Very Early Pregnancy Signs: Even before your missed periods!

Very Early Pregnancy Signs

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?

Timeline For Very 
Early Pregnancy Symptoms

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:

  • Symptoms occurring between conception and the
    missed period. In a traditional 28-day cycle, that will be about Day 14 to Day
    28.
  • Symptoms occurring after the expected date of
    menses.

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.

Early Pregnancy symptoms Before the Missed Period

 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.

Breast changes

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.

The Downside to these early signs

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!”.

Should I Care?

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.

References

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.