pregnancy

Early pregnancy symptoms: 9 common signs you're pregnant (other than missing your period).

Am I… pregnant? This is a question most women have asked themselves at some point in their lives, whether they were hoping the answer was yes, or really hoping the answer was no.

The tricky thing is, early signs and symptoms of pregnancy are also some of the many joys women experience every month with their menstrual cycle.

Irregular periods. Missed periods. Bloating. Cramping. Constipation. Lower back pain. Mood swings. Nausea. Needing to pee more.

How do you know if what you’re feeling is an early pregnancy symptom, or related to something else entirely?

From whether pimples and discharge are early pregnancy symptoms, to how pregnancy hormones mess with your gut and leave you feeling exhausted, we asked an expert for all the possible early signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

Let’s go through them, including the early pregnancy signs before a missed period.

early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.

Early signs and symptoms of pregnancy (summary):

  1. Not having a period or a missed period.
  2. Constipation and diarrhea.
  3. Nausea.
  4. Bloating.
  5. Cramping (feeling twinges in the uterus).
  6. Lower back pain.
  7. Breast tenderness or breasts getting bigger.
  8. Frequent urination, needing to pee more often.
  9. Mood swings.
  10. Feeling tired, fatigue and exhaustion.

How early will a woman experience pregnancy signs and symptoms?

The thing to remember about pregnancy and how many weeks pregnant you are is:

  • 'Week 1' of pregnancy is when you're having the period before you're pregnant.
  • 'Week 4' of pregnancy is when you miss your period.
  • 'Week 5' is four or five days after you've missed your period.

With that in mind, Melbourne-based obstetrician Dr Joseph Sgroi told Mamamia most women experience early symptoms and signs of pregnancy in the fourth or fifth week, though some say they do earlier.

"Some women will say they'll experience those symptoms as soon as they conceive, but probably the likelihood of that is very low. Around 60 per cent of women will experience some sign or symptom that they're pregnant at around the five week mark. For example, you miss your period, and then around a week later, you experience symptoms."

"90 per cent of women will have some symptom by their eighth week. They may not be all the same symptoms and in actual fact, every pregnancy is different, but they will have some pregnancy-related symptoms by that stage."

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Want more information about early pregnancy symptoms? Melbourne-based obstetrician Dr Joseph Sgroi told Mamamia why your pregnancy symptoms might differ between pregnancies below. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

Early pregnancy symptoms.

Below are some of the most Googled early pregnancy questions:

  • Early signs of pregnancy cramping.
  • Is diarrhea a sign of early pregnancy?
  • Is constipation a sign of early pregnancy?
  • Is bloating a sign of pregnancy?
  • Lower back pain early pregnancy sign.

We asked Dr Sgroi to go through each of the early signs of pregnancy. You may experience some of these symptoms, all of these symptoms or none of them.

early signs of pregnancy missed period
Image: Mamamia.

Not having a period/missed period.

This one is the most common early sign of pregnancy.

"When a woman misses her period and takes a pregnancy test, she's already four weeks pregnant," Dr Sgroi said.

That said, other factors like increased stress, high food intake, impact of exercise, starting a new medication or changes in medications, weight loss and anything that alters your hormones can affect your menstrual cycle.

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early signs of pregnancy constipation
Image: Mamamia.
early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.

Constipation and diarrhea.

"Progesterone, which is the major hormone secreted by the ovaries in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and then the placenta for the remainder of the pregnancy, causes the gut to slow down so the body can extract as many nutrients from the food as possible," Dr Sgroi said.

A slower gut = changes in bowel movements.

early signs of pregnancy nausea
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Nausea.

Similarly, women may experience nausea in the first trimester as the levels of progesterone and estrogen change.

"Women will experience a relaxation of the musculature and the ligaments around their body in pregnancy, which includes the relaxation of the muscle in between the stomach and the esophagus, and that causes heartburn, food aversions and food cravings which potentially also set off the nausea and vomiting."

early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.

