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Can pregnancy feel like a period: How to tell the difference


How to tell the difference

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) causes several symptoms that resemble early pregnancy. However, it is possible to differentiate between PMS and pregnancy symptoms.

Symptoms of both premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and pregnancy can vary from person to person, but they often include tenderness in the breasts, cramping, and changes in mood.

In this article, we compare the symptoms of PMS with those of early pregnancy and explore the differences between the two.

Symptoms common to both PMS and pregnancy include:

Changes in mood

Share on PinterestStomach cramps can be a symptom of both PMS and early pregnancy.

Feeling irritable, anxious, or sad, or having crying spells, are common in both early pregnancy and the days leading up to a period.

These symptoms of PMS typically disappear once menstruation begins. However, if mood changes persist and a person misses their period, this may suggest pregnancy.

Persistent feelings of sadness can indicate depression. See a doctor if low moods last for 2 weeks or more.

About 10 percent of pregnant women worldwide experience a mental health condition, depression being the most common.


Hormonal changes are a common cause of constipation in women. The fluctuations can slow down bowel movements.

Research suggests that constipation affects up to 38 percent of women during pregnancy, but it also affects many women just before their periods.

Pregnant women are most likely to have constipation in the first two trimesters, while women with PMS-related bowel problems typically experience relief after their periods begin.

Breast pain and tenderness

Breast changes are a common symptom of both PMS and early pregnancy. The changes can include:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • swelling
  • heaviness
  • sensitivity
  • bumpy breast tissue

The severity of these symptoms varies among individuals.

However, in people with PMS, breast-related symptoms are usually most significant just before a menstrual period, and they typically get better during the period or just after it ends.

In early pregnancy, the breasts may feel particularly tender to the touch, and they often get heavier. The area around the nipple may sting or feel sore. Some women also develop more noticeable blue veins near the surface of the breasts.

Breast symptoms during pregnancy begin 1 or 2 weeks after conception and may persist until childbirth.


The hormone progesterone contributes to tiredness and fatigue before a period. Fatigue typically goes away once the period begins.

For women with heavy periods, excessive tiredness can last throughout the period. It may also be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia.

Fatigue is also a common symptom of early pregnancy. It often persists throughout the first trimester, and some women feel tired for the full 9 months. Difficulty sleeping and frequent nighttime urination can make pregnancy fatigue worse.

Bleeding or spotting

Light spotting or bleeding can occur in early pregnancy. This is called implantation bleeding, and it typically occurs 10–14 days after fertilization.

Many women do not experience implantation bleeding. Others may not notice it. It is much lighter than menstruation.

PMS does not typically cause spotting, although a period can be very light on the first day. Usually, menstrual bleeding lasts for 4 or 5 days, and it causes more significant blood loss than the spotting of implantation.


Cramping is common in both PMS and early pregnancy. Early pregnancy cramps are similar to menstrual cramps, but they can occur lower down in the stomach.

These cramps may persist for weeks or months during pregnancy, as the embryo implants and the uterus stretches.

Headaches and back pain

Hormonal changes can cause both headaches and back pain in early pregnancy and before the menstrual period.

Changes in appetite

Share on PinterestChanges in hormones may cause women to crave sweet foods before their period.

Increased appetite and food cravings are common symptoms of pregnancy, but they can also occur with PMS.

Many people with PMS experience increased appetite and cravings for sweet or fatty foods, or carbohydrate-rich meals. Changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone likely influence cravings just before a period.

Research indicates that 50–90 percent of pregnant women in the United States have cravings.

Many crave specific foods and have aversions to others, finding their sight or smell deeply unpleasant. Food aversions are much less common in people with PMS.

Some pregnant women crave non-food items, such as ice or dirt. The medical term for this phenomenon is pica. Anyone with pica should speak to a doctor.

Some symptoms are more likely to indicate early pregnancy than an impending period. However, a person can only be sure by taking a home pregnancy test or visiting a doctor.

Symptoms that are likelier to signal pregnancy include:

A missed period

Missing a period is one of the most obvious signs of pregnancy. If a period is 1 week late and pregnancy is a possibility, take a pregnancy test.

Many tests are highly sensitive and can detect pregnancy hormones several days before a missed period.

