The pregnancy journey is unique for every woman. From feeling the exact moment of conception to feeling nothing until the baby starts to poke their head out (it happens more than you’d think — just ask MTV), the symptoms of pregnancy can vary wildly.
While most of us miss the egg and sperm meet-and-greet (aka fertilization), some women do have symptoms as early as 8 to 14 days after ovulation. By week 8, 90 percent of women who have a baby on board will experience pregnancy symptoms.
It can be a bit confusing, but your due date is calculated using the first day of your last menstrual period. Regardless of whether you were actually pregnant yet, this date becomes “week 1” of pregnancy.
|Signs a baby is on board||Timeline (from missed period)|
|Light spotting and cramping||Weeks 1–4|
|Late period||Week 4|
|V. tired||Weeks 4–5|
|Morning sickness||Weeks 4–6|
|Tender, sensitive breasts||Weeks 4–6|
|Have to pee… a lot!||Weeks 4–6|
|Bloating (ugh)||Weeks 4–6|
|Motion sickness||Weeks 5–6|
|All kinds of emotional||Week 6|
|Higher-than-normal temp||Week 6|
|High blood pressure||Week 8|
|Literally exhausted||Week 9|
|Increased heartbeat||Weeks 8–10|
|Nipple changes||Week 11|
|Gaining weight||Week 11|
|Pregnancy glow||Week 12|
Many of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy are easy to miss, since they can mimic premenstrual symptoms (#Joy). Some women skip right through the early symptoms, but all women will miss their period if they’re pregnant.
1. Spotty with a chance of cramps
We usually don’t think of bleeding and babying as going hand in hand, but spotting, light bleeding, and cramping are some of the earliest symptoms of pregnancy and are perfectly normal.
When the fetus (technically at this point a cluster of rapidly multiplying cells called a blastocyst) implants in your endometrium, or uterus lining, between week 1 and 4, it can trigger implantation bleeding.
Implantation most commonly takes place on days 10 to 14. The bleeding is usually light and lasts less than 3 days. About 75 percent of women don’t experience any spotting or bleeding.
Some women experience intermittent mild cramping not associated with implantation bleeding. This type of cramping is due to your uterus expanding and can happen off and on during your first trimester.
What to know:
- Blood flow: Will be lighter than your regular period. You may need a panty liner but not a pad or tampon. Spotting is blood present only when wiping.
- Hue: Ranges from light pink to rust-colored.
- Discomfort: Cramping and back pain can be present. It may be mild, moderate, or (less commonly) severe. A 2010 study of 4,539 pregnant women found that less than one-third experienced pain with bleeding.
- Duration: Implantation bleeding is usually over in 3 days or less.
When to worry: Heavy bleeding or severe cramping after a pregnancy diagnosis could be a sign of trouble and warrants medical attention.
Now is a good time to quit drinking, smoking, and using drugs, as these activities can lead to heavy bleeding and other issues.
2: Oozy coochie-coo
A milky-white or clear discharge can be an early symptom of pregnancy.
What to know:
- Vaginal discharge is common at different stages of life and even different stages of a woman’s monthly cycle, so a wet wonder-down-under is not a foolproof sign. But if your bits are stickier than usual, it could be a clue.
- Vaginal discharge is triggered by hormonal changes and thickening of the uterine lining. It’s also your vagina’s way of keeping germs at bay. Some women experience discharge during their entire pregnancy.
Tip: Wear a panty liner to absorb fluid when you’re feeling extra juicy.
When to worry: If itchiness or a strong, foul odor is present, this could be a sign of a yeast infection, bacterial infection, or sexually transmitted infection. Seek medical treatment, because infections can increase the chance of miscarriage.
3: Hey, Aunt Flo, where’d ya go?
If you have regular cycles and you’ve 👉👌 recently, missing your period is a pretty good indication there could be a baby brewing.
What to know:
- After implantation is complete, a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is released. Known as the pregnancy hormone, hCG helps nourish the pregnancy and tells your ovaries to stop releasing eggs.
