Okay. If you’re here, I’m guessing you too have fallen into the trap of over analyzing every ache, twinge, and abnormality that might be an indication that you are in fact pregnant. I know the two week wait all too well. Also known as the time between when you ovulated and when you can take a pregnancy test.
And I know that in this time frame your mind can go a little crazy. You want to know, are there pregnancy symptoms BEFORE my missed period? What are the earliest pregnancy symptoms? When can I take a pregnancy test?
You’ve probably googled every “symptom” you’ve felt since you ovulated. Maybe you’re even convinced you’re pregnant because of what that one poster said on that message board back in 2011 (guilty). Or, you might even be convinced that you’re NOT pregnant, and you’re looking for some reassurance or want to know what symptoms you can be on the lookout for.
Well, my friend, let’s learn more about those early pregnancy symptoms, and maybe even calm the crazies of the two week wait just a little. But remember, only a positive pregnancy test (usually after a missed period) can absolutely confirm pregnancy.
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When do pregnancy symptoms start?
When you are trying to conceive, it becomes important to understand your cycle and learn how to track ovulation. This is because throughout any given cycle you have a fertile window of about 5 days. The days leading up to ovulation is when you want to try to get pregnant and hope the sperm meets the egg.
Once this occurs, the fertilized egg will take a few days to make its way towards the lining of your uterus for implantation. There is a wide range of normal here, but most sources say it takes anywhere from 3-7 days. During implantation, some women may experience slight bleeding, cramping or spotting. This is one of those very early pregnancy symptoms: implantation bleeding.
So what’s with this human biology lesson?
Well, it isn’t until your egg implants that the hormone hCG (the pregnancy hormone) starts to be produced in your body. This is the hormone that will be largely responsible for many pregnancy symptoms, and what will trigger your eventual positive pregnancy test.
In other words, you probably aren’t experiencing any pregnancy symptoms until after implantation occurs, which is 3 to 7 days past ovulation. And for some women can take up to 12 days. Yes, this is before your missed period. But, no you likely aren’t having pregnancy symptoms the morning after you had unprotected sex.
HOWEVER, there is the case that even as your fertilized egg makes its way to the uterus for implantation, the hormone levels in your body are starting to change. This is why some women say, and probably really do, just “know” they’re pregnant right away. But I think this requires being pretty in tune with your body. I am not one of these women 😉
Will I know I’m pregnant during the two week wait?
In short, maybe. Depending on how soon implantation occurs for you and how intensely hCG affects your body. Below you can read the most common symptoms you might experience very early in pregnancy, or before your missed period.
Will I notice pregnancy symptoms before my missed period?
In our article 9 Tips for Couples Trying to Conceive, Trina shares that she swears she felt morning sickness just 5 days after ovulation on the cycle she got pregnant. This shows that as soon as implantation occurs and hCG starts being produced, pregnancy symptoms may occur.
What if I’m not experiencing symptoms before my missed period?
This question is so important! Many, MANY, women do not experience any symptoms until between weeks 6-8 of pregnancy. Their missed period might be the only tip off that they were in fact pregnancy. So if you’re not experiencing any symptoms to “symptom spot” there’s still definitely a chance you’re pregnant.
15 Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Many of the earliest pregnancy symptoms are also first trimester pregnancy symptoms. Which means they are frustrating to deal with while trying to hide your pregnancy. Especially if you’re trying to hide pregnancy symptoms at work. Here’s a list of the ones most commonly felt even before a missed period. Please remember! Symptoms alone are not proof of pregnancy, only a positive pregnancy test can tell you for sure.
1. Breast Changes
One early pregnancy symptom you may start experiencing before your missed period are changes in your breasts. They could be swollen, tender or achy. You might also notice changes in the color and/or size of your nipple and areola.
This was the symptom that I can confidently say I felt before my missed period when I was pregnant with my daughter N.