However, there can be many other reasons for a missed or late period, such as:

  • stress
  • low body weight
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • going on or off birth control, or switching methods
  • having a medical condition, such as thyroid disease or diabetes
  • menopause


Share on PinterestNausea and vomiting are common in early pregnancy.

While mild digestive discomfort can occur just before a menstrual period, nausea and vomiting are not typical PMS symptoms.

They are, however, common symptoms of early pregnancy. Nausea affects up to 80 percent of pregnant women. Nausea and vomiting usually start before the 9th week of pregnancy.

Typically, these symptoms subside by the second trimester, but some women experience nausea throughout pregnancy.

Nipple changes

Although breast changes can occur during both PMS and pregnancy, changes to the nipples rarely happen before a period.

If the areola, the colored area around the nipple, gets darker or larger, this can suggest pregnancy. These changes can occur as early as 1 or 2 weeks after conception.

Women who suspect that they are pregnant should take a home pregnancy test. If the result is positive, make an appointment with a doctor to confirm the pregnancy and plan the next steps.

If the test is negative, but no period occurs within 1 or 2 weeks of when it was due, it is also a good idea to see a doctor.

The doctor can help determine the reason for a late or missed period and recommend treatment options. They can also address concerns about any unusual symptoms.

PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms: 7 Comparisons

PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms: 7 Comparisons

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Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph. D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — By Stacey Feintuch — Updated on February 9, 2023

Though symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and pregnancy are often similar, there are several key differences and certain symptoms that are unique to each.


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms linked to the menstrual cycle. Typically, PMS symptoms happen one to two weeks before your period. They usually stop after your period starts.

The symptoms of PMS can be very similar to those of early pregnancy. Read on to learn how to tell the difference. But remember, these differences are subtle and vary from woman to woman.

1. Breast pain

PMS: During PMS, breast swelling and tenderness can occur during the second half of your menstrual cycle. Tenderness ranges from mild to severe, and is usually the most severe right before your period. Women in their childbearing years tend to have more severe symptoms.

Breast tissue may feel bumpy and dense, especially in the outer areas. You may have a feeling of breast fullness with tenderness and a heavy, dull pain. The pain often improves during your period or right after, as your progesterone levels decrease.

Pregnancy: Your breasts during early pregnancy may feel sore, sensitive, or tender to the touch. They may also feel fuller and heavier. This tenderness and swelling will usually happen one to two weeks after you conceive, and it can last for a while as your progesterone levels rise due to your pregnancy.

2. Bleeding

PMS: You generally won’t have bleeding or spotting if it’s PMS. When you have your period, the flow is noticeably heavier and can last up to a week.

Pregnancy: For some, one of the first signs of pregnancy is light vaginal bleeding or spotting that’s usually pink or dark brown. This typically happens 10 to 14 days after conception and is usually not enough to fill pads or tampons. The spotting typically lasts for just a day or two, so it’s shorter than a normal period.

3. Mood changes

PMS: You may be irritable and feel a bit grouchy during PMS. You may also have crying spells and feel anxious. These symptoms typically go away after your period starts.

Getting some exercise and plenty of sleep may help take the edge off of your PMS moodiness. However, if you feel sad, overwhelmed, hopeless, or lack energy for two weeks or more, you could be depressed. Be sure to talk to your doctor.

Pregnancy: If you’re pregnant, you can have mood changes that last until you give birth. You’re more likely to be emotional during pregnancy. You may be ecstatic and excited, looking forward to the new member of your family. You may also have moments of sadness and cry more easily.

As with PMS, these latter symptoms can also indicate depression. If you’re concerned about your symptoms and think you might be depressed, be sure to talk to your doctor. Depression during pregnancy is common, and it can — and should — be treated.

4. Fatigue

PMS: Tiredness or fatigue is common during PMS, as is trouble sleeping. These symptoms should go away when your period starts. Getting some exercise can help improve your sleep and lessen your fatigue.

Pregnancy: While you’re pregnant, increased levels of the hormone progesterone can make you tired. Fatigue can be more pronounced during your first trimester, but it can last throughout your pregnancy as well. To help your body cope, be sure to eat well and get lots of sleep.

5. Nausea

PMS: You shouldn’t expect nausea or vomiting if your period is late but some digestive discomfort such as nausea can accompany symptoms of PMS.

