Early pregnancy

The first signs

You may already know that you’re pregnant, but if not there are signs to look out for. The first sign of pregnancy tends to be missing a period, probably around two weeks after you’ve conceived. But this isn’t foolproof.

If your menstrual cycle isn’t regular you may not notice that you’ve missed a period. Some women have a bit of bleeding around the time they would have expected a period – caused by the embryo implanting itself in the womb lining – which can be confusing.

Home pregnancy tests are about 97% reliable. You can do one on the first day you should have had a period. The test measures the amount of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. This is much higher during pregnancy. Sexual health clinics offer free pregnancy tests and support and advice about your next steps (see Further help). If you think you may be pregnant and your period is late, phone your GP practice and arrange to visit a midwife to have it confirmed and to discuss what happens next.

Other signs of early pregnancy

Even before you miss a period, you may notice changes caused by pregnancy.

The changes are caused by hormones that can affect different parts of your body and the way you feel. These are some of the signs:

  • Tender breasts: your breasts may feel heavy and tender as they begin to make tissue for producing and storing milk.
  • Tiredness: some women feel more exhausted in early pregnancy than at any other time.
  • Sickness: feeling sick can happen very early on in pregnancy, but usually after the first four weeks. It can hit at any time of the day and not just in the morning. You may also go off some foods.
  • Going to the toilet more often: you may find you feel as if you need to pass urine a lot more than usual.
  • Feeling emotional: even if you really want to be pregnant, realising you are can come as a shock – expect to feel a bit ‘up and down’.

You can read about other pregnancy signs to watch for in our 'How do I know I'm pregnant?' section.

How you may be feeling

Pregnancy hormones can really affect how you are feeling. You can feel over the moon then down in the dumps within minutes. That’s normal.

It’s also natural for you to have a few worries about your health and the health of your baby. You may be worrying about the birth or becoming a parent. If you’re on your own, you may be wondering how you’ll manage (see Being a single parent).

Last Updated: 25 February 2014
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