Finding out you are pregnant is a life-changing event - whether it is through a pregnancy test or a doctor’s visit. All of a sudden, your life no longer revolves around yourself and your dreams. It begins to center around a new human being growing inside you.
The pregnancy journey can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t matter if it’s your first or fourth child. It often begins with a missed period and a pregnancy test. The signs and symptoms are almost always the same.
Pregnancy Test Basics: The Physical Signs
Even before you start unpacking the pregnancy test kit, there are various physical signs that may suggest that you are pregnant.1, 2
Missed period. This is the simplest and most obvious sign that you’re pregnant. For those with regular menstrual cycles, missing your period by a week or more means it’s time to take a pregnancy test. However, this symptom can be inaccurate for those with irregular periods.
Tender, swollen breasts. Hormonal changes during this early phase of pregnancy may result in sensitive, sore breasts. If you are pregnant, this unsettling feeling will likely decrease a few weeks after, once your body gets used to the hormonal changes pregnancy brings.
Nausea. An urge to vomit, whether it actually makes you throw up or not, is a sign that you should take a pregnancy test. This symptom is called morning sickness because it commonly occurs after you wake up; however, morning sickness can occur any time. Pregnant women can expect this symptom around a month after conception. Not all pregnant women experience nausea though. The cause behind nausea in pregnancy is unknown, but hormonal changes can play a part.1
More frequent urination. An increased urge to pass urine could be a sign that you should take a pregnancy test. This is because the amount of blood in your body rises during pregnancy. As a result, this makes your kidneys process extra fluid that finds its way into your bladder.
- Fatigue and sleepiness. Feeling tired is one of the early signs of pregnancy. Soaring levels of the hormone progesterone makes pregnant women want to sleep more often.
Mood swings. A surge of hormones that makes you overly emotional and, at times, weepy could be a sign for you to take a pregnancy test.
Bloating. This feeling, which is similar to what you get at the beginning of a menstrual cycle, is again due to an upsurge in progesterone hormone.
Slight spotting. This condition during early pregnancy is also known as implantation bleeding. It occurs when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterus lining 10 to 14 days after conception. Implantation bleeding is seen more or less during a menstrual period.2 Not all pregnant women go through this, however.
Uterine cramping. Mild uterine cramps may occur during early pregnancy. Some women may feel this symptom of early pregnancy while others don’t.
Constipation. Hormonal changes which slow down your digestive system can result in constipation.
- Food cravings and aversions. Hormonal changes make a pregnant woman more sensitive than usual to food and strong odors. These changes manifest themselves in the way a woman suddenly develops a taste for certain fruits or kinds of food. Other times, she may find some food repulsive.
Heightened sense of smell. Alongside other previously mentioned signs, if you feel extra sensitive to certain kitchen aromas and other kinds of odors, maybe it’s time to take a pregnancy test. Hormonal changes during pregnancy heighten a woman’s sense of smell.3
A congested nose. A rise in hormones and blood production can make mucous membranes in the nose swell.3 The result? A stuffy or runny nose, almost similar to that of a common cold. On top of all the other signs, if you want to make sure if the nasal congestion is due to a new life in your womb, take a pregnancy test.
It is important to take note that some of these symptoms are not unique to pregnancy. They can be signs of an upcoming period or even an illness. The best way to find out if you are pregnant is through a pregnancy test and always refer to your doctor for confirmation.
What Exactly is a Pregnancy Test?
Simply put, a pregnancy test determines the presence of the hormone beta human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in your urine.
Your body starts making beta HCG once you conceive.4
When can you take a pregnancy test?
The answer is starting from day one of a missed period. If you are unsure as to when to expect your next period, take the pregnancy test at least 21 days after the last time you had unprotected sex.5
What kind of pregnancy tests can you take?
A beta HCG pregnancy test requires you to place a test stick in your urine flow. Other tests have a urine collection cup where you can dip a pregnancy stick or collect urine from a dropper to be placed on the test stick.
You can get the results as soon as two minutes, or sometimes slightly longer.
Most tests come with a control indicator — a line or symbol shown in the result window.4
If the line or symbol is absent, this means the test is not working as it should. You must repeat the test with another pregnancy test stick.
Even a faint plus sign or line can mean you’re pregnant. A negative result is less dependable.
If you test negative but think you’re pregnant, let a few days pass and take the test again. Please consult your doctor for advice and confirmation.
Taking a pregnancy test as early as possible is one of the keys to a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. The sooner you find out about your pregnancy, the earlier you can make an antenatal check-up with the doctor, adjust your lifestyle to eat healthy, eliminate any harmful habits, and exercise appropriately.
1.“Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens first”. Mayo Clinic. Accessed 30 July 2020.
2.“Signs and symptoms of pregnancy”. NHS. Accessed 30 July 2020.
3. ”Pregnancy and olfaction: a review”. Frontiers in Psychology. Accessed 30 July 2020.
4.“Home pregnancy tests: Can you trust the results?”. Mayo Clinic. Accessed 30 July 2020.
5.“Doing a pregnancy test - Your pregnancy and baby guide”. NHS. Accessed 30 July 2020.