Pregnancy: Morning sickness is one of the most classic and clear signs you’re pregnant. Bouts of nausea often begin a month after you get pregnant. Vomiting may or may not accompany the nausea. Despite the name, morning sickness can occur at any time of the day. However, not all women experience morning sickness.

6. Food cravings and aversions

PMS: When you have PMS, you’ll likely notice that your eating habits change. You may crave chocolate, carbohydrates, sugars, sweets, or salty foods. Or you may have a ravenous appetite. These cravings don’t happen to the same extent when you’re pregnant.

Pregnancy: You may have highly specific cravings, and you may be totally uninterested in other foods. You may also have an aversion to certain smells and tastes, even ones you once liked. These effects can last throughout pregnancy.

You could also have pica, in which you compulsively eat items that have no nutritional value, such as ice, dirt, dried paint flakes, or pieces of metal. If you have cravings for nonfood items, talk to your doctor right away.

7. Cramping

PMS: If you have PMS, you may experience dysmenorrhea, which are cramps that happen 24 to 48 hours before your period. The pain will probably decrease during your period and eventually go away by the end of your flow.

Menstrual cramps will often decrease after your first pregnancy or as you age. Some women will experience more cramping as they start to go into menopause.

Pregnancy: Early in pregnancy, you may experience mild or light cramping. These cramps will probably feel like the light cramps you get during your period, but they’ll be in your lower stomach or lower back.

If you have a history of pregnancy loss, don’t ignore these symptoms. Rest. If they don’t subside, talk to your doctor. You can have the cramps for weeks up to months when you’re pregnant. If you know you’re pregnant and these cramps are accompanied by any bleeding or watery discharge, see a doctor immediately.


It’s important to know the cause of your symptoms. If you’re pregnant, the sooner you find out, the sooner you can get the right care. The best way to tell the difference between symptoms of PMS and early pregnancy is to take a pregnancy test.

It can also be helpful to track your symptoms so you notice when there’s a change in your typical pattern. If you have questions or concerns about any of your symptoms, be sure to see your doctor.

Read this article in Spanish.

Last medically reviewed on January 16, 2018

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  • Pregnancy
  • Getting Pregnant

How we reviewed this article:

Healthline has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  • Cheng C-Y, et al. (2014). Survey of trend and factors in perinatal maternal fatigue.
  • Depression during and after pregnancy. (2017).
    womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy. html
  • Dysmenorrhea: Painful periods. (2015).
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Pregnancy week by week.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens first.
  • Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. (2015).
  • Premenstrual syndrome. (2010).

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

Current Version

Feb 9, 2023

Written By

Stacey Feintuch

Edited By

Stassi Myer – CE

Jan 16, 2018

Written By

Stacey Feintuch

Edited By

Stassi Myer – CE

Medically Reviewed By

Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT

Share this article

Medically reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, Ph. D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT — By Stacey Feintuch — Updated on February 9, 2023

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The first signs of pregnancy in the early stages, before and after the delay, how to recognize

Some women claim that they felt that they were pregnant even before the delay, in the first weeks, while others did not suspect that the pregnancy had come before the middle of the term. There are cases when a woman found out about her pregnancy only in childbirth. Why does this happen and what are the signs of early pregnancy?


How is the pregnancy

Pregnancy test





Pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. During this time, the female body undergoes serious changes, which are quite difficult not to notice for both the woman herself and those around her. In order to verify the onset of pregnancy, you can resort to different methods.

Content of article

Do not self-medicate! In our articles, we collect the latest scientific data and the opinions of authoritative health experts. But remember: only a doctor can diagnose and prescribe treatment.

Regardless of whether you are planning a pregnancy or not, you want to know about it as early as possible. The most obvious sign of pregnancy in the early stages is a delay in menstruation. Although it can be caused by various reasons, it is most often the first and main symptom of pregnancy.

Is it possible to find out that the conception happened even before the cherished date of menstruation? Yes, some signs of pregnancy are possible in the early stages before the delay. We have collected them for you, but we warn you right away: the signs are not indisputable, and each of them individually is not yet enough to diagnose pregnancy. Rather, these are just guidelines, signs that you should pay special attention to your health just in case.

