Medically reviewed by Dr Kristy June Dinampo.
So you think you may be pregnant? But how early can you tell if you really are?
Honestly, it’s hard to pin point exactly how soon you can tell if you’re pregnant because each one of us is unique.
Some women get a 6th sense about it straight away (within hours even), while others don’t know until months down the line. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and we’ll start to get an inkling we may be pregnant within 2-4 weeks of conception.
Pregnancy symptoms are usually very mild in the first couple of weeks making them hard to detect without a blood or urine test. Usually the first sign is a late period. But what other early signs and symptoms will give you a clue to whether you’re pregnant or not?
And how early can you take a pregnancy test to find out for sure?
How reliable are urine pregnancy tests, what can you do to make sure you get an accurate result and what might cause a false positive?
What about super early symptoms, like before implantation? Is that even possible?
We answer all your questions below.
Super Early Signs of Pregnancy
1. Missed Period
Sometimes the very first indicator for many women, a missed period is normally a good sign that a pregnancy has occurred. However, it’s also not always the case. Periods can be delayed in general by stress or changes to your diet, and bleeding can even still occur throughout pregnancy.
If you haven’t yet missed your period, but would like to test early, home pregnancy tests such as First Response can detect pregnancy hormones up to six days prior to a missed period. But this is certainly not guaranteed. It’s better to wait until your period is actually missed so that your body is making enough hormones to detect and you can get an accurate result. You will also need to make sure you take the test properly. Read the full instructions on how to do this towards the end of this page.
2. Nausea or Vomiting
Nausea is an extremely common side effect of pregnancy, especially early on. If you find yourself feeling nauseous for no reason you can pinpoint, dry retching or unexpectedly over the toilet, you may want to take a test.
3. Spotting (Implantation Bleeding)
Some women notice very light pink or brown spots of blood around a week – two weeks after conception. This is the fertilized embryo implanting into the lining of the womb.
Finding yourself needing to sit down often, getting light-headed or wobbly on your feet, and unable to focus on things you normally can could indicate a pregnancy. Your body is experiencing rapid changes in hormone levels, and this change impacts the functionality of your entire system. With dizziness, the cause is a widening and relaxing of your blood vessels which can lower your blood pressure.
Especially for those women who do not often experience headaches, the random onset of frequent ones may be a pregnancy indicator. You can thank your hormones for this one, too!
6. Increased Sensitivity to Smells
You might notice that smells you’ve never paid much attention to suddenly make you feel nauseous. Common culprits are fried food, perfumes, soaps and alcohol but anything can be a trigger.
For me, the smell plaster dust on my husband and in his work van was guaranteed to make me feel very sick. Plus the smell of beer on his breath – even if he’d drunk it many hours before I could still pick it up.
7. Aversion to Certain Foods and Drinks
You may not have an overt sensitivity to smells, but because smell and taste are so closely tied together you may simply “go off” foods and drinks that you’ve always enjoyed. Tea and coffee are very common drinks you might suddenly feel an unexplained aversion to.
Further up we mentioned changes to taste and smell. The opposite side of that is desperately wanting to eat certain foods. Random cravings are a huge – and almost laughable – aspect of pregnancy. If your diet is pretty typical, but you suddenly can’t picture yourself getting through the day without consuming a peanut-butter-and-cucumber sandwich, you might be pregnant.
9. Being Super Tired
Tiredness and exhaustion are typical early-on in pregnancy. This is not the normal tiredness after a long day at work. It feels more like you’ve run a marathon. If exhaustion is otherwise unexplainable it’s a pretty good indicator of pregnancy, especially when coupled with other signs and symptoms.
10. Sore Boobs
Imagine going for an overly-enthusiastic run…without an exercise bra. The feeling you’d imagine your breasts enduring the day after this jog is similar to how tender your breasts become early on in pregnancy. Sore to the touch and unexplainably tender, your breasts have begun to change in readiness to nurture your baby in the near futur
11. Boobs Increase in Size
Along with soreness, your breasts will also increase in size during pregnancy. As the milk ducts expand, so do your breasts. This is not something you have to wait until the later stages for either, there can be a dramatic and noticeable increase in breast size in the first few weeks. Personally, larger breasts were one of my own very early pregnancy symptoms and one of the factors that alerted me to the need to take a pregnancy test.
12. Boobs Change Color
With increased blood flow to the breast area, your veins can become far more noticeable and they may look more purple or blue in color.
In many women, the areola (the area around your nipples) will become larger and darken in color as well.
13. Needing to Pee – A LOT
If you can’t go a few minutes without running to the potty, and you’re not drinking more than usual, you may be pregnant. I remember excusing myself from the lunch table with my husband and a couple of our friends almost six times one afternoon. I’m sure the entire restaurant noticed my presumably tiny bladder. I tested positive the following morning.
14. Positive Pregnancy Test
If suffering from any of the surrounding physical symptoms, taking a home pregnancy test is a fantastic means of confirming your suspicion. However, know that pregnancy tests can be faulty. Still, since tests measure for an increase in pregnancy hormones, it’s more difficult for a test to show a positive result. For confirmation, visit your doctor.
Not to be mistaken for menstrual cramps, the changes going on down south can often result in some cramping and discomfort. Cramping can be a symptom of implantation bleeding which is further up the list. Women have often described pregnancy feelings as “twinges” compared to actual, painful cramps. If you are pregnant, you can kiss your menstrual cramps to the curb, at least for the next few months. Don’t worry—you’ll remember what they feel like soon enough when they arrive back in full-force in the form of contractions!
Some women mistake things like implantation bleeding or changes in discharge for an impending period when, instead, a pregnancy is showing its signs. Look for these sorts of changes, coupled with other symptoms.