- Pregnancy tests are most accurate about a week after a missed period, when hCG levels are high enough to detect.
Be wary of taking a pregnancy test too early — false readings are common and can be emotionally draining for some women.
- Eight days late? Time to pee on a stick!
- Positive results? Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to begin your prenatal care
- On medications? Ask a trusted medical professional if they’re safe to take during pregnancy. Keep in mind that many medications do cross the placenta, so opt for a natural alternative whenever possible.
When to worry: If you were hoping not to be pregnant, now might be a time for concern (#KiddingNotKidding).
4: Gag-gag goo-goo
Got that barf bag handy? As many as 80 percent of pregnant women report nausea and vomiting (also called morning sickness, though it can happen at any time of day) during their first trimester, starting around week 5 or 6.
What to know:
- Pregnancy-related nausea is most commonly attributed to hormonal changes, especially increased hCG and estrogen. Low blood sugar and smell sensitivity can also trigger the heaves.
- While it’s no fun feeling queasy all the time, morning sickness is not a threat to your pregnancy. In fact, a 2016 study found that nausea in the first trimester is linked to lower risk of miscarriage.
- Symptoms usually peak from week 6 to 12 and then tend to dissipate.
Call your doctor if you’re concerned and home remedies aren’t helping.
- Leave some saltines on your nightstand. Eating something bland and salty first thing in the morning can help.
- Sip liquids throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Ginger is an effective way to settle your stomach. Try putting powdered ginger in your tea, cooking with ginger, or, if you’re a hard-core mama, chewing on chunks of the peeled ginger root.
- Use aromatherapy. Peppermint essential oil has been shown to help reduce nausea. Eating a peppermint candy may also help, especially if your nausea is due to low blood sugar.
- Keep this article handy for even more great tips on reducing morning sickness.
5. Snooze on repeat
If you can hardly keep your eyes open while watching “Outlander,” then you know baby is draining your energy. Fatigue and sleepiness are common complaints during the first trimester.
- Yoga it up. According to a 2008 study, low-intensity exercise can reduce fatigue. Morning walks, daily stretching, and low-impact energy workouts such as Qigong and gentle yoga are just the right speed for mamas-to-be.
- Take those prenatals. Low iron and other vitamin deficiencies can cause fatigue.
- Eat healthy for more energy. It’s hard to build a baby on a diet of french fries and milkshakes. Try to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
6. Pain in the boob
Due to the influx of hormones and the fact you’re slowly becoming a walking milk machine, tingling, tender, achy breasts are common during pregnancy.
What to know: Breast changes show up most often during weeks 4 to 6 of pregnancy (and then again around week 11), but you may notice your girls get grouchy even earlier.
- Retire the underwire and invest in a good maternity bra with wide straps, expandable sizing, and comfortable cotton material. Consider it your first #ComfyIsSexyToo mom-wear.
- Reduce friction on your nipples by wearing a sports bra.
- Try breast pads to ease soreness caused by the lining of your bra.
7. Beyond-busy bladder
Around week 6 you may notice an increase in your bathroom activity due to frequent urination, which can be caused by hormonal changes, pressure on your bladder, and weak pelvic floor muscles.
- Kegel exercises will strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, reducing the likelihood of incontinence.
- Avoid carbonated or caffeinated beverages, which can irritate your bladder and make you feel like you need to use the bathroom more often.
- Case the place. Know where the nearest bathroom is and use it before long trips, meetings, etc.
Some days you may feel like you’re carrying more than a baby on board… as in a pizza, twins, and some cheesecake.
Bloating is caused by hormonal changes, which can slow your digestive system. It can be a sign of early pregnancy, but it can also be a sign of PMS.
Some tips to fight the bloat? Drink lots of water, fill up on fiber, eat smaller meals, and chew slowly.
9. Motion potion, please
Motion sickness (nausea and dizziness caused by motion, especially in a vehicle) can get worse when you’re pregnant. This is because your body is in hormone overload, which can increase your sensitivity to certain stimuli. Like moving objects.
