Some women try and try for months or even years before finally becoming pregnant. For others, it’s a somewhat quicker journey, with conception occurring soon after they first ditch the birth control.
And then, of course, for others, it comes as a complete surprise.
No matter how it happens, happen it does, and that’s when life begins to change for the expectant mom.
When I started trying for my first baby a few years back, I remember scouring the Internet, hoping that this little pimple or that headache might be a sure sign that my very own baby was on the way.
With my second, I clearly recall sitting up in bed after waking up with a terrible cold and then feeling like I needed to puke quite urgently, too (even though we’d, again, JUST started “trying”). Huh, that’s funny, I thought. I didn’t know you could have two types of flu at once. And then I realized it was already time to pee on that little stick.
The confusing thing is that although there are many little clues left by nature that might hint to moms that their families are about to expand, almost all of these small symptoms can be quite easily mistaken for something else.
You might not realize what’s going on at first, only to look back a few weeks later and realize, ohhhh, that’s what was happening!
Or maybe it’s a combination of symptoms that sort of begin to pile up, until you realize, eventually, what they all mean.
A blood test and visit to the OB will provide the true answer, but in the meantime, check out 15 pregnancy symptoms women often mistake for something else.
15 Sick Situation
While it takes a bad stomach flu or, say, a terrible hangover for some folks to feel sick to their stomachs, it simply isn’t anything quite so extreme that’s needed to cause nausea for others.
Anything from dietary issues to excess worry can make some people feel like they are about to lose their lunch.
As noted at AmericanPregnancy.org, nausea can be caused by food poisoning, tension or stress, anxiety, a change in hormonal birth control, or, of course, other stomach issues.
That’s why it would, of course, be fairly easy to overlook nausea, assuming it’s related to something else – even though it could be one of the early signs of pregnancy.
According to BabyCenter.com, “For some women, morning sickness doesn't hit until about a month or two after conception, though for others it may start as early as two weeks. And not just in the morning, either: Pregnancy-related nausea (with or without vomiting) can be a problem morning, noon, or night.”
The site says that many pregnant gals say sayonara to nausea by the time the second trimester starts. However, for others, it’s an additional month or more beyond that before they feel better again. Some don’t experience it at all.
AmericanPregnancy.org states that for 25 percent of women surveyed, nausea was the very first indication that they were pregnant.
That site also notes that sometimes, nausea persists throughout the pregnancy.
14 Breaking Out
Do you guys remember those “wonder years”?
Girls started actually needing bras, guys began to get taller and have deeper voices, and everyone started to use deodorant.
What else accompanied puberty? For some, anyway, acne.
Hormonal changes can mean breakouts for some women. Even into adulthood, some gals get oilier skin, pimples, or full-on acne breakouts at certain times in their menstrual cycles, or as reactions to changes in birth control or, say, stress.
I know this from talking to and observing the women in my own life.
So, just like so many of the little changes that might be overlooked, a change in your skin might mean something's up in the, well, uterine region: a baby!
BabyCenter.com highlights that it might be very early on in the pregnancy that little signs such as these begin to appear: “Some early pregnancy symptoms may show up around the time you've missed a period – or a week or two later. About 60 percent of women have early pregnancy symptoms by the time they're 6 weeks along, and roughly 90 percent have them by the time they're 8 weeks.”
What makes this confusing, especially for those who already experience some regular skin issues, is that they might not seem that unusual for that particular time of the month.
I know that going off your regular birth control (say, to try to get pregnant!) can cause skin issues, as well, making the cause of acne even more mysterious.
13 Ups And Downs In Pounds
Does anyone else seem to retain more water and be a few pounds heavier a at a certain time every month, say, just before (finally) getting their period?
I never really noticed all these subtleties of the menstrual month before I got to this point in my life, well out of the teenage years and having had two children.
But now, it’s like a predictable set of symptoms seem to come and go, in ups and downs, like some sort of, well, cycle.
Okay, I guess it all sort of makes a bit of sense, then. But it doesn’t mean I have to love it.
Given that many women are accustomed to mild fluctuations in their weight throughout the month — whether related to hormone shifts, diet, exercise, illness, or more –
it might be pretty tricky to recognize a change in weight as an early sign of pregnancy, at least without some other symptoms accompanying it.
With this one, by the time a pregnant woman’s weight changed, she would be likely to have experienced multiple other symptoms, as well, though. Weight gain can even stay the same or go down a bit during the early weeks of pregnancy, so a missed period, nausea, and more may have appeared by the time the scale began to read a new number.
“One of the most frustrating things for those questioning a potential pregnancy comes from the reality that many of the symptoms of pregnancy can be associated with a pending menstruation or tension or stress,” says AmericanPregnancy.org.
12 What’s Up, Bra?
I’ve just had two babies in the last handful of years, and from my experiences so far, I have this to say: Get ready for some breast changes – and lots of them.
