Pregnant or not pregnant? This is a question that faces many women at one time or another. While you can often take a pregnancy test to find out the answer, there are also many telltale signs that can alert you to the fact that you are pregnant early on.
Early signs of pregnancy to look out for
One of the most well-known signs that you are pregnant, morning sickness can range from occasional feelings of nausea to frequent vomiting. It usually occurs about six weeks into the pregnancy, although sometimes surfaces as early as four weeks.
Despite its name, morning sickness can occur at any time, not only in the early hours. Although the precise cause of morning sickness is uncertain, it is thought that hormonal changes in the early stages of pregnancy is a factor. Generally morning sickness should stop when you enter the second trimester – i.e. after the first three months of pregnancy.
A common misconception is that a missed period is a sure sign of pregnancy. In fact the regularity of periods varies from woman to woman. Stress, illness, weight fluctuation and increased exercise are among several possible causes for a missed period – so don’t immediately assume you are pregnant if your period fails to arrive when expected. That being said, pregnancy is the most common cause of a missed period. Therefore, buying a pregnancy test is not an illogical step, especially if your cycle is fairly regular.
Early into pregnancy your breasts can become swollen and tender to the touch – similar to the sensation just before your period. Blue veins can be increasingly visible beneath the skin, while your nipples may darken and stand out. Fortunately, tenderness normally eases over time; like morning sickness it is most noticeable within the first trimester. You may find that wearing supportive bras helps ease the discomfort.
Fell asleep on the sofa for the fourth time this week? The increased hormones caused by pregnancy could be the reason. While there are many possible causes of fatigue, pregnancy is certainly one of them. The extent can vary from slight tiredness to complete exhaustion. Again, fatigue is most noticeable in the first trimester, although it often returns in the third trimester (the last three months of pregnancy) as the baby grows larger inside you.
Like fatigue, mood swings during early pregnancy are a result of hormonal changes taking place within your body. Mood swings occur mainly in the first trimester. You may feel emotional and upset, often suddenly and over seemingly trivial matters. However, do not be alarmed if your emotions remain heightened throughout your pregnancy. You are experiencing a time of great change and there will naturally be moments of stress or anxiety.
Sudden cravings or aversions
You can’t stop eating fish. Or your favourite pizza now tastes revolting. Sudden changes in taste can happen very early into pregnancy, sometimes even before a missed period. Some women also experience a metallic taste in their mouth. A more sensitive sense of smell is another common occurrence, especially around food or cooking.
Taking a pregnancy test
While many of these signs can indicate pregnancy early on, by far the most reliable way of telling whether you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test.
When to test
Timing your pregnancy test is very important. Ideally you want to take the test on or after the day your period is due. If used on or after the day your period is due, most pregnancy tests are over 99% accurate. You can also use them up to four days before your period is due, but the accuracy decreases with each day.
If you are unsure when your next period is due, wait for three weeks until after you last had unprotected sex before taking a pregnancy test.
How to test
To use the pregnancy test hold the absorbent tip pointing downwards in your urine stream for five seconds exactly, using the thumb grip provided. Time carefully, as too much or too little urine can skew your results. All tests come with an instruction leaflet so consult that if you have any doubts how to proceed.
How accurate is a pregnancy test?
As detailed above, the accuracy of a pregnancy test is greatest from the first day of the missed period onwards. A positive pregnancy result is almost always correct. A negative result can be less reliable. If you continue to experience signs of pregnancy after a negative result then retake the test in a week or consult your GP.
Staying healthy when pregnant.
Staying healthy is always important but especially so when you’re pregnant. Basic tips include:
- Get lots of rest.
- Take folic acid.
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Take vitamin supplements if needed.
- Do regular, light exercise.
- Keep in contact with your GP.
You can also visit the NHS website for a whole ton of advice on staying healthy during pregnancy.