Caitlin Buhrow, MD in Iowa, recommends taking a pregnancy test 12 days after ovulation, but not before the first day of delay. Of course, if there are other early signs of pregnancy, you can do the test earlier, but in this case the result may be inaccurate.


How can I know for sure that I am pregnant?

For example, take a pregnancy test, it will respond to an increase in the concentration of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) – a hormone whose level rises in the first weeks after conception. A pregnancy test is recommended to be done after a delay in menstruation – before this period, the concentration of the hormone may be insufficient to detect, it will not work to focus on this sign of pregnancy.

Another option for confirming pregnancy is donating blood for hCG. An increase in the concentration of the hormone is one of the first signs of pregnancy. A blood test is more accurate, since the concentration of the hormone in the blood is greater than in the urine. In the first weeks of pregnancy, the concentration of hCG increases in proportion to the period, determining the amount of the hormone will help to more accurately identify which week of pregnancy a woman is in.

Ultrasound is also used to confirm pregnancy. The study itself is carried out transvaginally – in the early stages of pregnancy, you can already notice the first signs of pregnancy, examine the fetal egg and fix the heartbeat.

What causes pregnancy symptoms?

From the moment of the reunion of the spermatozoon and the ovum, various processes begin to take place in your body, connected with the birth of a new life. Sometimes they are accompanied by some unusual sensations that can be considered the first signs of pregnancy after conception.

Thus, pulling pains in the abdomen may accompany the attachment of a fertilized egg to the endometrium of the uterus. This sign of pregnancy usually appears even before the delay, and sometimes it can coincide with it in time.

During implantation, scanty spotting sometimes occurs – often mistaken for the onset of menstruation. This, by the way, is one of the reasons why many women remain in the dark for quite a long time about the fact that their body is preparing for motherhood: they are sure that they are menstruating. So don’t fool yourself when you expect your period after unprotected sex: more meager than usual discharge may well be a sign of early pregnancy.

Hormonal changes after conception are responsible for breast tenderness, fatigue and mood swings. These are not the most reliable signs of pregnancy before a missed period, but they should not be ignored.

Signs of pregnancy before your period: what you need to know

Most tests detect the first signs of pregnancy after a missed period, the same applies to blood tests for hCG and ultrasound. All these diagnostic methods are recommended to be carried out after the first day of delayed menstruation – it is from this day that the obstetric gestational age is counted. However, the cycle in women may be unstable, and menstruation may be absent for various reasons. This is what prevents some pregnant women from noticing changes in their condition.

It is especially difficult to recognize the first signs of a first pregnancy when a woman has never encountered this condition and does not know what to expect from her body. Below we list what signs can indicate pregnancy.

These are early signs of pregnancy that appear even before the delay, and which a woman can ignore, mistaking them for signs that precede the onset of menstruation. In fact, in the first stages of pregnancy, the signs may not be alarming, but resemble those that a woman experiences every month before menstruation.

An early sign of pregnancy: pulling pains in the abdomen

Unpleasant sensations in the lower abdomen can occur, as we have already written, when a fertilized egg attaches to the endometrium. As a rule, we are talking about mild discomfort. If the pain is intense, it is better not to hesitate to contact a doctor: for example, acute and cramping pain, discomfort in the perineum may be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.

Implantation occurs on average one week after conception. Drawing pains at this time can be considered the first sign of early pregnancy. If the pregnancy is ectopic, then the pain usually appears later.

Soreness of the mammary glands

Many women notice an increase in the sensitivity of the breast already in the first days after conception, when there are no other signs of pregnancy. The fact is that breast tissue is very sensitive to hormonal changes, so breast engorgement may be the first sign of pregnancy as early as its first week.

As the body gets used to the change in hormonal levels, the pain disappears, although sensitivity may persist throughout pregnancy. By the way, the breasts can not only hurt, but also increase in size a little, so the sudden appearance of a luxurious bust in place of a modest first size may be a sign that you are pregnant.


Of course, you could just be tired, not get enough sleep, get nervous. But if fatigue appeared literally out of the blue, you want to sleep all the time and don’t want to do anything, this may be an early sign of pregnancy, which will appear even before the delay in menstruation.

Once again, hormones are to blame: changes in their levels become a serious stress for the body. In addition, the fetus grows and requires nutrition, and your body has not yet had time to rebuild to provide the fetus with everything it needs. Although this sign of pregnancy is not specific, on the forums you can often find stories of girls who guessed that they were pregnant, precisely because of unexpected drowsiness and constant fatigue, which was unusual for them before.

