Can you imagine what it was like before pregnancy tests existed? In this day and age, we are becoming accustomed to obtaining the information we need instantaneously, so having to wait two whole weeks for results from a pregnancy test to accurate might feel like a lifetime. In 16th-century Europe, there were “piss prophets” (yes, that is what they were really called). Women would hand over their urine, and the Piss Prophet claimed to know if a woman was pregnant or not by the appearance alone.
Fortunately, today we have accurate methods that can tell us our results within a couple of weeks of conception. While waiting for a missed period and the right time to take a pregnancy test to obtain an accurate result, many women start to wonder if their bodies will show any clues or symptoms for pregnancy. In today’s blog we address the question, “are there any signs of pregnancy before a missed period?”
There are two important things to keep in mind if you’re wondering whether or not you’re pregnant: 1) a missed period is typically the earliest sign of pregnancy, and 2) the signs you may or may not experience in early pregnancy are nearly identical to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms
List of PMS Symptoms:
Physical symptoms of PMS can include:
● Swollen or tender breasts
● Constipation or diarrhea
● Bloating or a gassy feeling
● Headache or backache
● Lower tolerance for noise or light
Emotional or mental symptoms of PMS include:
● Irritability or hostile behavior
● Feeling tired
● Sleep problems (sleeping too much or too little)
● Appetite changes or food cravings
● Trouble with concentration or memory
● Tension or anxiety
● Depression, feelings of sadness, or crying spells
● Mood swings
● Less interest in sex
List of Early Pregnancy Symptoms
● Tender breasts
● Swollen breasts
● Nausea and/or vomiting
● Food cravings or aversions
● Mood swings
● Frequent urination
Pregnancy Symptoms vs. Period Symptoms
Once an egg is fertilized with sperm, the fertilized egg enters the uterus roughly 4-7 days after conception. However, there is great variance in the time of implantation, and it can happen between 6-12 days after conception, which is approximately day 16-30 of the menstrual cycle.
Spotting vs. Bleeding: if you are pregnant, you will not have a regular period. A regular period may be heavy bleeding for 3-7 days, whereas if you are pregnant and have some bleeding, it is likely implantation bleeding or placental dysfunction. Implantation bleeding occurs in up to 24% of women and can happen when the embryo gets implanted in the uterus. It takes 6-12 days after conception for implantation to occur, which unfortunately is around when you may begin your period as well and may initially confuse you (source). Implantation bleeding, however, unlike heavier period bleeding, is generally light spotting. Heavy bleeding could be a sign of miscarriage or a menstrual period.
Fatigue: Being really tired is common in the early stages of pregnancy because pregnancy causes the body to produce more progesterone which can cause fatigue. While fatigue can also happen with PMS, feeling tired generally goes away once the period starts and lasts longer with pregnancy. Pregnant women may notice fatigue as early as 1 week after conception.
Food cravings/aversions: It’s pretty well known that many women have an increased appetite and food cravings during PMS, but food cravings and aversions associated with pregnancy are often more specific and intense than during PMS or prior to menstruation. Sudden cravings or developing a dislike of favorite foods are both common throughout pregnancy. A food craving or aversion can last the entire pregnancy or vary throughout this time period.
Nausea and/or vomiting: Nausea and vomiting are not typical symptoms of PMS. Some women do experience this during PMS, but it’s not common. It is, however, fairly common during early pregnancy. This symptom can start anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks after conception and can continue throughout pregnancy. Commonly referred to as "morning sickness," it can actually occur at any time during the day.
Frequent urination: In the first few weeks of pregnancy, the body produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin, which increases blood flow to the pelvic region, causing women to have to urinate more often.
Tender breasts: Your breasts can feel tender and even start to swell as early as 1-2 weeks after conception. Of course, this is also a symptom of PMS.
Cramping: Cramping and pain are common for women during PMS and during menstrual periods. The pain can be quite intense during a period. You may have cramping in the early stages of pregnancy, but the symptoms are typically mild .