Earliest signs and early symptoms of pregnancy

How do you know if you’re pregnant? The most common first sign of pregnancy is a missed period. Find out what else to look for.

One of the earliest signs of pregnancy is having a missed period. There are lots of other signs, but every pregnancy is different. You may not have all these symptoms if you’re pregnant. 

A missed period

A missed period is usually the most common sign of pregnancy . You can take most pregnancy tests from the first day of your missed period. Find out more about taking a pregnancy test.

If you are planning a pregnancy, it can help to keep track of your period by marking the days in a calendar or by using an app. If you have a regular menstrual cycle, this will help you plan when you are ovulating and know when you should expect your period. 

If you take contraception to stop your periods, missing a period isn’t a reliable way of knowing if you’re pregnant. If you have any of the other symptoms listed on this page, you should take a pregnancy test.

Light bleeding in early pregnancy

Some light bleeding or spotting, like a light period, can be a sign of pregnancy. Some women say they also have some cramps in their lower tummy. This is called implantation bleeding and happens when the embryo plants itself in the wall of your womb.

This type of bleeding often happens around the time your period would have been due. It shouldn’t be enough to soak through pads or underwear. 

If you are bleeding and know you are pregnant, call your GP, midwife or Early Pregnancy Unit. They can check you over, just in case. Find out more about bleeding in pregnancy.

Tiredness in early pregnancy

Tiredness can be one of the early signs of pregnancy. Even though your baby is smaller than a peanut, the first few weeks of pregnancy can be physically and emotionally draining. 

Early pregnancy tiredness is not like ordinary tiredness. You may feel completely exhausted after a normal day's activities. 

Find out more about managing tiredness in pregnancy

Tender breasts in early pregnancy 

Some women have breast tenderness or a tingly feeling in their breasts during the early weeks of pregnancy. The skin around your nipples may look bumpier than usual and the breasts begin producing an oily fluid to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding

Your breasts may also feel heavier. The nipple may become darker and stay that way during pregnancy. Many of these changes are because of the extra hormones that you have in your body and the growth of the milk ducts.

Needing to wee more often 

You may need to wee more often than usual in early pregnancy. This is because your womb is expanding and pressing on your bladder. 

The hormone progesterone also makes you need to wee more, as well as sometimes causing constipation. 

You may also notice more vaginal discharge than usual. This shouldn’t smell unpleasant, be sore, itchy or painful. Speak to your GP or midwife if you have these symptoms as you may have an infection. 

Feeling sick or being sick in early pregnancy 

Many people feel sick or vomit in early pregnancy. Most people find they start noticing this around 4 to 6 weeks into their pregnancy. Some only feel slightly queasy and others may be physically sick. And some people have no sickness at all. This is commonly known as morning sickness but it can happen at any time of the day. 

Talk to your midwife or GP if you are being sick a lot and you can’t keep any food or water down. This is because there is a risk that you may become dehydrated. 

Extreme sickness in pregnancy is called hyperemesis gravidarum and can be serious. It is important to seek support if you are worried. 

Mood swings in early pregnancy

Hormones are natural chemicals that help your body manage your pregnancy, prepare it for the birth and produce milk for your baby. The hormones oestrogen and progesterone flood your body in the first 12 weeks. It is these hormones that can also make you feel more emotional than normal. You may find that you are laughing one minute, then crying the next. Don’t worry, this is natural. 

However, if you are a feeling down or anxious for a large part of the day and it lasts longer than a couple of weeks, it is important to seek support. Try to talk to your midwife or GP if you have any concerns about your emotional wellbeing.

No one will judge you for these feelings, pregnancy brings anxieties and stresses, as well as happiness. 

The idea that you will ‘glow with happiness’ during pregnancy can make those who aren’t feeling this way feel very isolated. As many as 1 in 5 women develop a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the first year after having a baby, such as anxiety or depression. So it is important to take care of your mental as well as physical wellbeing during pregnancy. 

Our mental wellbeing plan can help you take steps to plan for where and how you can find support. 

Funny tastes, smells and cravings in early pregnancy  

Have you suddenly become more sensitive to certain smells, or do you have a strange metallic taste in your mouth? These are signs of early pregnancy.

Sometimes, this can cause you to go off certain foods you used to enjoy. Some people begin craving foods they never have before. Find out more about cravings in pregnancy.

What to do if you think you could be pregnant

If you are experiencing one or more of the symptoms above, there is no harm in taking a pregnancy test. However, if you haven’t missed a period yet, it may be too early to tell, so your test result may be inaccurate. 

My test was positive 

If you have done a test and it was positive and you want to continue with the pregnancy, read more about 5 things to do when you find out you’re pregnant.

It’s natural to feel a range of different emotions when you find out you’re pregnant. If you’re not sure what you want to do, take some time to think about your options. 

Talking to people you trust and getting information about your options can help you decide. You may want to talk to a partner, family or friends. Other people may give you some helpful advice, but ultimately this is your decision.   

If you prefer to speak to someone less close to you, you can talk to your GP or a local community sexual health clinic. These services are confidential. 

My test was negative 

A negative result might mean you are too early for the test to pick up hormones in your system. Do another test in a few days' time if you still have not had your period. Talk to your GP if you continue to get negative results and still don't have a period.  

Trying for a baby

If you are trying to get pregnant by having sex with a partner of the opposite sex, this can take time. 

In the general population, more than 8 out of 10 couples where the woman is aged under 40 will get pregnant within 1 year if they have regular sex (every 2 to 3 days) and do not use contraception. More than 9 out of 10 couples will get pregnant within 2 years. Find out more about fertility

We also have information about getting pregnant through IVF and pregnancy for trans and non-binary parents.

Trying for a baby after loss

If you are trying for a baby after experiencing loss, this can be an anxious time. You may find it helpful to connect with other people who may be going through a similar experience. Our pregnancy and parenting after loss support group is a safe space for you to connect with others, share advice and offer support to one another.

You can also talk to a Tommy’s midwife on 0800 0147 800, 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. Or you can email them at [email protected] 

NHS. Signs and symptoms of pregnancy: https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/trying-for-a-baby/signs-and-symptoms-of-pregnancy/ (Page last reviewed: 8 October 2019 Next review due: 8 October 2022)

NHS. Vaginal bleeding. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-bleeding/ (Page last reviewed 10 March 2021 Next review due: 10 March 2024)

NHS. Tiredness in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/tiredness/ (Page last reviewed: 1 February 2021 Next review due: 1 February 2024)

NHS. Signs and symptoms of pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/trying-for-a-baby/signs-and-symptoms-of-pregnancy/ (Page last reviewed: 8 October 2019 Next review due: 8 October 2022)

NHS. Vaginal discharge. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/related-conditions/common-symptoms/vaginal-discharge/ (Page last reviewed: 31 March 2021 Next review due: 31 March 2024)

Nice Guidelines. Antenatal and postnatal mental health:clinical management and service guidance; 1.5.4: 2014 http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg192/chapter/1-recommendations#recognising-mental-health-problems-in-pregnancy-and-the-postnatal-period-and-referral-2

Royal College of Obstetrictians and Gynaecologists (2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’ s Voices: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/information/maternalmental-healthwomens-voices.pdf

NHS. Doing a pregnancy test. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/trying-for-a-baby/doing-a-pregnancy-test/ (Page last reviewed: 9 February 2022 Next review due: 9 February 2025)

NICE (2013) Fertility problems: assessment and treatment NICE guideline, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156

Review dates
Reviewed: 26 April 2022
Next review: 26 April 2025