Mood swings

Mood lability is also a non-specific sign of pregnancy, which may appear one of the first, before the first delay. Many girls do not behave quite adequately during PMS, when they are ready either to kill everyone around, or to sob in a corner. But if premenstrual syndrome is characterized by irritability and depressive mood, then expectant mothers usually not only feel sad, but also rejoice. At the same time, the mood can change dramatically in just a couple of minutes.

Hormonal changes are to blame again. This symptom of pregnancy most often appears on the 10th – 14th day after conception.


How else does early pregnancy manifest itself? Nausea is one of the common symptoms that up to 90% of women experience. True, this sign of pregnancy usually appears at least a month later, not earlier. Most people feel sick in the morning.

Nausea is usually associated with increased salivation and sometimes with vomiting. All these 1st signs of pregnancy are a consequence of changes in progesterone levels. Some women feel sick before giving birth, but most of the discomfort disappears by the second trimester.

Vaginal discharge

Vaginal discharge may be an early sign of a first (or not first) pregnancy. When an egg is implanted, up to 5 ml of blood can be released. Sometimes there may be unusual mucous discharge. Their appearance is associated with changes in the composition of the cervical mucus, which becomes less viscous, facilitating the access of sperm to the egg.

If you are looking for a reliable sign of how to understand that a woman is pregnant, then you should hardly be guided by the discharge. However, if they are combined with other symptoms, and there is an unprotected sexual intercourse in the anamnesis, then this is a reason to think.

Change in eating habits

The classic sign of pregnancy usually appears after a delay, but some even before it notice a sudden desire to chew something inedible or simply unusual. You may traditionally be drawn to salty or sour, you may awaken a passion for some products that you were previously indifferent to.

This symptom of pregnancy is typical for the first trimester. The child needs vitamins and minerals, if your body does not have excess, it will strive to get them from food. It is believed that it is necessary to satisfy the whims of pregnant women, and if they seem completely wild and unhealthy to you, then special vitamin complexes that the doctor will recommend can help.

Increased sensitivity to smells

Another classic sign of pregnancy. which can appear both before the delay and after it. Hyperosmia in pregnant women is associated with an increase in the concentration of estrogen in the body. Nature has provided this mechanism to protect the body of a pregnant woman from the use of low-quality products and being in potentially dangerous places.

Frequent urination

Usually this is not the first sign of pregnancy before menstruation, but many women experience it even before the uterus begins to grow rapidly and put pressure on the bladder. Due to fluid retention due to hormonal changes, you often run to the toilet “in a small way” more often than usual. Alas, this will only progress throughout your pregnancy, so get used to planning your day so that there are toilets in your way.

At what week do the first signs of pregnancy appear and how do they change?

Even at a very early date, one or another of the signs that many women associate with the onset of pregnancy and its development can be felt. Let’s analyze which week the signs of pregnancy appear most clearly.

  • 1st – 4th weeks

Drawing pains in the lower abdomen, scanty spotting usually appear within two weeks after conception. Increased sensitivity of the mammary glands, soreness when touched are also among the first signs of pregnancy, which can persist for several more months.

  • 1st – 6th weeks

Increased emotionality, mood swings, tearfulness. From the sixth week, the mood becomes a little more even, but don’t count on it too much: often pregnant women themselves are surprised by their unexpected emotional reactions.

  • 4th week

Delayed menses. The most obvious and unambiguous sign of the onset of pregnancy.

  • 4th – 6th weeks

Nausea, change in appetite (decrease or increase), change in taste preferences. Increased fatigue, drowsiness, constant fatigue. These signs usually disappear by the second trimester, but may persist until the very birth.

  • Weeks 5-6

Frequent painless urination. As a rule, this symptom persists until the end of pregnancy. Weakness, dizziness also usually occur in the fifth or sixth week, but as the body gets used to the new status, they disappear.

  • 6th week

Temperature fluctuations from normal to subfebrile (37 degrees). Usually this sign of pregnancy disappears by the second trimester.

What signs of pregnancy can be detected before a missed period?

