Early Signs of Pregnancy Versus Signs of Your Period

If you’re wondering about early signs of pregnancy, you should know that it’s very difficult to distinguish between true pregnancy symptoms and simple premenstrual symptoms. While a missed period is the most well-known and obvious sign of pregnancy, it’s hard to resist symptom spotting during the two week wait. This post will teach you how to symptom spot responsibly.

What are some examples of early signs of pregnancy?

Some of the most common early pregnancy symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Breast and/or nipple tenderness
  • Frequent urination
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Spotting

When do pregnancy symptoms start?

For most women, pregnancy symptoms don’t start until about two weeks after their missed period. But if you’re trying to conceive, you probably want to know what’s the earliest possible that you might start experiencing symptoms.

If you know when you ovulate, you might start looking for pregnancy symptoms a few days later. But alas, this is not a good time to start symptom spotting either. If your egg is fertilized by your partner’s sperm, it still has to travel down the fallopian tubes and implant in your uterine lining. Once implanted, the embryo starts producing hCG, the hormone picked up by pregnancy tests (side note: this is why you shouldn’t take a pregnancy test too early).

When does implantation occur? Most often, implantation occurs nine days after ovulation. And since you are not technically pregnant until after implantation occurs, any weird symptoms you experience earlier than nine days after ovulation are not due to pregnancy.

Nine days after ovulation is the earliest that most women could possibly experience pregnancy symptoms, but for the majority of women, signs of pregnancy do not appear until about one month after ovulation (or two weeks after their missed period).

What causes early pregnancy symptoms?

Most early pregnancy symptoms are caused by rising levels of progesterone. Whether you are pregnant or not, progesterone levels are higher during the luteal phase of your cycle (the time between ovulation and the start of your next period). If you are not pregnant, progesterone levels drop, which triggers your uterine lining to shed. If you are pregnant, progesterone levels continue to rise.

You probably see the problem here: progesterone is elevated during the second half of your cycle whether you are pregnant or not. In a regular menstrual cycle where there is no pregnancy, progesterone can cause nausea, bloating, moodiness, and increased appetite—many of the same symptoms of early pregnancy.

If progesterone is the culprit of early pregnancy symptoms and premenstrual symptoms, how do you tell the difference? The disappointing-but-true answer is that you can’t.

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