What are the early signs of pregnancy?

There are various symptoms that can indicate you might be pregnant. These early signs of pregnancy differ from woman to woman, and from pregnancy to pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you may notice one or more of these symptoms. Don't worry, you are unlikely to get them all at once. Equally, you shouldn't worry if you don't experience any of them. Whether you get any of these first signs of pregnancy or none of them at all, a fast way to find out for sure whether or not you are pregnant is to take a home pregnancy test.

1. Missed period

If you have a regular menstrual cycle, missing your period is often the earliest physical sign. Bear in mind that you can get a little light bleeding or spotting around the time of your period even if you are pregnant, and when the fertilized egg implants in your womb. If your cycles aren't regular you may notice other pregnancy symptoms before you notice a missed period.

There are lots of reasons why your periods may suddenly stop, including putting on or losing weight very quickly, excessive exercise and stress. If you find that you are having hot flushes and a decreased interest in sex, it might be that you have the first signs of the menopause (peri-menopause). Whatever your symptoms, see your doctor if your regular periods change or stop.

Dr Caroline Overton is a consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Answers from our Experts

Dr Caroline Overton is a consultant in Obstetrics and Gynaecology
at St Michael’s University Hospital in Bristol

Is it normal to still have periods during pregnancy?

Dr Caroline Overton :

No, you should not be having periods during pregnancy. Bleeding in early pregnancy can be normal, but can also be a sign of a threatened early loss. You should consult your doctor if concerned

I know that if you test early (before your period) it's less accurate - I just got a 'Pregnant' result but my period isn’t due just yet - can I trust the result?

Dr Caroline Overton :

If you have tested before your period is due and got a 'Pregnant' result this is very accurate and you can rely on the result. This means the level of pregnancy hormone was high enough to be detected.


2. Tender breasts

Your breasts might grow larger and feel tender or highly sensitive. The veins on your breasts may become more noticeable and your areola (nipples) may darken.

My test said 'pregnant' but I don't feel pregnant ?

Dr Caroline Overton :

Not all women will suffer from pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness. Look out for breast tenderness (which may be intermittent) as this is the symptom that is most commonly reported. However all pregnancies are different so do not worry.


Other symptoms

3. Feeling tired

You are likely to feel unusually tired in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This could be due to the rising levels of progesterone in your body as it maintains the lining of your womb to help support the pregnancy.

4. Feeling sick/morning sickness

You could start feeling sick, and even vomit, between the 2nd to the 8th week of pregnancy. This usually passes by the 16th week. Although this is often called 'morning sickness' it can happen at any time of the day or night – and can even affect you all the time.

I feel very sick and am struggling to eat, will this affect my baby?

Dr Caroline Overton :

No, your baby will take what it needs from your body. When suffering from morning sickness make sure that you drink plenty of water and try to eat little and often. Acupressure bands may help. Vomiting and nausea during pregnancy affects up to 8 out of 10 pregnant women


Around one in 100 pregnant women could suffer from severe sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum), similar to what Kate Middleton experienced. Normally continuing well past the first trimester (12 to 13 weeks), hyperemesis gravidarum causes vomiting so often and severe that no food or liquid can be kept down. Usually, the condition can be treated and only in very rare cases will cause complications for the pregnancy, but please seek doctor advice if you are suffering from severe sickness.

Dr Caroline Overton :

Hyperemesis gravidarum is extreme nausea and vomiting and can be potentially life-threatening. If you are worried, consult with your GP. Anti-sickness medication can be prescribed by your doctor but will only be recommended for women suffering from dehydration - symptoms include a very dry mouth and concentrated urine (dark yellow in colour).


5. More frequent urination

About 6 to 8 weeks after conception you may need to urinate more frequently. This is due to your uterus (the medical term for your womb) growing larger and pressing on your bladder. At the end of the first trimester your uterus rises up into your abdomen which will takes some of this pressure off your bladder.

6. Mood swings

Your changing hormones may cause some mood swings in the early stages of pregnancy, which may leave you feeling delighted, anxious, exhausted, or even weepy – sometimes all at once.

7. Changing tastes in food (cravings) and sensitivity to smells

You may lose your appetite for certain food and drink things like tea, coffee or fatty food and might start to crave things you don't normally like. You might feel queasy when you smell certain things too – like coffee, meat or alcohol.

8. Cramps

You may get cramps in your legs or feet in the first trimester, and sometimes later in your pregnancy. This is due to changes in the way your body processes calcium.