17. Mood Swings
Okay, when it comes to women, mood swings being an indicator of pregnancy is sometimes a stretch (I personally feel like we are always prone to mood swings). But if you notice – or more likely your partner notices – an extreme change in your normal character, it may be time to take a test. Mood swings can include crying more often and with more intensity, getting very angry over “small” things, even feelings of anxiety and depression.
Up until I became pregnant, heartburn was only experienced after too much pepperoni pizza. Suddenly it seemed as though just drinking water could cause it.
Heartburn in early pregnancy is caused by increased levels of progesterone. One of the effects of progesterone is that it relaxes your muscles, and this often includes the small valve that stops your stomach acid coming up your esophagus. When acid does come up your esophagus the result is painful and uncomfortable heart burn.
It’s no secret that a women’s intuition is unbeatable. If you have this absolute certainty that you’re pregnant you definitely won’t be the first to experience this unexplainable knowing. You may have to wait a week or two until you take a test though.
If you’re suddenly kicking back gallons of water and other thirst quenchers only to find yourself dissatisfied, you may be pregnant. Since you’re now taking in drinks, food, and air for two, you may find yourself dehydrated.
While you may be constantly thirsty and needing to drink, frustratingly your body may retain the water you take in. This can result in swollen limbs, hands and feet. Swelling is very common in later pregnancy but can also happen early on too, which is why pregnant women ultimately need to put their swollen feet up and take a rest. It’s also why wedded/engaged pregnant women often find the need to remove their rings until their fingers shrink back down post-pregnancy.
Pregnant women often report an increase in memorable, detailed dreams and nightmares early on in pregnancy. If your REM is typically uneventful but you can suddenly recall intense dreams from the night before on a recurring basis, it could be an indicator that you’re pregnant.
23. Weight Gain
As your body undergoes numerous hormonal changes and begins to retain fluid, the number on the scale may begin to increase. You may put on 4-8 pounds in a very short space of time. Have no fear, weight gain during pregnancy is to be expected and is even encouraged, for the most part.
24. Change in Appetite
As much as you find yourself indulging in random cravings and finishing off the entire portion, only to find yourself still hungry, a woman early on in pregnancy may also experience a distinct lack of appetite. Sometimes this is a direct result of morning sickness and a lack of a desire to continue vomiting, other times the decrease is a result of those hormonal changes, or even the stress of a new situation.
25. Pooping More Frequently (AKA Diarrhea)
One possible effect of the increase in hormones during early pregnancy is a change in the speed your body digests food. When it speeds up, it can result in diarrhea and sometimes even green poop.
The pregnancy hormones can also have the opposite effect, slowing down your metabolism and the transit of food through your digestive tract. This results in constipation. There are a number of things you can do to help alleviate constipation in pregnancy. Our pharmacist goes through them all here.
Pregnant or Not?
The symptoms of pregnancy explained above are the most common ones but often the signs and symptoms experienced are very mild and easily attributed to other reasons. If you frequently experience headaches and can confidently chalk your mood swings up to, say, a social media article that just set you off, looking for stronger indictors like morning sickness and changes in discharge would be a good start.
If you do notice a cluster of symptoms, following up with a home pregnancy test is your best next move.
Pregnancy Testing for an Early and Accurate Result
A pregnancy test measures levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your blood or urine. hCG starts to be produced after implantation in the walls of the uterus. Implantation can occur as early as 7 days after conception. The placenta begins to develop and produces increasing amounts of hCG.
There are no diﬀerences between ethnicities with regards to urinary hCG increase. However, levels of serum hCG in early pregnancy following assisted reproductive technology have been seen to be slightly lower in women with a higher pre-pregnancy body mass index.
If you need an early detection of pregnancy, a blood pregnancy test done at the doctor’s oﬀice can detect low levels of hCG and measure the actual quantity of hCG in the body. A blood pregnancy test can be accurate six to eight days after ovulation. A urine test is usually accurate about 14-21 days after ovulation.
How to improve the accuracy of your home pregnancy test
– Wait until your period is one week late
– Read the instructions carefully and follow them to the letter
– Take the urine test in the morning, with your very first urine of the day
– Don’t drink large amounts of liquids before the test (to avoid diluted urine)
– Pee into a clean cup and put the test stick into it for 15 minutes
– Store your test in a cool dry place. Extreme temperatures can damage the test.
– Check expiration date of test
There are times you can get a False positive result. It is rare but possible due to:
– Ovarian Cysts
– Ectopic or Molar pregnancy
– Recent pregnancy (if you had a loss soon after the fertilized egg attached to uterine lining)
– Peri-menopause and Menopause (1.3 % of false positive results seen in women aged 41–55, and 6.7 % of results in women over 55 years old).
After a recent miscarriage or termination there are still hCG levels in your blood and urine. HCG takes an approximately one to two weeks to go back to pre-pregnancy levels but can take longer depending on how many weeks pregnant you were when your pregnancy ended. A positive urine or blood test can also mean you still have pregnancy tissue in your uterus. It is recommended to see your doctor if you have heavy or prolonged bleeding or pelvic pain for more than two weeks after a miscarriage or termination.
Can pregnancy symptoms start before implantation?
To ensure successful implantation progesterone rises when the ovum fertilizes, so sensitive women may notice very mild pregnancy symptoms before implantation that feel much like pre-menstrual symptoms. But it has to be said that this is uncommon. It usually takes a few weeks for progesterone and hCG levels to get high enough to start experiencing symptoms.
We hope we’ve answered all your questions about finding out how soon you can tell if you’re pregnant. If you have any more let us know and we’ll do our utmost to answer them.