- Eat foods high in Vitamin B-6.
- Call automatic shotgun. Sitting in the front seat of a car or a window seat on a plane can help reduce symptoms.
- Buy an accupressure bracelet. This is a great natural option to try before resorting to medication.
- Use an antihistamine 1 hour before travel. Antihistamines are safe to use while pregnant, according to a 2017 review of studies. Always use medications carefully, especially when you’re pregnant.
10. Headache hell
Headaches are one of the most common issues pregnant women have in the first trimester.
What to know:
- Headaches during pregnancy may be due to (you guessed it) all the extra hormones, but a variety of other factors can trigger them.
- If you had migraines before becoming pregnant, you may find they go away during pregnancy. They may also stay the same or get worse. #Helpful
Common headache triggers:
- not getting enough sleep
- specific foods, smells, or other stimuli
- low blood sugar
- caffeine or nicotine withdrawal
- Start a diary to track headache triggers, such as certain foods and smells, so you can avoid them.
- Use relaxation techniques such as breathwork and aromatherapy so you can take in more oxygen and release tension.
- Try sound therapy. It may seem woo-woo, but sound therapy, in the form of binaural beats, is getting attention from the medical world. You can find many types of binaural beat recordings on YouTube. Use earbuds for best results.
11. All the feels
Are Instagram puppies and beer commercials bringing you to tears? Pregnant women are known to have big emotions — and for good reason, since tiny-person-making is kind of a big deal.
What to know: Mood swings can be a natural result of all the changes taking place. They can also be caused by the usual culprits (diet, hormones, lack of sleep, lack of exercise). Eating well, sleeping well, and moving well can help stabilize those emotions.
There ain’t no shame in your pregnancy game! It’s OK to let yourself feel all the feels. Letting your emotions out can be cleansing and healing, so sob loud and proud, little mama. #PuppiesOfInstagram
When to worry: There’s a difference between mood swings and depression.
If you’re having recurrent feelings of hopelessness, death, suicide, worthlessness, anxiety, and apathy toward activities you usually enjoy, you may have depression and should seek support from a trusted friend, therapist, or doctor.
12. High blood pressure
There’s nothing cute about high blood pressure, especially when you have a baby on board.
Monitoring your blood pressure is an important part of your prenatal care, since chronic high blood pressure affects the baby and can increase your risk of preeclampsia, a serious medical condition.
What to know:
- High blood pressure can stem from being genetically predisposed or from having obesity or other medical conditions.
- Women who have high blood pressure before becoming pregnant are more likely to have high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Talk with your doctor as early as possible to discuss ways to closely monitor your blood pressure and how you can reduce your risk of developing preeclampsia.
Tip: Breathe, baby, breathe. A 2017 study found that slow breathing exercises could reduce blood pressure.
Breathwork doesn’t require as much willpower as changing your diet, so it’s a great place to start if you want to lower your blood pressure naturally.
13. Baby fever
It takes a little heat to cook up a baby. A persistently elevated basal body temperature (BBT) can be a sign of early pregnancy.
BBT is your morning body temperature before you hop out of bed. Some factors other than pregnancy that can raise it include: drinking alcohol before bed, jet lag, using an electric blanket, stress, and a cold or infection.
14. Heart all aflutter
Your heart is sending a lot of extra blood to your uterus. To get this additional life force fluid flowing, your heart will work as much as 50 percent harder, resulting in an increased heart rate.
This can cause occasional heart palpitations, which feel like fluttering or like your heart is beating very fast.
15. Super sleepy beauty
Has your tiredness reached the faceplant-in-your-cereal stage? First trimester fatigue can be at its peak around week 9. The good news is, many women experience a surge of energy in their second and third trimesters.
Sleep while you can! Once your baby arrives, you’ll have many fewer chances to nap. Asking others for help with some of your responsibilities can take the pressure off and allow you to get that much-needed R&R.
16. Nip flips
Almost every woman will experience changes in the size and texture of her nipples during pregnancy. These changes can make your nipples sore and sensitive.