I don’t know that I noticed soreness quite so extremely during my first pregnancy, but during my second, I was still nursing my first child (a toddler by then) at the time, and yeah… I noticed.
Sore or tender breasts are something some women are aware of as a regular part of their menstrual cycles, though, so it might be quite hard for this to spark that “aha!” moment of realizing that they are pregnant.
Same goes for breast changes, such as feeling rounder, fuller, or heavier. That can change with ups and downs in weight and more…
AmericanPregnancy.org notes that such breast changes can be caused by hormonal imbalances, changes in hormonal birth control being used, or, of course, “impending menstruation.”
And yet, for some women, this is the clear sign that their body is getting ready to have a baby.
The same site says that 17 percent of women surveyed answered that “a change in their breasts was the initial symptom of pregnancy.”
BabyCenter.com adds that “sensitive, swollen breasts” are “caused by rising levels of hormones. The soreness and swelling may feel like an exaggerated version of how your breasts feel before your period. Your discomfort should diminish significantly after the first trimester, as your body adjusts to the hormonal changes.”
AmericanPregnancy.org also says that this is the “third most frequently cited symptom of pregnancy.”
The change might even occur only a week or two into the pregnancy.
11 Aunt Flow Never Showed
It might sound strange to some to think that you could miss your period and not realize something might be up… but not everyone has a such a predictable cycle (as noted at BabyCenter.com).
Others, still, just don’t really keep track so closely as those of us who can’t help but put almost everything in their lives onto a calendar.
Heck, I thought my cycle was amazingly regular – especially considering that I’m still regularly breastfeeding, which has a way of delaying menstruation – and then suddenly it wasn’t again.
The human body is certainly not some programmed machine, even though some of its functions CAN tend to be quite amazingly predictable.
A missed period can be related to other things (besides pregnancy), too, as included at AmericanPregnancy.org, such as “pending menstruation” (that it is just a bit delayed for some reason), excessive weight gain or loss, fatigue or exhaustion, a new workout regimen, a hormonal imbalance, tension or stress, some change in birth control usage, various illnesses, or (as I already mentioned above, and as was the case for me, breastfeeding (or even fluctuations in breastfeeding, such as how often you nurse and for how long, which I know can both change many times as a little one gets new teethe, has colds, and more).
AmericanPregnancy.org says that “29% of women surveyed reported a missed period as their first pregnancy symptom” and that a “delayed or missed period is the most common pregnancy symptom leading a woman to test for pregnancy.”
10 Certain Foods Aren’t Fun
I love fruit. I like salads. I’ve convinced myself to eat one pretty much every single day.
When I was pregnant, I just couldn’t do it.
Something about all those raw leafy greens, and the dressing… ick.
Now, I’m back at my veggie-munching ways, but favorites such as microgreens, bell peppers, and even (sadly) avocados were just absolute no-gos for me for some time while I was, well, with child.
Food aversions are real, especially early in pregnancy, and I can tell you that from personal experience. Two personal experiences, in fact (the results of which are currently napping upstairs).
I didn’t experience nausea too badly at all during either pregnancy, and the little I did was short-lived, but my tastes in food very clearly changed.
But, I mean, don’t a lot of people quite regularly find themselves not in the mood for a salad or some other dish?
I could see it as being easy to think you just didn’t feel good for some reason, weren’t very hungry, or something like that, until you realized something else was up and that maybe you were more “repulsed” by something that you were simply “not in the mood” for it.
This is pretty standard pregnant stuff, though.
BabyCenter.com says, “If you're newly pregnant, it's not uncommon to feel repelled by the smell of a bologna sandwich or a cup of coffee, and for certain aromas to trigger your gag reflex. Though no one knows for sure, this may be a side effect of rapidly increasing amounts of estrogen in your system. You may also find that certain foods you used to enjoy are suddenly completely repulsive to you.”
9 Allllll The Emotions
Not getting enough sleep the night before, having an unpleasant interaction with someone else, or stress in life can mean all sorts of perfectly normal ups and downs for women — and for people in general!
And of course some women recognize that at certain times, they feel more emotional than they think they otherwise would: They experience “mood swings,” sometimes as an almost predictable part of their menstrual cycle.
AmericanPregnancy.org states that
“Expecting mothers frequently experience mood swings. This believed to be primarily caused by the hormonal changes that affect the neurotransmitters of the brain.”
How all of this is experienced can, of course, be different for everyone. “Some may experience elevated highs and lows, whereas others alternate between states of happiness to states of depression or anxiety,” the same site says, also noting that while some mood swings are considered “normal,” struggling with prolonged sadness means you should talk to your doctor.
BabyCenter.com also notes how common it is to have mood swings, because of those neurotransmitters, the “chemical messengers” of the brain.