Some women, especially if it is not your first pregnancy, may experience signs of lactation right away as a result of hormone changes preparing for a baby. I recently experienced a pregnancy loss, but during the two week wait and eventual positive test, I began lactating. Yes! It can happen before your missed period.
2. Increased Urination
Blood flow increases right away as the hCG levels in your body rise, so it is possible to experience increased urination before your missed period. For most women this will peak between weeks 8-10.
3. Sensitivity to Smells
This symptom absolutely blew me away when I was pregnant. It’s like you have super senses! And some women’s increased sense of smell begins right after implantation. So if you’re suddenly smelling the dog food, or a cigarette from around the block, you might be pregnant!
Many women experience headaches as early pregnancy symptoms because of the hormone fluctuations happening in your body.
5. Mood Swings
Mood swings may come out in full force as soon as the hormones in your body start to change and grow a baby. Mood swings can also be a sign of your period coming, so this can be a confusing symptom to actually indicate pregnancy before a missed period. However, if you don’t typically experience mood swings, and feel out of control, then it could be pregnancy.
6. Bathroom troubles
Again with the hormones, you may experience a range of bathroom issues in early pregnancy. Constipation and/or diarrhea might occur as an early sign of pregnancy.
7. Implantation Cramping/Bleeding
Around the time that your fertilized egg burrows into the wall of your uterus you may experience implantation cramping or bleeding. These cramps will happen anywhere from 3-12 days after ovulation (depending on when implantation occurs). They typically last 1-3 days, and may be off and on. They will feel similar to period cramps but won’t last as long.
Along with implantation cramps, you may experience implantation spotting or light bleeding. This bleeding will not soak through a tampon or pad. In fact, you may only notice it when you wipe. It is also often pinkish or brown in color.
Some women report extreme fatigue right after implantation occurs. Growing a baby is a lot of work! In general, your blood sugar and blood pressure are also lower during pregnancy which can also cause fatigue.
9. Raised Basal Body Temperature
If you typically track your basal body temperature in order to predict when ovulation occurred, it may help indicate pregnancy. After successful fertilization and implantation, a woman’s basal body temperature often stays elevated. This can be a good clue of pregnancy before a missed period.
If you remember, Trina shared that she experienced morning sickness right after implantation when she was pregnant with C. Some women will (unfortunately) experience nausea as soon as the hCG hormone starts to rise.
11. Lower Back Pain or Aches in your Pelvic Area
The hormone relaxin gets to work right away in your body in preparation for childbirth. It relaxes ligaments in and around the pelvis area. This can result in an achy or sore lower back and pelvic area, even very early in pregnancy.
12. Stuffy Nose or a Cold
This is a tricky symptom, because in reality you could just have a cold. But, if you are experiencing a stuffy or runny nose without other symptoms, you could be pregnant. This is because the higher levels of estrogen associated with pregnancy can cause mucus membranes to swell, including the ones in your nasal passage.
13. Metallic Taste
One of the weirder early pregnancy symptoms, you may experience a metallic or sour taste in your mouth. This is, you guessed it, because of hormone changes in your body.
14. Lack of PMS Symptoms
So this isn’t a symptom I often see on “early pregnancy symptom” lists, but one definitely worth noting. If you know your PMS symptoms well and simply aren’t experiencing them as your expected period draws closer, it could in fact be because you are pregnant. This could be anything from mood swings, to typical headaches, or even cramping. If they aren’t happening the way they usually do, something could be happening. This was very true for me.
15. Missed Period
And, while maybe obvious, we have to include a missed period. A missed period is often the clearest sign of pregnancy for many women. This is time when you should definitely take a pregnancy test!
If you have a negative pregnancy test and still no period, try again in a few days. If you ovulated late in your cycle, this can cause your period to arrive later than usual. On the flip side later ovulation in the event of pregnancy can mean that your hCG levels aren’t high enough yet to show a positive.
If your period is a week late and you still are getting a negative pregnancy test, definitely give your provider a call to see what’s going on.
