Whether you're trying to become pregnant or would prefer not to, you're not alone if you find yourself scrutinizing your symptoms for potential signs of pregnancy. While many women experience headache, nausea and some cramping as early signs of pregnancy, other signs and symptoms may be less common and less well-recognized.
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Technically, you're already two weeks pregnant when you conceive, explain Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel in their book "What To Expect When You're Expecting." This is because you conceive about two weeks after the start of your last menstrual period, and pregnancy is dated from the first day of your last period. The early pregnancy period during which you'll start to show symptoms, therefore, is from about three to six weeks gestational age, or one to four weeks after conception.
Reason for Symptoms
The reason you start to show symptoms of early pregnancy--and not all women show all, or even most, of the typical symptoms--is that your hormone levels start to rise. This leads to the most common early symptom, a missed period. You may also notice some nausea, commonly called "morning sickness," explain Murkoff and Mazel. Many women also have headaches, and some experience low abdominal cramps that aren't unlike menstrual cramps.
It's very typical for pregnant women to feel quite hungry, notes Dr. Miriam Stoppard in her book "Conception, Pregnancy and Birth." Typically, however, the hunger strikes closer to the start of the second trimester than the start of the first. Most women--though not all--have either no appetite changes or else experience reduced appetite in the first few weeks of pregnancy, as their hormone levels adjust.
If you're experiencing significant hunger in the complete absence of other signs of pregnancy, it's not likely that you're pregnant. There are many other reasons that you might be more hungry than usual. For instance, some women find that their appetite increases around the time that they're expecting a menstrual period. Dr. Stoppard, however, notes that all women respond differently to pregnancy, meaning that just because most women don't feel much hungrier right away doesn't mean you can't.
What To Do
If you're experiencing an increased appetite--or any other unusual symptoms--and there's a chance that you might be pregnant, it's probably best to confirm or refute your suspicions with a home pregnancy test. Home tests tend to be most reliable on or around the first day of your missed period, explains Dr. Raymond Poliakin in his book "What You Didn't Think To Ask Your Obstetrician." Because women can experience the early days of pregnancy in so many different ways, a pregnancy test is the only way to be sure of what your symptoms mean.
- “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”; Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel; 2008
- “Conception, Pregnancy and Birth”; Miriam Stoppard, M.D.; 2008
- “What You Didn’t Think to Ask Your Obstetrician”; Raymond Poliakin, M.D.; 2007