3 May 2023

Early signs of pregnancy: how do you recognise symptoms?

Early signs of pregnancy
Medical Director
Cesar Diaz-Garcia
MD PhD Assoc Prof
IVI London


It’s easy to assume that we all know the early signs of pregnancy, and everyone has heard about missed periods and morning sickness. But when it occurs to you that you may be pregnant, whether you don’t want to be pregnant or very much do, you may need more than your baseline of general knowledge. It’s only natural to monitor your body closely for those tell-tale signs and keep an eye out for every little twinge or alteration.

This article looks at some lesser-known pregnancy symptoms and those that are more obvious. Read on for our top 10 tips on recognising the early signs of pregnancy but do bear in mind that all women are different; every pregnancy is different. An individual may have all or very few of these pregnancy signals.

What are the classic early signs of pregnancy?

  • Missed period:
    The best known of all pregnancy symptoms and perhaps one of the easiest to recognise. Sometimes, however, you may have slight bleeding or cramping when your period would normally be due. Implantation bleeding, about 10–14 days after conception when the blastocyst implants in the womb lining, may also result in light red, pink or brown spotting. Implantation bleeding lasts no more than three days.
  • Morning sickness:
    Despite its name, ‘morning’ sickness can happen at any time of day. Feeling nauseous during early pregnancy is very common and, although unpleasant, usually is nothing to worry about. But if your nausea is severe and you can’t keep anything down, you should contact your GP or medical adviser. It can worsen towards the end of the third month but usually subsides after this point.
  • Breast tenderness:
    During pregnancy, breasts may become larger, feel tender, heavy or have a tingly sensation. Veins often become more visible and the nipples may darken and become more prominent. The skin around your nipples can look bumpy due to the presence of areolar glands known as Montgomery’s tubercles. These glands secrete an oily fluid in preparation for breastfeeding.
  • Feeling tired:
    Fatigue can strike early during pregnancy, most likely due to increased progesterone levels. This is not a normal tiredness you may feel after a busy day, but deep and otherwise inexplicable exhaustion. If you are free to give in to it, the best response is to allow yourself extra sleep.


  • Frequent trips to the loo:
    You may need to urinate more frequently long before your growing baby starts putting on your bladder. Even during very early pregnancy, the amount of blood pumped around your body increases, meaning the kidneys process more fluid than usual. This results in an increased amount of fluid in your bladder. It is important to stay hydrated.

  • Increased vaginal discharge:
    Having more vaginal discharge than usual is a common early sign of pregnancy. Unless you have an infection, it does not bring any irritation or soreness. The discharge is usually white and milky. It is caused by a growth of the cells lining the walls of the vagina, which begins very quickly after you have conceived. It is harmless and can continue throughout the pregnancy.


  • Food cravings or aversions:
    Another well-known peculiarity of early pregnancy is ‘going off’ certain everyday things like coffee or fatty foods. Alternatively, you may find you suddenly crave items you do not normally eat, especially high-calorie ‘comfort’ foods like biscuits and ice cream. This is normal and relatively harmless unless it implies putting on weight more than would be reasonable during the pregnancy. It is different from pica, an eating disorder in which you crave non-food items like soap, paper or soil. This is potentially dangerous and if it happens, you should consult a medical adviser.


  • A funny, metallic taste:
    The strange, metallic taste reported by some women in early pregnancy, known as dysgeusia, could be connected with food aversions and sometimes a heightened sensitivity to smells. It could also be an over-production of saliva.


  • Mood fluctuations:
    The hormones oestrogen and progesterone start to swirl around your body very early in pregnancy, and the sudden change can make you prone to mood swings. You could find that you feel emotionally ‘wobbly’ and more reactive than usual. This is normal, and nothing to worry about.


  • The pregnancy glow:
    We saved the best to last. The famous ‘pregnancy glow’ is a phenomenon, probably due to the increased blood flow, changes in hormone levels and raised body temperature. Increased activity of oil glands can add a shiny gloss to the hair and an extra glow to the skin, or acne, in some cases.

Get to know more about the early symptoms of pregnancy

Naturally, as soon as you suspect you are pregnant, with or without any symptoms, you must take a test. If positive, contact your GP immediately to begin antenatal care. You may also like to browse our tips on a healthy diet during pregnancy. On the other hand, if you’re still hoping to get pregnant, take a look at our 10 tips for successful conception.

If you have any worries about your fertility, our website has plenty of information about our range of treatments and services, including how to contact our fertility specialists through our online contact form.

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