Early symptoms and signs of pregnancy indicate successful conception and implantation and can tell you that you have stepped into pregnancy before the pregnancy urine test or the blood test can. These are very early initial signs that tell you have become pregnant.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, the earliest you can take the urine pregnancy test is two weeks after conception or on the first day of your missed period.
These pregnancy symptoms and signs will give you a hint in advance that you have conceived and the embryo has implanted itself on the inner wall of the uterus.
Mayo Clinic also claims the earliest period as the same but also suggests that for more accurate results it is better to wait for one week after the missed period.
The life of the ovum or the egg is very short, 12 to 24 hours, and you, therefore have a very short fertile window period for conception. It is necessary for the sperm to be present in the fallopian tube for the egg to be fertilized during the 24 hours immediately post ovulation.
Ovulation takes place somewhere during the mid-cycle. It can occur anywhere between the 11th day to the 21st day of the menstrual cycle or counting backward, 10 to 16 days before the next period. You will know if ovulation has taken place by certain symptoms and signs that develop during ovulation.
Usually, the menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days. In such cases, ovulation takes place on the 14th day of the cycle. Remember, the first day of the cycle is the first day of your menstrual bleeding and the last day is the day preceding the start of your next menstrual period.
Once the sperm has fertilized the egg, it travels through the fallopian tube to reach the uterus for implantation onto the uterine wall. Implantation typically takes 7 to 10 days after ovulation.
Once the embryo implants, the Human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG), also called the pregnancy hormone, is rapidly produced and its levels rise very quickly to the extent of doubling every two to three days.
It is produced by the “pregnancy cells” and incipient placental tissues. It is the hCG hormone that stimulates the corpus luteum to keep on secreting the progesterone hormone, which nourishes the endometrium lining of the uterus to keep the implanted embryo firmly in place.
Conception symptoms or early pregnancy symptoms differ from woman to woman and from pregnancy to pregnancy in the same woman.
When conception occurs after ovulation, your body starts feeling different and sends out signals indicating the start of pregnancy. You could experience the conception signs as early as one week after conception.
Early pregnancy symptoms and signs
Many of these signs and symptoms aren’t unique to pregnancy. Some can indicate a sickness or the onset of your next period. Similarly, you can be pregnant without having most of these symptoms.
In a survey conducted by the American Pregnancy Association, the most commonly reported first signs of pregnancy post-conception were:
Spotting or implantation bleeding
Spotting is called implantation bleeding and occurs due to the burrowing in of the fertilized egg into the uterine wall. It can occur anywhere from 6 to 12 days after conception. About one-third of the women experience implantation bleeding.
This gives the impression to the woman of an early period but, it differs in that it is scant and pinkish or brown in color. It is not like the usual menstrual bleeding but is detected only when wiping.
Again, the timing of the implantation bleeding differs in that it occurs a few days before the next normal period would.
To take an example of a normal and usual period duration of 28 days, ovulation and conception take place on the 14th day. Implantation would take place 8 to 10 days later – from the 22nd to the 24th day, while menstruation bleeding would start on the 29th day.
It is normal to experience tummy cramps just after conception. These lower abdominal cramps are similar in nature to those experienced during menstrual bleeding only that they are more severe.
A cramp is a temporary and sudden contraction of the involuntary muscle, which can be mild or severe in nature.
Cramps are due to the fertilized egg or the embryo implanting and burrowing into the uterine wall and making itself firmly attached.
They can also be due to the changes that take place in the uterus after implantation such as growth in size, and stretching of the attached muscles and ligaments.
Cramping post-conception occurs around the time the normal menstrual cramps would begin before the period. Most women, therefore mistake these pregnancy cramps for pre-menstruation cramps.
Fatigue is an early pregnancy sign that develops rather suddenly. Post-conception, progesterone hormone levels rise, which tends to cause fatigue as an early pregnancy symptom. You feel run down and tend to take frequent naps.
Progesterone causes blood sugar levels and blood pressure to drop. Both these developments and the anxiety of motherhood cause a lack of energy and fatigue.
Another cause of fatigue could be iron-deficiency anemia, which is fairly common during pregnancy and which gets detected and corrected only after your first prenatal visit.
Some women will feel fatigued throughout pregnancy, while some may not feel much of it.
The fatigue symptom is usually experienced more during the first trimester. It disappears during the second trimester only to return during the last three months of pregnancy.
A point to note is that since this symptom can commonly occur before the missed period, some women tend to mistake this exhausted feeling for the onset of fever and may resort to medication, which is wrong as this could be harmful to the developing embryo.
Therefore, if you are planning a pregnancy, you should be careful not to take any medicine and consult your doctor for any problems you may have. Be sure you tell him of a possible pregnancy.
Many women experience bloating during ovulation but more so after conception. Post-conception, you will feel more bloated than usual.
Estrogen levels also increase after conception, which causes the stomach to become lazy and empty more slowly.
This can cause nausea, loss of appetite, and abdominal bloating.
Nausea and vomiting
25% of the women in the survey reported nausea as the first symptom of pregnancy.
Vomiting and nausea form the “morning sickness” symptom of early pregnancy. This can come at any time of the day and not necessarily in the morning.
The majority of the women experience morning sickness about 6 weeks into pregnancy, which is about 2 weeks after the missed period.
But, nausea and vomiting are known to set in even as early as one week after conception.
Swollen and tender breasts
Swollen and tender breasts are also a sign of ovulation experienced just after. 17% of the women in the survey reported breast changes as the first sign of pregnancy after ovulation.
Most women also experience soreness of the breasts just before the beginning of their periods, which lasts for just one to two days. But, the soreness that sets in after conception is more severe and longer lasting.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, swollen and tender breasts can be an early sign of conception, which can develop as early as one week after the egg is fertilized.
This symptom can last throughout pregnancy but usually, it tends to disappear after the first trimester.
The areola of the breasts darkens in color, which is due to the pregnancy hormone HCG. This can happen very early in pregnancy even before the missed period.
As the pregnancy progresses, the darkness increases and post-delivery the areolas return to their original color.
Increased frequency of urination is many times a very early sign of conception and implantation that can set in about 7 to 12 days after ovulation; that means even before the missed period.
More frequent urination is due to the increase in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone levels that take place after implantation of the fertilized egg on the uterine wall.
These hormonal changes increase the blood flow to the kidneys, which fills up the bladder quicker than usual and increases the need to urinate more often.
Further, as pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus exerts physical pressure on the urinary bladder reducing its capacity and making you want to urinate more frequently.
This symptom lasts throughout pregnancy and intensifies as the hormones become more active and the fetus grows in size.