tenderness and pain during early pregnancy is caused by the increased production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that occurs during pregnancy. Breasts and/ or nipples are often particularly painful during your first pregnancy; however, some women experience this symptom during subsequent pregnancies as well. If you experience breast pain when you are not pregnant, it's often caused by benign fibrocystic breast disease.

  • Fatigue or unusual tiredness - Do you feel like you could close your eyes and sleep at any time of day? Early pregnancy is a time when a woman's body is working very hard to keep up with the changes that occur. This means increased hormone production, as well as the fact that the heart is pumping harder and faster due to the escalation of blood flow, which is necessary to bring nutrients to the growing fetus. Increased progesterone production is the primary reason for the extra fatigue most pregnant women experience early in their pregnancy. Progesterone, a natural central nervous system depressant known to cause sleepiness, is the reason this occurs.

  • Late period - The most common reason for missing your period is pregnancy, and this is often the first sign that makes women suspect pregnancy. Only a pregnancy test followed by a pelvic exam can tell you positively whether you are pregnant. Once your health care provider rules out pregnancy as the cause of your late or missed periods, the next step is usually to rule in or out several other possible explanations for absence of menstruation, or amenorrhea.

  • Light bleeding and/or cramping - The most common reason for light bleeding during early pregnancy is implantation. Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterine lining and usually occurs about 10 to 14 days after conception. Bleeding caused by implantation is very light; often, the only sign you might notice that indicates implantation has occurred is a small (can be as small as a pinhead) spot of blood on your underwear.

    Cramping that is similar to menstrual cramps occurs very early during pregnancy and happens when the uterus begins to expand to make room for the embryo to develop into a fetus.

  • Morning sickness - Nausea during pregnancy can occur with or without vomiting. While morning sickness is most common between weeks four and eight of pregnancy, many women experience this symptom beginning about two weeks from their date of conception.

    Morning sickness is a misnomer since it can, and often does, occur at anytime of the day or night. The most common reason for this symptom seems to be the rapid rise in estrogen, produced by the fetus and placenta. Another trigger for nausea is odors. During pregnancy, a woman's sense of smell increases considerably and can make almost anything from everyday household odors, foods, perfume, and smoke, to name a few, trigger a bout of morning sickness or nausea and vomiting.

    The most common foods to trigger morning sickness are coffee, meat, dairy products, and spicy foods. However, it's essential to understand that anything can trigger nausea and/ or vomiting during pregnancy.

  • Running to the bathroom - During the first trimester of pregnancy, it's easy to believe you might have to move into your bathroom since it seems you are constantly running to make to the bathroom. The growing uterus causes frequent urination during pregnancy. The first and third trimesters of pregnancy are typically when the most intense frequent urination happens.
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