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8 Early Signs of Pregnancy

Wondering if you're pregnant? A pregnancy test is the way to know for sure. But what if it's too soon for accurate results? You may notice some subtle signs of pregnancy -- fatigue, nausea, frequent urination, and breast tenderness. Here's some expert advice on how to respond to these symptoms if you're trying to get pregnant.

1. Fatigue

"Extreme, unexplainable fatigue is probably the most common sign of early pregnancy," says Gil Gross, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"Don't treat fatigue with excessive caffeine if there is a chance you may be pregnant." Instead, "listen to your body, take it easy, and try to keep well-rested," says Donnica Moore, MD, a women's health expert in Far Hills, N.J.

2. Food Aversions

If opening the refrigerator makes you wince and you can't even walk past the local Chinese restaurant without gagging, you could be pregnant. Many women report that such intense food aversions are one of the first signs of early pregnancy. These can be caused by rising levels of beta-hCG hormone, Moore says. The best thing you can do to help yourself through this is to steer clear of triggers.

3. Sensitivity to Smells

Scents that were never pleasant (like cigarette smoke) and even ones that were pleasing (like your partner's cologne) can make you queasy during pregnancy's early stages. "For some women, this can be a tip-off that they are expecting," Moore says. This is likely a result of rising hormone levels. Unfortunately, "there is really nothing you can do except avoid them when you can," she says, "especially cigarette smoke, which is not good for you or the baby."

4. Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be some of the first indications that you're pregnant. Blame it on rising hormones levels in early pregnancy.

One of the things that can help expectant moms get through their first trimester is the reassurance that the nausea and vomiting will likely pass by 19 weeks. "It also helps to know that morning sickness can be a good thing," Moore says, because rising levels of the beta-HCG hormone, which may cause morning sickness, indicate a growing pregnancy.

When you eat may make a difference, too. "The key is not to let your stomach get too empty," Moore says. "Keep crackers by your bedside and have them before you get out of bed in the morning."  It is also a good idea to eat small, more frequent meals throughout the day and a snack just before bed.  Lemon and peppermint flavored candies can also ease queasiness.

Prenatal vitamins can also trigger nausea for some expectant moms. "Don't take your vitamins on an empty stomach," Moore says. "A lot of women feel better if they take them at nighttime or with dinner."

If you are vomiting often, speak with your doctor about medication options.

5. Breast Swelling and Tenderness

Breast changes may be another early sign of pregnancy. "The best thing to do about breast tenderness is to get a better bra," Gross says.  A sports bra, for instance, can give you more support.

6. Frequent Urination

"In early pregnancy, the uterus grows and pushes on the bladder, triggering the urge to urinate more often," says Xavier Pombar, DO, an obstetrician at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

There is no way to avoid this, but going to the bathroom right before bed may allow you to get a little more sleep. "You will probably still have to get up at least once in the night to use the bathroom," Pombar says.

7. Shortness of Breath

Some women feel mildly short of breath when they first become pregnant and sometimes throughout pregnancy. "This is because you need extra oxygen due to the growing embryo," Pombar says. "The further along you are, the worse this gets. Still, don't just brush this off as a 'normal' sign of pregnancy." Talk to your doctor if you are concerned or if any of the following are true for you:

  • You have a sudden onset of shortness of breath that is not associated with exercise.
  • Breathing is at all painful.
  • The breathless feeling is worse when you are lying down.

These can be signs of something more serious.

8. Physical Changes

If you think that you may be pregnant because you've been sexually active without contraception, make an appointment with your doctor. There are changes in the vagina's color and the softness of the cervix that an experienced clinician can identify during a pelvic exam, Pombar says.

"Remember that while these are early signs of pregnancy, these are also the symptoms of other things, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS)," Moore says. "The most reliable early sign of pregnancy is your first missed period if you have regular periods."

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