A single first sign of pregnancy, which is exactly present in every woman, is difficult to single out. Some do not experience exactly any changes before the delay (and often after it), others literally the next day after intercourse feel changes in themselves, and the symptoms that appear, which we described above, are associated with pregnancy. Most of these sensations are subjective – more often they appear in those who are looking forward to the onset of pregnancy, such women tend to take any body signals for a desired event.

When does pregnancy occur?

It is worth remembering that pregnancy does not always occur immediately after intercourse. The process of fertilization of an egg by a sperm does not occur instantly and can happen even a week after unprotected sex. In general, the signs of pregnancy in the first weeks may be different, and the degree of their manifestation may differ.

When can you accurately detect pregnancy?

Doctors are confident that the most reliable data on the onset of pregnancy can only be obtained after a delay – in the case when the obstetric gestation period exceeds 4-5 weeks. However, in this case, the test will not always give an accurate answer: in the case of late ovulation that occurred closer to the end of the cycle, as well as a protracted fertilization process, the tests will show a positive result not on the first day of the delay, but later.

At the same time, external signs may become more pronounced. Pregnant women notice bloating (it becomes especially noticeable during repeated pregnancies), the appearance of edema on the arms, legs and face, a darkening of the line on the skin leading from the navel to the lower abdomen, a change in the pigmentation of the nipples – they become darker in pregnant women.

If menstruation is absent for more than 6-7 days, you need to consult a doctor and find out the cause of the failure – the cause may be not only the onset of pregnancy, but also some health problems.

Which signs of pregnancy can be trusted and which not?

You can listen to the short version of the article. If it’s more convenient for you, turn on the podcast.

The most reliable signs of pregnancy are a positive blood test for hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and an ultrasound confirming the fact of conception. But sometimes you want to clarify the situation before going to the doctor or pharmacy. And this can really be done with high accuracy if you know which symptoms and in what period to pay attention.

At what time do the first signs of pregnancy appear

Let’s say right away: stories like “I realized that I was pregnant the very next morning after a night of love!” or “we slept together, and after three days morning sickness appeared and everything became obvious” – this is something like an urban legend. They have nothing to do with science.

The earliest signs of pregnancy appear at best 6 days after conception. And it’s not for all women.

The reason is physiology. For a pregnancy to occur, the egg must meet with the sperm in the fallopian tube. This should happen within one or two days after ovulation – the maturation of the egg in the ovary. The fertilized egg then travels to the uterus to attach to it.

This process takes at least a few days – on average, from 6 to 10. Moreover, until the egg begins to fix itself in the endometrium lining the uterus, no changes in well-being can be noticed. Simply because they are not and cannot be.

Actually, it is the implantation (introduction) of the embryo into the wall of the uterus that doctors consider the beginning of pregnancy. And this is logical. If a woman is taking oral contraceptives or has an intrauterine device, implantation will not occur. Accordingly, pregnancy will not occur and will not be able to make itself felt with any symptoms.

Conclusion: it is useless to look for signs of pregnancy earlier than 6 days after unprotected intercourse. But after this period, you can already begin to listen to yourself.

Which Early Signs of Pregnancy You Can Trust

There are traditional signs of pregnancy related to well-being: morning sickness with or without vomiting, painful breasts, changes in taste… And most of them are really worthy of attention.

Patricia A. Yost


Even if you feel a little different than usual, it’s enough to suggest pregnancy.

But at the same time, these symptoms may have other causes. The real signs of pregnancy manifest themselves in strictly defined terms – this is due to the physiology, which we talked about above.

Therefore, if any change in your health seems suspicious to you, be sure to check how much time has passed since the alleged conception (or the first day of the last menstruation – the so-called obstetric period is counted from it).

Here are the most common and reliable symptoms that you are pregnant. Not all of them may be present specifically for you. But the more of them, the higher the likelihood that you are in a position.

1. Mild cramps in the lower abdomen

  • When appears: 6-12 days after the expected conception (4-5 weeks from the beginning of the last menstruation).

When a fertilized egg implants in the wall of the uterus, some women experience mild cramping pain in the lower abdomen. It can last 1-2 days until the implantation process is completed. These sensations are also enhanced by increased blood flow to the uterus.

However, pain in the lower abdomen often occurs before menstruation, when the uterus is preparing to reject the thickened endometrium that is not needed this time. If you are not pregnant, after a couple of days these cramps will end with menstruation. But if the stomach hurt and stopped and menstruation did not come, you should be wary.