Bloating and cramping.

Bloating can come with the hormonal impacts of pregnancy on your gut, but Dr Sgroi explained cramping (feeling twinges in the uterus) is a common early pregnancy symptom.

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"I like to think of the uterus as a hot air balloon being tied down to the ground with ropes. When you're pregnant, it's like the hot air balloon wants to start rising because the uterus wants to start getting bigger, but it's attached to the bones of the pelvis. When it rises, it'll pull on those ligaments, causing cramping."

early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.
early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.

Lower back pain, breast tenderness.

"Progesterone is the major hormone at play in the early stages of pregnancy, but there is the circulation of other hormones that help with the relaxation of muscles, so in those settings, some women get back pain and the like," Dr Sgroi said.

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"Some women will get a sensation that their breasts are a bit sorer or larger before their missed period, too."

early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.

Frequent urination, going to the toilet more frequently.

Pregnant women will pee more because of a higher blood volume, which means you've got a higher volume going through your kidneys.

That said, this on it's own isn't an early sign of pregnancy.

early signs of pregnancy
Image: Mamamia.

Mood swings.

Dr Sgroi said, "If a woman is susceptible to hormonal changes during her menstrual cycle – mood swings and the like–- then of course those changes can occur during pregnancy."

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early signs of pregnancy
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Fatigue, feeling tired and exhaustion.

General fatigue and tiredness is a common early symptom of pregnancy.

"I think of it in terms of protecting and nurturing this little thing growing inside you, and tiredness and fatigue plays a huge part now in modern society," Dr Sgroi said.

What's not a sign of pregnancy?

Some of the most Googled questions around early pregnancy symptoms are:

  • Early signs of pregnancy discharge.
  • White discharge sign of pregnancy.
  • Is spotting a sign of pregnancy?
  • Pimples sign of pregnancy.

Discharge on it's own isn't an early symptom of pregnancy (white discharge is more commonly associated with thrush, see your GP about that), but a clear discharge in conjunction with other pregnancy symptoms is possible.

Again, pimples on their own aren't a sign of pregnancy, but if you are pregnant, your increased levels of progesterone can cause your skin to produce more sebum (the skin's oil), which can lead to blocked pores and types of pimples.

As for spotting – spotting isn't an early sign of pregnancy, but if you are pregnant and have spotting, talk to your obstetrician.

Dr Sgroi added, "Spotting in pregnancy is not usual – 25 per cent of pregnancies will have an element of spotting early on and that might have nothing to do with the pregnancy and more to do with the cervix bleeding a little bit, but you'd want to tell you doctor if you have any bleeding."

"Spotting is something we'd be wanting to know about because that could mean a whole range of things not necessarily related to becoming pregnant. We'd be worried about miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy (outside the uterus)."

Side note - Mamamia discuss everything you need to know about trying for a baby on the honest and helpful Before The Bump podcast. Post continues after audio.

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In summary:

Every woman is different, so every pregnancy will be different.

"Early pregnancy signs are different for different women, and different for different pregnancies," Dr Sgroi said.

"A patient could have a huge amount of nausea in one pregnancy, and none in their second, and might be terrified she's not pregnant or has miscarried. Every woman is different, and every pregnancy is different. Some women talk about how in the first trimester, they have all these symptoms to tell them they're pregnant, and then by week 12, they all drop off.

"It can really stressful. There are some women who've had recurrent miscarriages and need regular reassurance along the way. Support in the first trimester is key – if you're worried, [your obstetrician] can confirm your pregnancy at the drop of a hat with an ultrasound."

The key message is this: if you think you might be pregnant, take a pregnancy test but also go and see your GP for confirmation. If you are pregnant, know your early pregnancy symptoms might be different to the next woman's, so always communicate with your medical professionals.

This article should not be substituted for professional, personalised medical advice. Please always consult with your obstetrician, gynecologist or GP.

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