If you are trying to conceive or are concerned about an unplanned pregnancy, you may be confused about the early symptoms of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can cause a number of symptoms, but because every woman's body is different, the symptoms will vary. The only sure way to know if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. However, a careful evaluation of the monthly menstrual cycle and physical changes in the body can provide important clues.
Method 1 of 3: Assessing Changes in Monthly Cycle
Step 1. Determine if you have missed your period
No period is the most common sign of pregnancy. However, it is important to note that not all cases of missed or delayed menstruation result from pregnancy. In addition, some women may experience light bleeding during pregnancy. If this is your case, ask your doctor about the extent of bleeding to watch out for. If your period is missed, evaluate whether it may be due to reasons not related to pregnancy, such as:
- A large amount of weight gain or loss.
- Hormonal problems unrelated to pregnancy.
- Just ended the birth control pill prescription.
Step 2. Assess any spots or cramps you may have
10 to 14 days after fertilization, the fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall. This process can cause spots or mild cramping to appear. This is called implantation bleeding, and is sometimes considered a premenstrual symptom. If you suspect you are pregnant, watch for these symptoms to see if the bleeding progresses to a full menstrual cycle. If not, you may be pregnant.
Step 3. Evaluate changes in vaginal discharge
Many women begin to have a milky white discharge from the vagina almost immediately after conception. This harmless discharge is due to an increase in the growth of the cells lining the vagina, and may continue throughout pregnancy. Usually, fluid levels vary during a normal menstrual cycle. If you notice a change or increase in the discharge, you may be pregnant.
Call your doctor if the discharge changes color and is accompanied by an odor, pain, or an itching or burning sensation. These symptoms are a sign of a fungal or bacterial infection and may also indicate a sexually transmitted disease such as trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia
Step 4. Take body temperature
Basal body temperature-the temperature when you wake up in the morning-increases during the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle and decreases once your period begins. If you've started taking your basal body temperature as part of trying to get pregnant, pay attention to whether your temperature stays high. If so, it may be a sign of pregnancy.
Method 2 of 3: Evaluating Other Physical Changes
Step 1. Consider changes to the breast
The rapid rate of hormonal changes can make the breasts swell, painful, or itchy after one to two weeks of pregnancy. The breast may feel heavier or fuller, or be painful to the touch. The area around the nipple, called the areola, may also darken or enlarge.
Step 2. Notice if you feel nauseous
Nausea is experienced by 70 to 85 percent of pregnant women. Nausea can occur at any time, although it is most common in the morning. The exact cause is unknown, but it is likely that pregnancy hormones are causing it. You may have cravings for (or have no appetite for) certain foods. You may also be more sensitive to scents. These symptoms will disappear around week 13 or 14 of pregnancy. However, some women experience nausea throughout their pregnancy. You can reduce the symptoms of nausea by using several tactics:
- Eat little, but often. While it may seem counterintuitive, eating something can actually soothe nausea.
- Rest as much as possible.
- Choose plain foods without strong aromas. Salted crackers, clam crackers, or unsweetened dry cereal can be an option for a snack.
- Drink ginger tea or suck on ginger candy.
Step 3. Watch for more frequent fatigue
Pregnancy can make you more tired and this can already be felt one week after conception. Pregnancy hormones will direct your body to start increasing blood volume for you and your baby. It can lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and make you feel tired.
Step 4. Evaluate whether you are urinating more frequently
Pregnancy makes the kidneys work harder. An increase in blood volume makes the kidneys have to filter extra fluid. As a result, you may have to urinate frequently even though your pregnancy is still in its early stages.
If you feel a burning sensation when you urinate, it may be a sign of infection
Step 5. Assess whether you feel constipated
Pregnancy hormones slow down the digestive cycle so additional nutrients can reach the fetus. Hormones can also relax the muscles that push feces through the digestive tract.
Step 6. Measure your mood
Pregnancy hormones have a huge impact on the body and cause mood swings during the first trimester. While these changes may feel the same as premenstrual syndrome symptoms, persistent mood swings without a period being followed are a potential sign of pregnancy. You may experience mood swings for both physical and emotional reasons. Consult your doctor if you feel that changes in your mood are interfering with your daily life.
Step 7. Notice if you feel more dizzy, or faint
The blood vessels dilate during pregnancy due to the increased blood volume. This contributes to a drop in blood pressure or blood sugar, and can make you dizzy or faint.
Method 3 of 3: Taking a Pregnancy Test
Step 1. Know what a pregnancy test is looking for
A pregnancy test checks blood or urine for the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). This hormone is produced by the placenta as soon as the embryo attaches to the uterine wall. Although the presence of hCG in the body is very rapid during the first few days of pregnancy, a test done too early can show negative results. If your pregnancy test is negative, but you have other symptoms, it's a good idea to have a retest.
Step 2. Purchase a urine test
Personal pregnancy test kits test urine in one of two ways. Some tests require you to collect your urine in a container and insert a testing stick into it, or put your urine in a special container with an eyedropper. Other tests require you to position the test stick under the urine stream when you urinate, in other words urinate on the stick. The length of waiting time varies. So, follow the instructions of the tool you are using carefully. The test result is indicated by a color change, the appearance of a line, or another symbol.
- Most urine test kits have a "control indicator" line or symbol appearing regardless of the result to confirm that the test is working properly. Make sure this control indicator is working. Otherwise, your test is invalid.
- Check the expiration date of the tool to ensure accurate results.
- It's best to wait until the first day of your period has passed before taking a urine test. This is approximately two weeks after conception. If the test result is negative, but you continue to have other symptoms, take the test again in one week.
- The accuracy of the urine test is 97% if done correctly.
Step 3. Call the doctor for a blood test
There are two types of blood tests. The qualitative test only assesses whether there is hCG in the blood and will give a "yes" or "no" answer. The accuracy of this test is the same as that of a urine test. A quantitative test will give the exact quantity of hCG in the blood. This test is very accurate and very useful if the doctor needs to track potential problems in pregnancy. Blood tests can detect pregnancy from 7-12 days after conception. However, the test is more expensive and must be done in a doctor's office.