Very early pregnancy signs is used by many women to refer to the earliest symptoms suggestive of conception, often before they miss their periods or just after their expected date.
The two most significant associated questions are
1. Are there symptoms to expect, even before missing your period?
2. After missing my periods, what signs of early pregnancy should make me more concerned this could be a pregnancy?
The definition of “very early” remains vague and is not used in the medical literature. As noted above, the period between conception and the missed period is of particular interest to women.
Therefore we use an arbitrary timeline to better understand these early pregnancy symptoms as follows:
The missed period is the cardinal symptom of pregnancy and is often very obvious!
We will therefore use “Very Early Signs of Pregnancy” to refer to these very early symptoms that occur before the missed period or within days following the missed period prompting a home pregnancy test.
It is worth noting here that this has not been extensively studied medically. An earlier study found that women began reporting symptoms as early as Day 27 of their cycle and that 50% of pregnancy women had symptoms by Day 36.
Some of these “very early pregnancy signs ” include
Changes in vaginal discharge
Changes in the secretions of the vaginal wall and cervix very early following conception, due to pregnancy hormones. There is an increase in the amount of vaginal discharge, which is white, milky and without an odor or itch.
Implantation bleeding and cramps
About 10 to 14 days following fertilization, about 30% of pregnant women experience mild bleeding( spotting) with or without mild cramps, called implantation bleeding. Because this bleeding often occurs around the time of the expected menses, it can easily be mistaken for a very short or mild period.
Within one or two weeks of becoming pregnant, a woman may notice changes in her breasts. These include darkening of the skin around the nipples ( the areola), sensation of soreness or fullness in both breasts.
What about Nausea?
Nausea is an early symptom of pregnancy BUT not a “very early symptom”. Nausea typically starts during week 6, that is about Day 42. Before the expected date of periods, that is before Day 28,nausea is not expected to be a symptom of pregnancy.
As noted above, these “very early pregnancy signs” have not been extensively studied. There are pitfalls you should be aware of.
These symptoms are unreliable
Even as doctors, we cannot use the symptoms reported by a woman and the signs we find on the clinical exam to confirm or exclude the possibility of pregnancy. These signs cannot be used as a stand-alone confirmation of pregnancy. Their true value is to raise your awareness that you might be pregnant and to take further steps to ascertain this.
False positive symptoms
The study above also found out that about 9% of women who were not pregnant reported early pregnancy symptoms. This is especially true for women who are trying to conceive. Part of the reason is because these symptoms are nonspecific and could be due to other conditions.
The pregnancy test therefore remains the gold standing for diagnosing early pregnancy. If you think you might be pregnant, get a home pregnancy test done, but not “very early!”.
Many women seek to know about these very early pregnancy signs either because of anticipation of an desired pregnancy or anxiety over an undesired one. However, this might make the difference between having a normal or an abnormal baby, or even a matter of life or death of your unborn baby. Read more about the "A must read for Early Diagnosis of Pregnancy"
Do you have an interesting experience about these early pregnancy signs? Please use the form below to share it to help other women.
Still not sure what to make of all these? Contact Doc with the question.
Sayle AE, Wilcox AJ, Weinberg CR, Baird DD. A prospective study of the onset of symptoms of pregnancy. J Clin Epidemiol 2002; 55:676.
Bastian LA et al, Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of early pregnancy. In: UpToDate, Basow, DS (Ed), UpToDate,Waltham, MA, 2013.
Every woman is different when it comes to pregnancy symptoms. The type of symptoms as well as the time of occurrence might be very different.We would love to hear and learn from your experience!
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