2. Spotting spotting

  • When appears: 6-12 days after the expected conception, that is, on the days of the expected menstruation (4-5th week from the beginning of the last menstruation).

The process of egg implantation in the uterine wall can be accompanied not only by pain, but also by the so-called implantation bleeding. It is small and usually consists of small, light red or brownish discharge that stops within a couple of days.

Sometimes women overlook this symptom, thinking it is simply too weak menstruation. But menstruation cannot be “too weak”, this is important. If the monthly bleeding of your usual volumes did not come after the spotting discharge, you are most likely pregnant.

3. Heavier, painful breasts

  • When appears: 6-12 days after conception (4-5 weeks from the beginning of the last menstruation).

This is how the mammary glands react to hormonal changes in the body that begin after the implantation of the egg. This is a fairly common and characteristic symptom. According to a survey conducted by the American Pregnancy Association, for 17% of women, swollen breasts were the first sign of their new condition.

At the same time, breast enlargement and soreness can also be associated with approaching menstruation – the so-called premenstrual syndrome.

4. Unmotivated weakness, fatigue

  • When appears: 6-12 days after the expected conception (4-5 weeks from the beginning of the last menstruation).

During and after egg implantation, the body begins to produce progesterone, a hormone that helps maintain pregnancy. A side effect of its increased level is sudden weakness, drowsiness, laziness, unwillingness to do anything. Later, when the female body adapts to the changed hormonal background, vigor will return. But at the very start of pregnancy, weakness is most noticeable.

However, concluding that you are pregnant just because you suddenly want to crawl under the covers and do nothing is not worth it. Unmotivated fatigue can have dozens of different reasons – from banal overwork or ordinary SARS to much more dangerous diseases. Keep monitoring your condition.

5. Delayed period

  • When appears: approximately 14 days after conception (weeks 5-6 from the beginning of the last period) with a normal 28-day cycle.

Absence of menstruation is the key and most understandable symptom of pregnancy. Nearly 30% of women surveyed by the American Pregnancy Association said it was what made them take the test.

Nevertheless, a delay in menstruation is still not an unambiguous sign. It can be related to a host of other factors besides pregnancy: stress, weight loss, exercising too intensely, jet lag, certain medications.

6. Nausea (early toxicosis)

  • When appears: about 14 days after conception (weeks 5-6 from last period).

They like to show this sign in films so that the viewer understands that the heroine is pregnant. But nausea appears no earlier than 2 weeks after conception. Scientists do not fully understand what this process is connected with, however, they suggest that this is the body’s reaction to a changed hormonal background.

If you feel sick 3-7 days after sexual intercourse, it is more likely a problem with digestion, and not early toxicosis, because at this time the level of hormones does not change significantly.

7. Sensitivity to odors

  • When appears: about 14 days after conception (weeks 5-6 from last period).

This symptom is caused by the same hormonal changes as nausea. Sometimes it appears even before the delay of menstruation. For example, you become unbearable smell from smoking colleagues. Or he begins to feel sick from the aroma of his favorite flowers, perfumes, dishes. This is a good reason to at least buy a pregnancy test.

8. Bloating and constipation

  • When appears: 6-12 days after conception (4-5 weeks from the start of the last period).

Progesterone causes some muscle relaxation. This also applies to the muscles of the intestines. For this reason, the digestive process slows down, feces remain in the intestines longer. Which often causes a bursting sensation in the abdomen and constipation.

However, be aware that bloating and constipation can have dozens of other causes besides pregnancy. Therefore, it makes sense to consider this symptom only in combination with others.

9. Frequent urination

  • When appears: 14-21 days after conception (5-6th week from the beginning of the last menstruation).

In the first weeks of pregnancy, the body actively produces the hormone hCG. It increases blood flow to the pelvis, causing women to run to the toilet more often.

10. Increased basal temperature

  • When appears: 14-21 days after conception (5-6th week from the beginning of the last menstruation).

Basal body temperature is measured in the mouth, rectum or vagina. It rises during ovulation – that is, during the period when the egg leaves the ovary into the fallopian tube. During pregnancy, basal temperature can also increase. But this happens not earlier than the sixth obstetric week.

