How do I know if I’m pregnant?

 The only way to tell for sure is by taking a test, but you might notice a few early signs that indicate a pregnancy.

Clear signs

positive pregnancy test

TV shows and Hollywood movies have created a popular image of pregnancy, but the truth is that the experience is different for every woman. For example, some people might experience strong feelings of nausea, while others don’t have it at all.

If you’re trying for a baby, it’s important to look out for all of the more noticeable physical symptoms you might encounter during the first two or three weeks following conception:

  • The most obvious symptom is missing a period. While it is not abnormal for women to experience late periods, it might be worth taking a pregnancy test if you have missed your period for more than two weeks. Alternatively, you might notice a bit of brown spotting (implantation bleeding) instead of full on menstruation; this could trick you into thinking that you are actually having a very light period.
  • Tummy troubles could also clue you in; a lot of women report having digestive issues, period-like stomach cramps, or twinges and a ‘pulling’ sensation in their lower abdomen during their first trimester.
  • Newly pregnant women might notice that their breasts become swollen and sensitive, sometimes so sore than wearing a bra becomes uncomfortable.
  • You might be taking more frequent trips to the toilet. As a woman’s body produces more blood, the blood flow to the kidney increases by 35-60%, and the growing uterus starts putting more pressure on the woman’s bladder. Some women are also thirstier (especially when the pregnancy starts in summer), which obviously doesn’t help with this issue.
  • Changes to your appetite could also be a sign, although this can manifest in different ways: some women experience increased appetite while others don’t feel like eating.
  • Nausea/morning sickness affects around 75% of pregnant women, and usually clears up after 16-20 weeks. Despite its name, it can occur at any time and sometimes lasts all day.
  • If you are vomiting and cannot keep any food/drink down, it could be a symptom of hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness that requires treatment.
  • A lot of pregnant women also notice a metallic taste in their mouth and an increased sense of smell, which can exacerbate morning sickness.
  • Unusual food aversions or cravings are common: if you are suddenly trading chocolate for chickpeas, you could be pregnant!

Less noticeable symptoms

There are also less noticeable physical changes that could indicate pregnancy, such as an elevated resting heart rate (RHR). Within two weeks of conceiving, your RHR might increase by up to 20% because of the higher volume of blood in your body during pregnancy, which forces your heart to work harder. RHR will decrease slightly when the heart gets used to the extra blood flow. Keep in mind that if you are sporty and fit, your heart rate might normally be lower than average, so don’t focus too much on the heart rate ‘guidelines’ you find online – ask your doctor if you have any concerns.

You might experience temperature changes too.

Your body is starting to work overtime to grow a baby, and your metabolism is going to change and require more energy. Some women lose a little weight in the first few weeks – this is not abnormal, and shouldn’t worry you unless you are already underweight. The increased demand for energy, as well as the hormonal changes. will be exhausting, and might come with headaches, mood swings and dizziness. A lot of women assume that tiredness comes toward the end of the pregnancy, but if you are pregnant for the first time you might be surprised at how exhausted you feel from the start.

Some women also find it harder to concentrate, and might become forgetful.

Pregnancy tests

Taken individually, these signs do not necessarily mean that you are pregnant. If you are experiencing a few of these symptoms at once and are still missing your periods, then your next step should be to take a pregnancy test.

If you discover that you are pregnant, you should talk to your GP or midwife immediately. Your reaction to the news might be different than you expect – the doctor, nurse or midwife will be able to talk to you about your feelings and any concerns.

Supplements and pregnancy

Getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals will help your baby to develop, but some of these are difficult to obtain from your diet.

  • The NHS recommends that all women who are trying for a baby take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement every day, up until 12 weeks after conception. This helps your baby to develop properly in the first weeks following conception, when you may not be aware that you are pregnant, and can prevent birth defects. If taking a multivitamin containing folic acid, make sure that it does not contain vitamin A or retinol.
  • The Department of Health advises you to consider vitamin D supplements, which are important for bones, teeth and muscles. Although vitamin D is generated naturally in response to sunlight, it is difficult for our bodies to produce enough in northern climates, especially during the winter months.
  • People who feel very tired during pregnancy may be suffering from iron deficiency. A GP or midwife may ask you to take an iron supplement if the level of iron in your blood is too low.
  • Vegans, vegetarians and people on restricted diets may wish to talk to a dietician to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need.

In addition, you should ask your doctor whether it is safe to continue with any supplements you are taking while pregnant. You should never take a vitamin A supplement while pregnant, as too much vitamin A can harm your baby.