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Health & Wellbeing / Ali Horsfall

How Do I Know If I Am Pregnant? Ask The Body Experts

So your period is late, seems light or short, or maybe doesn’t show up at all, does that automatically mean you’re pregnant? There are several PMS symptoms that sneakily mirror early pregnancy. Confused? To learn a bit more, we hear from the experts about the signs to spot that could indicate you’re pregnant.

What are the signs that I’m pregnant?

If you’re having sex, there’s a strong possibility that you could have conceived – here are some common signs of pregnancy.

A missed period

This is the most obvious symptom that could point to you being pregnant – a missed period certainly sets alarm bells ringing. However, other circumstances such as stress, contraception changes, or illness can also throw a regular period out of whack and doing a pregnancy test is the only way to be sure.

Sore breasts

“You may notice your breasts are becoming fuller, more uncomfortable and extremely sensitive to touch,” says NHS midwife Suzanne Barber. “Just as they might do before your period.” Breasts might also feel tingly, the veins on your chest can become more visible – giving your boobs a marbled effect, and the nipples and areola may darken and stand out.

Cramps and twinges

Anya Hayes, author of Pregnancy: The Naked Truth says that it’s not unusual to feel pains of one sort of another in your tummy in the beginning, and then throughout the whole of a pregnancy. “Early on, there can be a little period-like pain as the embryo implants into your womb,” she says.

Sickness and queasiness

“Some women experience morning sickness very early on in a pregnancy,” says Suzanne. Despite its name, ‘morning’ sickness might last all day or it may only happen in the evening/at night. It can also range from mild feelings of nausea to regular vomiting.

A strange taste

“You might notice a metallic taste in your mouth,” says Suzanne. “It changes the way tea and coffee tastes and you might go off certain foods.”

A strong sense of smell

“Many pregnant women report that their sense of smell is very acute and that certain things are suddenly emitting a pungent whiff,” says Anya. She explains that the same rush of hormones responsible for morning sickness causes this heightened sense.

Frequent urination

One of the early symptoms is that you need to go frequently to the loo, regardless of how much you’re drinking. “You are more likely to urinate more often than normal in early pregnancy while your body is adjusting to the pregnancy hormones,” says midwife and midwifery teacher Denyse Kirkby.

Tiredness

Feeling tired, or flat-out exhausted to be more precise, during the first few weeks of pregnancy is normal and can be a strong sign that you’re pregnant. The NHS explain that these extreme feelings of tiredness won’t harm you or the baby, but it can make life feel more difficult, especially in the early days before you’ve told people about your pregnancy.

Mood changes

Think of this as next-level, off-the-scale PMS. “Mostly to blame for this somewhat bewildering sensation is the fact that your endocrine glands have put their feet on the accelerator pedal (in terms of hormone production) and are now in overdrive.” Feeling weepy, angry, anxious or just ‘not yourself’ are all common feelings in very early pregnancy.

Increased vaginal discharge

All women have vaginal discharge, but it’s normal in pregnancy to notice an increase. “This mucus secretion occurs from the cervix in response to the hormones of pregnancy and helps to keep harmful bacteria at safe levels,” says Denyse.  

Spotting

This can be a very confusing sign, especially if it occurs around the time that your period is due. “Bleeding in the first trimester, before your first scan may be nothing to worry about, as some spotting is common when the egg implants itself into your uterus wall. However always keep a close eye on it and consult your doctor if you are worried. There can be more serious causes which you do need to be aware of, including ectopic pregnancy (when the egg has started to grow outside the uterine cavity, most unusually in the fallopian tubes), molar pregnancy (a very rare complication which means the fertilised egg doesn’t develop into an embryo or develops abnormally and can’t survive), or a miscarriage,” explains Anya.

Headaches

Mild headaches are one of the most common complaints in early pregnancy explains Denyse. “These headaches are caused by blood-circulation changes and will usually stop after the first half of a pregnancy.”

Bleeding gums

“Changing hormone levels cause the gums to swell and become more sensitive than usual and in some cases this can lead to soreness and bleeding known as gingivitis,” says Anya.

How can I know for sure if I’m pregnant?

“There’s no state of being ‘slightly pregnant’, you either are or you’re not,” says Anya, and to find out for sure if you are, you should take a pregnancy test from the first day of a missed period. There are some very sensitive pregnancy tests that can be used even as early as eight days after conception – so even before you’ve missed a period.

Pregnancy tests work by detecting the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin – hCG – in the body when you pee on the stick. Because the hCG hormone is only produced when you’re pregnant, a positive test result is almost certainly correct, says the NHS.

How many weeks pregnant am I?

In conception speak, the first day of your last period is used to date your pregnancy. You count this as day ‘one’ – meaning you are strangely already around two weeks pregnant at the sperm-meets-egg-moment after you ovulate (roughly day 14 of your cycle). By the time you’ve missed a period, you will usually be four/five weeks pregnant, depending on the length of your usual menstrual cycle.

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