Whether you’re in the midst of the dreaded two-week wait after an IVF transfer or after trying to conceive with a partner, you’re probably searching for every possible indication that could lead to a positive on your next test. Or, if you’re not in the TWW phase, and are wondering if you could be unexpectedly pregnant and want to know what’s to come, we have you covered there too.
Experts shared with us all the early pregnancy symptoms you should know about, from the most common to the ones you don’t hear about as often (they’re all normal signs of a healthy pregnancy though, so you don’t have to worry). Peeing all day long, but almost never pooping? Yup, that’s completely part of the norm for early pregnancy. Here’s the definitive checklist of unusual early pregnancy symptoms you either might run into or are experiencing at this moment.
How early is early when it comes to pregnancy?
First, let’s define early pregnancy because you can find out test results earlier and earlier these days, especially if you’ve been actively trying. It’s possible to experience early pregnancy symptoms, like typical nausea, bloating, and tiredness, as early as three weeks after conception (or a week after your missed period, when many people decide to take a pregnancy test), explains Staci Tanouye, MD, a board-certified OB/GYN based in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. It’s a little more rare, but still possible, to have early pregnancy symptoms about two weeks after conception, which is right around the time your period is due to arrive. “Everyone is different, so some people will experience symptoms much earlier than others, and some may have minimal symptoms throughout early pregnancy,” says Dr. Tanouye.
You’re not alone if you’re a little bit confused, since PMS symptoms can arrive just about the same time as early pregnancy symptoms. “This can cause a lack of clarity around the hormonal source of the changes you’re feeling in your body,” says Casey Selzer, CNM, Director of Midwifery at Oula. “For example, it’s not uncommon to experience bloating, headaches, fatigue, and breast tenderness before a period starts or at the start of conception.” If you’re not about to get your period, you could be about to miss your period. And if that’s the case, check out some of the more unexpected signs of early pregnancy that might not be like your typical PMS symptoms.
The unusual symptoms of early pregnancy
You’re peeing all the time.
Even if you’re not drinking a ton more water than you usually do, some people might have increased urinary frequency during early pregnancy (it also can happen later in pregnancy, when the growth of the uterus tends to cause pressure on your bladder). You might find yourself running to the bathroom more times throughout the day, or waking up at night to pee, Selzer says. The reason is that the hormone hCG is flooding your body, prepping the uterine lining to support a pregnancy. It sends extra blood flow to the pelvic region in general, and that added circulation causes you to pee more.
You’re having random nosebleeds.
Your nose might be bleeding for a similar reason. “Bloody noses can happen more frequently because the body’s blood volume increases significantly at the same time as blood vessels are dilating more,” says Dr. Tanouye. “This makes them more fragile and therefore more susceptible to nosebleeds.” Make sure you have tissues with you wherever you go.
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Pregnancy is messing with your digestion, big time.
It’s super common to have all of the digestion changes, like indigestion, heartburn, gas, and constipation, says Selzer. Hormonal changes are at the root of these fluctuations in your stomach, adds Dr. Tanouye. Heartburn and indigestion, for example, are tied to a hormonal slowing of your digestion in general.
You may also have constipation as early as your first trimester. The hormone progesterone, which is key in supporting a healthy pregnancy, relaxes the muscles of your intestines, so that they don’t move as quickly in pushing waste out of the intestines. You’re also getting extra iron in your prenatal vitamins, and that tends to cause constipation. The key is to drink a ton of water to hydrate and keep your bowels regular (which leads you back to the peeing-a-ton problem).
You go from craving something to food aversions and loss of appetite.
“Early pregnancy impacts all the major organ systems in the body, so early symptoms can be varied and unique. Because of this, you will hear about contradictory symptoms such as fatigue or energy bursts, or food aversions or constant cravings,” says Selzer. You may find that you’re feeling grossed out by foods you always loved or have no appetite at certain points in the day. All of these eating changes, plus nausea, may affect you in your first trimester — the nausea and morning sickness typically peak at about 9 weeks and often subsides by the second trimester, adds Selzer.
There’s a super weird taste in your mouth all of a sudden.
Are you tasting metal or pennies? That may actually have to do with pregnancy. Super similar to your food aversions, you may experience dysgeusia, or a change in your sense of taste that could make your mouth taste sour or metallic. Sometimes these strange changes in pregnancy don’t have a valid explanation, says Dr. Tanouye. Of course, if you’re nauseous and getting sick often, the bad taste in your mouth could feel like it’s constantly lingering.
On that same note, it’s important to take extra care of your oral hygiene while you’re pregnant. That same boost in blood flow that contributes to increased urinary frequency and maybe even nosebleeds could be affecting your gum health too. The extra circulation from your hormones can cause gums to get swollen and extra sensitive, which can up your risk for gingivitis — keeping on top of your brushing, flossing, and dental visits should do the trick to keep your mouth healthy, though.
Your skin is breaking out in rashes or blemishes.
It’s possible that your skin may end up with a rash, with more acne than usual, or could accumulate dark spots, especially from sun exposure. As for the rash, there’s not a clear answer for why that happens. “Skin can get more sensitive likely due to hormonal and immune system changes during pregnancy,” says Dr. Tanouye. Due to the influx of hormones, you might develop acne if you never had it or might get an increase in breakouts if your skin is already acne-prone. This is normal. (Check in with a dermatologist for pregnancy-safe acne treatments.)
You could also get melasma, which is simply an increase in spots darker than your skin tone, which can be exacerbated by sun exposure. A spike in the hormone estrogen during pregnancy contributes to an increase in melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. It’s key to use extra sun protection when you’re pregnant to combat these dark spots.
There’s different vaginal discharge than you’re used to.
Clear or white vaginal discharge during pregnancy is common and may look like more than usual. This is likely because your body is producing more to flush out any infections that could travel to the uterus. If discharge looks super abnormal, in that it’s a yellow or green color, has a strange smell, or is itchy or painful, you should see your OB/GYN or another sexual health practitioner to check for infections.
You’re having shortness of breath.
This is admittedly a scary one. One cause of shortness of breath during pregnancy could be related to cardiac changes during pregnancy, Dr. Tanouye explains. “Cardiac output and heart rate both increase when you’re pregnant,” she says. “Blood volume expands quickly, but red blood cells do not increase at the same rate.” This can cause a condition called relative anemia, which can lead to shortness of breath since the red blood cells can’t transport oxygen as fast as the blood is moving.
Shortness of breath could also be hormonal. The increase in the hormone progesterone drives up your respiratory rate, says Dr. Tanouye, and that might contribute to a feeling of shortness of breath early in pregnancy.
The bottom line
You won’t know for sure whether or not you’re pregnant until you get those test results—the best time to get an accurate result is right after your missed period. You can even confirm it with your doctor at an in-office test for good measure. Know that if any of the above early pregnancy symptoms happen to you, things are most likely completely normal. If you have any unusual symptoms that aren’t on this list that you think might be connected to pregnancy, you can give your OB/GYN or other reproductive health care provider a call to get to the bottom of them.
Mara Santilli is a journalist reporting on health and wellness and how social and political systems influence the well-being of certain groups, including but not limited to Black and brown communities, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. Her editorial work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, InStyle, Glamour, and more. Outside of reading and writing, she enjoys traveling (especially to Italy), singing, dancing, musical theatre, and playing guitar and piano.