Recognizing the Signs of Pregnancy

By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

So assume it has happened: A budding embryo has nestled itself into your womb’s soft lining. How and when do you find out that you’re pregnant? Quite often, the first sign is a missed period. But your body sends many other signals — sometimes even sooner than that first missed period — that typically become more noticeable with each passing week.

  • You’re late! You may suspect that you’re pregnant if your period hasn’t arrived as expected. By the time you notice you’re late, a pregnancy test will probably yield a positive result.

    Sometimes, though, you may experience one or two days of light bleeding, which is known as implantation bleeding, because the embryo is attaching itself to your uterus’s lining.

  • You notice new food cravings and aversions. What you’ve heard about a pregnant woman’s appetite is true. You may become ravenous for pickles, pasta, and other particular foods, yet turn up your nose at foods you normally love to eat. No one knows for sure why these changes in appetite occur, but experts suspect that these changes are, at least partly, nature’s way of ensuring that you get the proper nutrients.

    You may find that you crave bread, potatoes, and other starchy foods, and perhaps eating those foods in the early days is actually helping you store energy for later in pregnancy, when the baby does most of its growing. As with any other time in life, though, be careful not to overeat.

    You may also be very thirsty early in pregnancy, and the extra water you drink is useful for increasing your body’s supply of blood and other fluids.

  • Your breasts become tender and bigger. Don’t be surprised by how large your breasts grow early in pregnancy. In fact, large and tender breasts are often the first symptom of pregnancy that you feel because very early in pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone rise, causing immediate changes in your breasts.