What to know:
- Hormones can trigger a darkening of the areola.
- Lubricating glands around your nipples may become bumpy as they prepare for breastfeeding duty.
- Nipples may grow larger and more prominent, like they’re saying, “In your face, baby!”
- Try warm or cold compresses.
- Invest in a nipple cream. Look for one that contains natural oils, butters, aloe vera, calendula, and/or chamomile, as these ingredients are recognized for their healing, soothing qualities. You can also make your own and earn some #HipMama cred.
17. Baby bumps… on your face
You may look forward to that perfect pregnancy complexion only to end up with a face (or chest or back) full of angry red bumps instead. Pregnancy acne is a not-so-fun symptom common in the first and second trimesters.
What to know:
- It’s caused by the production of androgen, a hormone that triggers your glands to make extra sebum, an oily substance that can clog your pores and lead to pimples.
- More than half of all pregnant women will develop some acne in the first trimester.
- Women who experience acne flare-ups during menstruation are more likely to get pregnancy acne.
- If you don’t experience pregnancy acne in the first trimester, you probably won’t have abnormal breakouts in the second or third trimester, either.
- Some prescription acne treatments, like Accutane, can be harmful to your baby — you should avoid them during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about what treatments are safe in pregnancy.
- Avoid white bread, pasta, rice, and sugar. A wholesome anti-acne diet is the foundation for clear skin.
- Invite some friends over and have a face mask party! Many acne home remedies are easy to whip up using items you probably already have in your kitchen.
Acne sucks, but don’t be too harsh on yourself. Your body is going through a lot of big changes, and you’re its No. 1 supporter.
Try to avoid negative self-talk and make time for pampering. Every woman is a beautiful, amazing work of art, especially during pregnancy!
18. Putting on the pounds
Toward the end of your first trimester, you may notice you’ve gained some weight — on average 1 to 4 pounds. If your clothes are starting to feel a little snug, it might be time for maternity pants.
What to know: The amount of weight you should gain during pregnancy depends on your prepregnancy weight. For a woman had a moderate weight before pregnancy, the general recommendation is 25 to 35 pounds.
19. Rad radiance
Finally, a symptom to look forward to! The legendary pregnancy glow is one of the most sought-after symptoms. Hormones get the credit, of course, as well as all that extra blood you have circulating.
Some people say the excitement and joy of the pending arrival may also contribute to your brilliant complexion. You glow, girl!
20. All stuffed up
A less commonly discussed pregnancy symptom is a stuffy nose, also called pregnancy rhinitis. This condition usually crops up in the second semester and can continue until delivery.
What to know: Pregnancy rhinitis is caused by hormones and expanding blood vessels. If you’re blowing your nose a lot, you could irritate the mucus lining, which can cause a bloody nose. Gross? Yes. Harmful? No.
- Try taking a steamy shower or using a dehumidifier to break up the congestion.
- Sleep with your head elevated.
21. Screaming for ice cream — with a side of pickles
Around half of pregnant women report cravings for odd food combinations and/or aversions to foods they normally enjoy.
What to know:
- Food cravings can be a sign of nutritional deficiency. You may crave pickles or fermented foods for the probiotics, meat for the iron, dairy for the calcium, etc.
- The most common food aversions during pregnancy are eggs, meat, dairy, onions, garlic, tea, coffee, and spicy foods. #IfOnlyItWereChocolate
- Substitute foods with similar nutritional value for the foods you can’t handle. For example, if you can’t do eggs or meat, get your protein through organic soy products, beans, nuts and seeds, leafy green veggies, and whole grains like quinoa.
- Keep your options open. Try to keep a good selection of healthy food options on hand so you can more easily find something appealing.
- Eat fruit, not cake. If your craving for sweets is causing concern, eat more fruit. It’s full of vitamins, minerals, and (hallelujah!) sugar.
22. Toilet troubles
Irregular bowel movements, hard stools, and abdominal pain are symptoms of constipation, a condition that may affect around 75 percent of all pregnant women at some point in their pregnancy.