Life inevitably includes some natural ups and downs. And these ups and downs are sometimes quite predictably related to regular hormonal changes throughout the month – but sometimes, they’re related to pregnancy!
8 Rock The Bloat
Dude, though I’ve steadily lost more and more of the weight that I gained during my second pregnancy, my abdominal muscles just didn’t seem to tighten right up again as they did after the birth of my first baby a few years ago.
I’ve noticed recently that before that very special time of the month comes, I think I look like I’m about 4 months pregnant.
Abdominal bloating wasn’t ever something I really noticed much as part of a regular menstrual cycle before I had kids, but whether due to the changes in my postpartum body or just being more tuned in to these types of things these days, I sure do notice it now, as many women do.
That’s why it would definitely be easy to dismiss bloating as part of a regular menstrual month, especially if your cycle hasn’t been all that regular or predictable lately for some reason.
According to an article about the early signs and symptoms of pregnancy at BabyCenter.com, “Hormonal changes in early pregnancy may leave you feeling bloated, similar to the feeling some women have just before their period. That's why your clothes may feel more snug than usual at the waistline, even early on when your uterus is still quite small.”
7 Plentiful Peeing
You know what was really hard about getting any sleep for me when I was pregnant?
It wasn’t so much any current aches and pains that happened to be going on. It wasn’t really that I was all that stressed out – not really any more so than usual, in any case.
It was all that peeing.
Maybe it’s a cliché that pregnant ladies are always running to the bathroom, but it really can come to define your life, both day and night. And you have to stay hydrated, so it’s a constant cycle.
“Frequent urination,” to put it more medically, might be one of those very early signs that a baby is on the way.
BabyCenter.com includes that “Shortly after you become pregnant, hormonal changes prompt a chain of events that raise the rate of blood flow through your kidneys. This causes your bladder to fill more quickly, so you need to pee more often.”
The thing is, I also, personally, go pee quite a bit even when I’m NOT pregnant, so I could totally see someone missing the importance of this sign and not realizing what it meant. Maybe they just drank a lot of water throughout the day.
As a runner and breastfeeding mom, I always make that a habit.
“Frequent urination will continue – or intensify – as your pregnancy progresses. Your blood volume rises dramatically during pregnancy, which leads to extra fluid being processed and ending up in your bladder. The problem is compounded as your growing baby exerts more pressure on your bladder,” BabyCenter.com continues, but that’s nothing new to me, a mother of two.
AmericanPregnancy.org specifies that the uptick in potty time happens at 6 to 8 weeks for most moms.
6 Totally Tired
Ha ha ha – moms who already have one or more children could EASILY not realize that being tired meant they were expecting again.
And it could surely happen to anyone, as even if you don’t have a potty-training toddler or hungry baby to tend to, sleep can sometimes be a bit to scarce to come by. That’s life sometimes.
AmericanPregnancy.com notes that fatigue, when not caused by early pregnancy, might be caused by things such as tension or stress, exhaustion “from working too hard,” depression or “other mental health struggles,” a common cold or the flu, a change to your workout routine, allergies or other health stuff, just straight up not getting enough sleep, not having proper nutrition, or (again) “pending menstruation.”
So, yeah, I will say that the frequency of intense tiredness that I remember experiencing in early pregnancy was different than other feelings I’ve had of just being tired.
It was like instincts were telling me to just put my feet up on that couch and hit the hay as soon as I’d eaten dinner and relaxed for a few minutes.
BabyCenter.com calls out that if you feel exhausted, it could surely be a special sign: “No one knows for sure what causes early pregnancy fatigue, but it's possible that rapidly increasing levels of the hormone progesterone are contributing to your sleepiness. Of course, morning sickness and having to urinate frequently during the night can add to your sluggishness, too.”
Um, maybe it’s that your body is making a new human???
“You should start to feel more energetic once you hit your second trimester,” the site continues, “although fatigue usually returns late in pregnancy when you're carrying a lot more weight and some of the common discomforts of pregnancy make it more difficult to get a good night's sleep.”
AmericanPregnancy.org notes that gals call out fatigue as a sign of being preg as early as a week after they conceive.
5 Seeing Red
As soon as you see some spotting or light bleeding, you might think that your period has arrived, or that it will shortly. You might even think, in some cases, that you are just having a really, really light period.
Such occurrences might be experienced during breastfeeding, for example.
But then there’s this thing called “implantation bleeding,” and it is what it sounds like.
“It seems counterintuitive: If you're trying to get pregnant, the last thing you want to see is any spotting or vaginal bleeding,” says BabyCenter.com. “But if you notice just light spotting around the time your period is due, it could be implantation bleeding. No one knows for sure why it happens, but it might be caused by the fertilized egg settling into the lining of your uterus.”
They say that something like a quarter of women have some spotting or a little bit of bleeding during that very first trimester of pregnancy. Although it often doesn’t matter at all, it could be a sign of a problem, too.