When can I take a pregnancy test?
Aha. The question on every woman’s mind after ovulation as she waits to see if this is the month she’s pregnant. Lots of us fall into the trap of testing early. Even just a few days after ovulation. Even when you logically know it couldn’t be positive even if you ARE pregnant. But hey, remember that message board from 2011 I mentioned, SHE got a positive at 5 days past ovulation 😉
But seriously, let’s look at the facts and learn realistically when you can expect to see a positive.
How long after implantation can I test?
So if implantation occurs roughly 3-7 (but as long as 12) days after ovulation, most experts say the earliest you MIGHT see a positive is at 8 days past ovulation. It’s difficult to know exactly when implantation occurs, even if you experience implantation bleeding, because that varies in length too.
Go by your date of ovulation, even if it’s approximate. This is another benefit to learning how to predict ovulation. You may get a positive as early as 8 days past ovulation.
But remember, the best time to take a pregnancy test is on the day of your expected period or the day after your missed period
How soon will my pregnancy test be positive?
As the days until your missed period decrease, your likelihood of an early positive pregnancy test increases. This is because the hormone hCG roughly doubles in your body every two days. The more days it is being produced, the higher chance of it triggering a positive on a pregnancy test.
What are the best pregnancy tests?
The sensitivity of pregnancy tests does vary, but getting too caught up in various brands’ sensitivity is not recommended. This is because a variety of test brands report one sensitivity level, but then when these same brands are tested by independent researchers the sensitivity level is very different (see sources).
Some sites will provide charts comparing sensitivities, but please remember these levels are being reported by the companies themselves and are not checked for accuracy.
What is good to keep in mind? Most home pregnancy tests fall in the range of detecting hCG levels between 20-35 mIU/ml. All tests are over 99% accurate when taken the day after your expected period. In other words, when your period is one day late.
What tests should I use then?
If you are the kind of person who likes to take a pregnancy test every day from 8 dpo until your expected period, there is no reason to break the bank! Invest in a box of home pregnancy test strips. They are just as sensitive as any other brand on the market.
In fact, Trina had a positive on her home pregnancy test strips when her fancy digital one still said “not pregnant”.
If you are able to wait until your missed period, it can be nice to use a digital home pregnancy test because it takes away any chance of ‘line interpretation’ with a very clear: Pregnant or Not Pregnant.
Can I reuse a pregnancy test?
No. After the first use, the dye has run through the test to show one or two lines based on the chemical reaction with the presence of enough hCG in your urine. This test can never “reset” no matter how dry it is. This is true for digital tests as well.
To achieve an accurate result, you must use a new pregnancy test each time you test.
Can you take a pregnancy test while spotting?
Yes. Because home pregnancy tests are detecting the presence of elevated levels of the hCG hormone, the presence of any blood shouldn’t affect the result. Keep in mind that if what you are experiencing is implantation spotting, then your pregnancy test may be negative because there isn’t enough hCG present, not because of the spotting.
It’s also worth noting that up to 30% of women experience some degree of bleeding during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and go on to have healthy full-term deliveries. This is worth noting because this presence of blood also wouldn’t affect the outcome of a pregnancy test.
Surviving the ‘Two Week Wait’
Listen, mama. I know this is hard. The time between ovulation and when you can test can feel like the longest 14 days of your life. You just want to know you’re pregnant! Here are some tips to help you survive the dreaded two week wait:
1. Try to stay away from the message boards
This is my number one tip, because it’s the one I’m guiltiest of. Spending hours before bed scrolling through Trying to Conceive message boards isn’t very helpful. It really feeds the obsession, builds you up for greater disappointment, and can cause stress surrounding trying to conceive that could just make it harder to get pregnant.
Can’t stay away? Allow yourself some scheduled ‘obsession’ time to see if anyone else felt a certain symptom during their two week wait and wound up being pregnant. This way you don’t go down a rabbit hole but you also get to engage with the anticipation on a controlled level.