What to know:
- Changes in hormones, pressure on your uterus, and extra iron from your prenatal vitamins are common causes of constipation.
- Fiber, fluids, and exercise can help move things along.
23. Feeling faint
Dizziness and fainting are possible symptoms of pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.
- low blood pressure
- low blood sugar
- anemia (iron deficiency)
- pressure on the blood vessels (most common in the third trimester)
- Get up slowly from a seated or lying position.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time.
- Wear loose clothing that won’t restrict circulation.
- Avoid lying on your back in your third trimester.
24. Puffy parts
Edema is the medical term for swelling in the feet, legs, and ankles caused by fluid retention. It’s usually harmless, but it can be pretty uncomfortable.
What to know:
- In your third trimester, the weight of your uterus puts pressure on your vena cava, the main vein that carries blood from your lower extremities to your heart. This causes the blood to pool, which can lead to fluid retention below your knees.
- Heat can trigger the swelling or make it worse.
- The lower parts of the body are most commonly affected, but swelling can also show up in your fingers and face.
- Massage it out. Bat those cute little pregnant eyes at your partner, your BFF, or anyone nearby with a soul and ask them for a quick massage.
- Get moving. Sitting or standing still for long periods of time leads to stagnation. A simple walk can do wonders.
- Fill up with fluid, which will actually help wash away the retention.
- Beat the heat. If you’re out in the heat, try cooling off to reduce swelling.
When to worry: Pain accompanied by swelling in one leg could be a blood clot and warrants immediate medical attention.
25. Back attack
It’s no secret pregnant women often experience back pain. With your center of gravity thrown off and a watermelon strapped to your belly, your back is working hard to keep up with all the rapid changes.
- Practice good posture.
- Wear the right shoes. Avoid high heels and invest in quality shoes with good arch support and a low (but not flat) heel.
- Try acupuncture.
- Stretch your stuff. Stretching and strengthening your back will make a big difference, especially if you do it consistently. Try this one!
26. Sneeze and pees
With all that pressure on your pelvic floor, a little bladder blowout from time to time is perfectly understandable — as well as perfectly awkward.
What to know:
- Urine leakage (aka incontinence) is a common issue in late pregnancy and can last for a few weeks to months after childbirth.
- Certain activities — like sneezing, coughing, laughing, running, and jumping — are a recipe for pee.
- Your bladder control will get better as your body starts to get back to normal, but it may not snap back fully on its own.
Tip: Keep at those Kegels. Pelvic floor exercises are the only practical way to rejuvenate your perineal muscles to pre-baby status. But be careful not to over-Kegel (yes, it’s a thing).
27. That SOB
Considering that they’re front-loaded with a 30-pound beach ball all day every day, it’s no wonder about 70 percent of pregnant women say they experience SOB (shortness of breath — what did you think we meant?).
It’s most common in the later stages of pregnancy but can show up in the first trimester when the fetus starts encroaching on your breathing bags.
- Try to maintain good posture.
- Sleep with pillows supporting your upper back.
- Practice Lamaze breathing techniques.
- Slow down and reduce your physical activity levels.
28. Heartburn (or hairburn?)
Heartburn (aka acid reflux) is a common issue in pregnancy and is caused by stomach acid pushing up into your esophagus.
With a growing baby gobbling up interior real estate, it’s understandable that most pregnant women experience the burn to some degree, especially in the last trimester.
- Don’t overload your stomach, which can trigger heartburn. Try eating smaller meals more often.
- Learn proper food combining. Different types of foods require different digestive juices. Mixing the wrong foods (like bananas and milk or beans and cheese) is a leading cause of heartburn.
While it’s a beautiful ride to baby town, expect to experience some turbulence along the way — especially in the first few months. Keep in mind that symptoms often smooth out during the second trimester.
As your body goes through so many changes, remember to give it the fuel of love and appreciation. After all, you’re embarking on one of the most incredible adventures in life: the magical journey to motherhood!