11. Mood swings

  • When appears: 7-10 days after the start of the delay of menstruation (from the 6th week from the beginning of the last menstruation).

Mood swings are caused by hormonal changes that a pregnant woman goes through. However, these changes increase gradually and become significant after a delay in menstruation.

If irritability, anxiety, tearfulness occur much earlier, most likely, it is not about pregnancy, but about banal PMS or stress.

12. Dizziness

  • When appears: from 14-21 days after conception (from 5-6 weeks from the beginning of the last menstruation).

In the early stages of pregnancy, blood pressure often drops. This is due to the fact that the uterus requires more blood supply, the blood vessels dilate to provide the necessary blood flow, and the heart is not yet ready to pump the required volumes. The pressure decreases, this process is accompanied by dizziness.

However, dizziness can have other causes, including dangerous ones. If you begin to regularly “sickness”, consult a general practitioner or (if pregnancy has already been established) a gynecologist.

13. Accelerated pulse

  • When appears: from the 8th to 10th week from the beginning of the last menstruation.

During pregnancy, the heart has to pump more blood to keep the growing uterus and fetus healthy. Therefore, it begins to work more actively. An increased heart rate is a common symptom in pregnant women, but it occurs already at those times when pregnancy is in most cases obvious.

But again, keep in mind that an accelerated heartbeat (tachycardia) can also occur for other reasons – for example, with cardiovascular diseases. In any case, such conditions, if they began to manifest themselves regularly, require consultation with a general practitioner, gynecologist or cardiologist.

14. Pimples

  • When appears: usually not earlier than the 11th week from the beginning of the last menstruation.

Increased blood volume and increased hormone levels increase blood flow. This leads to the fact that the sebaceous glands of the body begin to work more actively than usual. Acne is often a side effect of this activity.

However, acne has many other causes, so do not rush to write off pimples for pregnancy. You may be able to quickly get rid of them if you make small changes in your lifestyle.

Signs of pregnancy to avoid

1. Diarrhea

Liquid, watery stools are also sometimes considered a sign of pregnancy. But it’s not. On the contrary, you are more likely to become constipated in the early stages of pregnancy. Exclusively for hormonal reasons, which we wrote about above.

If you do develop diarrhea, it is likely caused by other factors: you may have eaten something wrong or caught a rotavirus infection.

2. Sudden changes in taste preferences

There are legends about the love of pregnant women for peaches with herring or strawberries with soy sauce. But there is little convincing scientific evidence that women experience cravings for unusual flavor combinations during pregnancy.

Rather, we are talking about some changes in appetite associated with early toxicosis and sensitivity to smells. So, you may want to give up your usual coffee or fried foods – simply because their pungent smell will become disgusting.

However, there is still a craving for non-standard dishes. As a rule, it is associated with the fact that the body of a pregnant woman is deficient in certain essential vitamins and minerals. And he tries to cover their shortage by making the hostess want chalk (this may be a sign of iron deficiency) or, for example, pickles (deficiency of some salts) with raspberry jam (vitamin C deficiency). But such food perversions occur at solid terms of pregnancy, when it is already obvious.

3. Dreams about fish and other signs

But these options have nothing to do with evidence-based medicine at all, no matter at what moment they appear. Also, do not try to detect pregnancy with the help of fortune-telling and waving a ring on a string.

How to establish pregnancy for sure

To begin with, listen to yourself, but don’t go crazy. If you have a couple of reliable signs, invest in a quality pharmacy test. With its help, you can determine pregnancy as early as 10–12 days after fertilization.

If you want to be clear sooner, take a blood test for hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). It can be done in any certified medical laboratory, and the results will be ready within a few hours.

Lia Moss

Nurse Midwife at Northwestern University School of Medicine

An hCG blood test can detect pregnancy as early as 7 to 10 days after conception. But be aware: too early testing can give a false positive result.

If the test is positive, go to the gynecologist. The doctor will conduct an examination and prescribe a follow-up ultrasound to confirm your new position.

If the tests are negative, but the symptoms of pregnancy seem obvious to you, repeat the test in 1-2 days. And if necessary – again after the same period of time.

By the way, a negative result in this case will also be a result. If the signs of pregnancy persist or increase, and the test claims that there is no embryo in your body, this is a serious reason to see a gynecologist again.