“If your bleeding is severe or accompanied by pain or lightheadedness, or if you're at all concerned,” the site says, “call your doctor or midwife.”
AmericanPregnancy.org says that this is one sign that isn’t even recognized by expectant moms all that often at all, actually:
“While implantation bleeding is often considered the first pregnancy symptom, the survey conducted by the American Pregnancy Association revealed that only 3% of women identified implantation bleeding as their first sign of pregnancy.”
The embryo is said to implant 6 to 12 days after conception occurs. Maybe there will be some spotting or even cramping, or maybe there won’t!
4 Is It Hot In Here?
Some people try to track when they are at their most fertile as part of their effort in trying to conceive. Hey, whatever works for you works for you.
If they are doing so and notice that their basal body temp has stayed higher than usual for longer than two weeks, it is a good indication that they have actually become pregnant, as they include at the website BabyCenter.com.
I don’t think I would ever notice that I was hotter than usual and think it was a sign that I was, well, with child.
I am aware that hormonal changes make me warmer than usual sometimes, including certain times during the breastfeeding process as well as even certain times in my cycle.
Even when my baby is particularly upset by something for more than just a second, I find that I get instantly hot at times. Hormones, man… What a trip!
There are so many little changes that you might notice – or be on the lookout for now that you’ve read this handy article!
AmericanPregnancy.org says that,
“You may experience pregnancy signs within a week of conception.”
I guess it’s time to start paying attention!
If something as simple as your body temp has changed, it might be time to purchase that home pregnancy test.
3 Aches Up Top
Some people are just more prone to headaches, at certain stages of their lives, anyway.
I find that although I got frequent headaches while growing up, as an adult who understands better about things like not letting my blood sugar crash too often and trying to get a decent amount of sleep and – this is the big one – stay hydrated, my head doesn’t seem to ache very often.
Headaches sometimes appear to show up quite randomly, or maybe it’s obvious to you that you have one for some reason that you understand, such as being tired, stressed out, having eaten certain foods, or, well, having had a bit too much to drink the night before.
AmericanPregnancy.org notes that headaches, too, are a frequent clue early on in pregnancy that the journey toward motherhood has begun:
“Experiencing headaches at the onset of pregnancy is another common early sign of pregnancy. Experts believe that the sudden rise of hormones in your body leads you to experience the headaches.”
The site also ventures that getting headaches when preg might be related to the fact that there’s just more blood flowing in the body during pregnancy. It’s actually a pretty amazingly big increase, with 50 percent more blood volume flowing.
2 Aches Around Back
I didn’t have trouble with backaches early in pregnancy at all. It wasn’t until I was in my third trimester with my second baby and had to carry my toddler around a lot for a few days in a row that the stuff hit the fan in the backache department. (And the leg-cramp department, while we’re on the topic.)
Here’s hoping that I’m able to dodge getting them early on if I ever get to be pregnant again! No fun.
AmericanPregnancy.org includes the point that “Lower backaches are commonly reported by women who discover that they are pregnant. This symptom can occur with the onset of pregnancy, but it is often experienced later as the pregnancy progresses. This makes it an easy pregnancy symptom at week 27 to week 34.”
But, again, how many things can you think of that might cause some pain or tension in your back?
I could list and list and list, but I’ll just name a few ideas that come to mind: driving for a long time, sitting in one position for too long, working at a desk, standing for too long when you don’t usually, doing different cardio activity than usual or for longer than usual, training with weights in new or different ways than usual, lifting something at an odd angle…
1 Deep Desires
It’s easy to crave calories quite intensely when you’re pregnant.
I found that it was crucial to avoid letting those sharp drops in blood sugar occur. You can often achieve this by eating small meals throughout the day.
I took to always having a little something in my purse (which, by the way, is an awesome mom habit to form, as you do not want to be caught with a hungry little one on your hands and nothing to give to appease them, or be starving, yourself, and have to deal with a cranky little one…).
Food cravings make perfect sense to me during pregnancy because you need more calories than usual (even if it’s not a lot), there are hormonal changes at play, you might be more tired than usual because it can be harder to get good sleep at night (and so you crave something to give you energy), and so many other factors.
“The reason for certain food cravings or food aversions is not known,” according to AmericanPregnancy.org. “Don’t be surprised if you find yourself drawn to something you normally do not care for…”
The same pregnancy website also includes, “The food that expecting women crave or seek … varies and [is] quite sporadic.”
The site cautions that they find it okay “to allow yourself the freedom to pursue those cravings and avoid the things you don’t want as long as you are getting the nutrition you need for a healthy pregnancy.” I’d say talk to your own doctor about it.
The cravings can happen really early on or at any time while preg.
And clearly, we know, humans that we are, that cravings for certain foods can happen seemingly randomly just because, too, whether or not you’re pregnant!
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