Early Pregnancy Symptoms or Just the Flu?

Can Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms at Two Weeks Really Indicate Pregnancy?

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Early pregnancy signs and symptoms are difficult to distinguish from the premenstrual symptoms or even the flu. Is there any way to tell? The honest answer: you can't.

However, if you're like most trying-to-conceivers, you're probably still going to obsess on every little ache and twinge you feel. Here are some potential signs of pregnancy that you may experience.

13 (Maybe) Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Consider these 13 early pregnancy signs with the following disclaimer: you can have these signs and symptoms and not be pregnant.

Or have none of these early pregnancy signs and turn out to be pregnant.

Tender breast: your breasts become tender when you're pregnant (after ovulation but before your period) because of the increase in estrogen and progesterone. These hormones cause you to retain fluid, for your milk glands to swell, and your breast ducts to enlarge.

Nausea: when in the morning ("morning sickness") or at any time, between 50 and 70 percent of women experience nausea in early pregnancy. No one is clear exactly on what causes morning sickness, but it seems to be related to increases in the hormone hCG (the pregnancy hormones) and estrogen.

Also, in early pregnancy, a woman's sense of smell is more acute. Maybe before you conceived, you loved sour cream with garlic, but during pregnancy, it may cause you to gag and send you running to the bathroom. Some researchers think the over-reactive gag reflex may be intended to protect women from eating foods that are spoiled, protecting the unborn baby.

Nausea, however, can occur without pregnancy hormones. And you can be pregnant and not ever feel nauseated.

Increased fatigue: the hormone progesterone, which increases after ovulation, is primarily responsible for increased fatigue in early pregnancy.

Headaches: a headache during early pregnancy can be related to the hormone estrogen.

More specifically, when estrogen levels drop just before your period arrives, you may get a headache.

In early pregnancy, headaches can be caused by hormone fluctuations, but also increases in blood volume.

A backache or menstrual cycle like cramps: increased fluid retention and bloating can lead to tenderness in the pelvic area. This happens during early pregnancy and is a common premenstrual symptom. Hormonal fluctuations and changes in the uterus can also cause cramps in early pregnancy.

Also, the corpus luteum cyst on the ovary can cause cramps and achiness, especially on one side. The corpus luteum forms from the follicle from which the egg ovulated from. If you don't get pregnant, this cyst will usually reabsorb back into the ovary. If you do get pregnant, the cyst fills with blood and remains on the ovary for almost three months. It produces progesterone, sustaining the pregnancy until the placenta can take over.

Darkening of the areolas, the skin around the nipples: this occurs due to hormonal fluctuations and increased blood volume to the breasts. Eventually, darker and more erect nipples help the breastfeeding baby find and latch onto the nipple for nursing. 

Food cravings: cravings for specific foods, especially carbs and sweets, is common both before your period and during early pregnancy.

One possible cause for cravings is a decrease in serotonin levels in the brain. Carbohydrates and sweets increase serotonin levels. Your desire for chocolate covered potatoes chips may be your body's way of boosting back up your happy-hormone levels.

However, scientists also speculate that some food cravings may be related to your body trying to get nutrients it's lacking. It takes a lot to make a baby!  

Frequent urination: as the uterus grows and increases in volume, it places pressure on the bladder. This is happening even early in pregnancy and can cause frequent urination.

Another cause of frequent bathroom trips is the increase in fluid retention.

All that fluid needs to circulate and eventually leave the body. If you don't get pregnant, your progesterone levels will drop, and your body will release all the extra fluid. This means even more trips to the loo.

Implantation bleeding: implantation bleeding is slight brown spotting that occurs between 6 to 14 days after ovulation. It's called implantation bleeding because it occurs right around the time an embryo would implant itself into the uterine lining.

However, it's unlikely the spotting is the direct cause of the implanting embryo. The embryo is no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. More likely, the spotting is caused by hormone changes. 

Mid-cycle spotting can also occur if you're not pregnant. In fact, most mid-cycle bleeding has nothing to do with pregnancy.        

An implantation dip on a body basal temperature (BBT) chart: your basal body temperature is your body's temperature at complete rest. The hormone progesterone causes your basal body temperature (BBT) to rise. Some women chart these temperatures to track ovulation.

An implantation dip is when your BBT drops for one day sometime between day 7 and 10 post-ovulation. It is more likely to occur if you're pregnant, but it can also happen if you're not pregnant.  

A triphasic BBT chart: when ovulation occurs, your BBT will increase for the second half of your cycle. Sometimes, there will be a third sustained rise in temps that starts just around the time of embryo implantation (7 to 10 days post ovulation.)

If this occurs, you're more likely to be pregnant. But this pattern appears on non-pregnant fertility charts as well.    

More than 18 high temperatures on a BBT chart during the luteal phase: the most reliable early pregnancy sign on a fertility chart is having your basal body temperature remain high for over 18 days. If you're not pregnant, when progesterone drops at the end of the luteal phase, your BBT will fall, and your period will begin. 

The luteal phase is typically between 12 and 16 days long. It should not last longer than 18 days unless you are pregnant.              

A missed period: if you're not pregnant, your period won't come. That said, some women do experience light spotting instead of a period.

Sure Signs of Pregnancy

Of the above potential signs, the most reliable is a late period and an 18-day luteal phase as indicated on a body basal temperature chart. (This means that your basal body temperature remains high for 18 days past ovulation.)

The only way to know if you're pregnant is to take a pregnancy test when your period is late.

What if it's negative, but you feel pregnant? Does this mean it's the flu or just PMS? Don't give up yet.

You can get a negative pregnancy test result if your body isn't producing enough pregnancy hormones yet. Wait a few more days and test again.

The absolute sign of pregnancy is when a fetus is found via ultrasound, something you have to wait quite some time to see. You also need to see your doctor for this.

If your period is late, you might consider taking a pregnancy test.

Should you test if your period isn't late, but you feel pregnant? There are several reasons not to take an early pregnancy test, including the possibly if getting a false negative result.  

If your period isn't late, and you just feel pregnant, don't read too much into it. Many of signs and symptoms of pregnancy occur every month after ovulation before your period arrives. You just may not have noticed when you weren't trying to conceive.


Pregnancy Symptoms: Early Signs of Pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association.

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