2. Keep yourself distracted
This is easier said than done. But try to keep your cycle tracking app closed. Opening it daily and counting the days until you can test can make it drag on. Instead, try to fill your two weeks with fun social engagements.
A random but specific idea? I’ve started creating fun meal plans. That way each day I’m focused on the new and interesting recipe I’m making for dinner that night instead of focused on how many days until I can take a pregnancy test. It actually works as a countdown too, but in a way that isn’t as hyper-focused as looking at the app or calendar.
3. Don’t get too caught up in symptom spotting
Okay, these are all hard to do. But remember, the majority of women do not feel pregnancy symptoms until after their missed period or positive pregnancy test. This is because there simply isn’t enough hCG present in their body to really cause symptoms yet.
Convincing yourself you are pregnant every month to be let down by a negative test is exhausting and stressful. Try not to focus too much on every twitch and twinge during your two week wait. The other reason is because PMS symptoms are often very similar to early pregnancy symptoms. This makes it even more difficult to actually pinpoint symptoms of pregnancy during the two week wait.
4. Connect with other women
So, I’m not exactly the kind of person to shout from the roof tops when I’m trying to conceive. And if you are, you do you! However, if you are holding onto this secret, and possible disappointment month after month, it can be hard. Especially because your partner can’t always provide the emotional support you may be craving.
Consider sharing your situation with one or a few trusted female friends. Being able to chat about what’s going on, what’s going well, or what worked for them can be really freeing. It will make you feel less crazy for obsessing about it, and you might even learn something from them.
Of course, those message boards I told you to avoid in tip 1 can also provide this support. However, I think the in person, or private support of a trusted friend can be more meaningful.
5. Try to wait until after your missed period to test
It really is not the standard to have a positive pregnancy test before your missed period. There are also cases where the egg may have been fertilized but failed to implant correctly. This can trigger very early faint positives that wind up as negatives. And this leads to unnecessary disappointment.
I challenge you to wait until at least the day of your missed period to test. The aggravation of waiting a few extra days is so much easier to handle then the aggravation of an early negative result. Testing early really doesn’t tell you anything. It just tells you, oh, it might have been too early, or I might not be pregnant. And an early positive can set you up for disappointment if it doesn’t successfully implant.
What if it’s not my month?
What can you learn from this month?
Maybe you have a better idea of when you ovulated and will have success next month. Maybe you’ve decided that you want to try additional methods to help you predict ovulation. Some great options to support this are ovulation predictor kits, or the Ava bracelet.
Perhaps you’ve been relying on an app that uses averages, but realize you may be missing your fertile window.
Also reflect on things like how stressed you and your partner may have been this month? What steps can you take to decrease stress day to day?
Stay positive, healthy and try not to stress it
Moving forward, keep a positive mindset. Make the healthiest choices possible for your body to boost fertility. Eat a balanced diet, decrease caffeine, and try to incorporate exercise (or at least movement) into your routine a few days a week.
One study showed that after 12 months of timed intercourse, 92% of couples were pregnant. I know that seems like an eternity. But try to take a deep breath, and trust that it will happen when it is supposed to happen for you <3
For those who have been pregnant before, what did the two week wait look like for you? Any early pregnancy symptoms that made you just KNOW you were pregnant? We’d love to hear from you!
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Alli Wittbold is a wife, mama, blogger, and online teacher. She feels passionate about connecting expectant mothers with childbirth class educators, and supporting them to achieve the birth they desire. After having her first baby delivered by a Certified Nurse Midwife, Alli is an advocate for midwifery prenatal care. She has learned so much about labor and delivery by attending and reviewing dozens of birth classes to help mothers learn and explore options. Alli co-authored the Week-by-Week Bump Smart Course, the Nesting Planner and the Breastfeeding Handbook, resources she is proud to share with as many expectant and new mothers as possible. Read more about Alli.