The top 11 symptoms and signs of pregnancy

woman with symptoms of pregnancy holding a positive home pregnancy test and smiling
You may have an inkling that you're pregnant soon after you've conceived, when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the wall of your uterus (womb). This usually happens within about 10 days of conception.

Or you may be unaware of any changes for weeks, only wondering if you're pregnant when you miss a period.

Though you may experience some, all or none of these, here are the top 11 early signs of pregnancy.

1. Changes to your breasts and nipples

As pregnancy hormones increase the blood supply to your breasts, you may feel a tingling sensation around your nipples (Murray and Hassall 2014, NHS 2016).

This can be one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, and is sometimes noticeable within a week or so of conception. Once your body gets used to the hormone surge, this sensation will subside.

The circles of skin round your nipples (areolas) may get darker (Bastian and Brown 2019, Murray and Hassall 2014, NHS 2016, 2018b, Payne 2017), the bumps around your nipples may become more pronounced, and your nipples more erect (Whelan 2017).

Once you’re about six weeks pregnant, your breasts may become increasingly sensitive (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2016, Payne 2017). It’s similar to how they feel before you have a period, but more so.

You may notice that your breasts are larger and swollen, with veins visible just below the skin (Payne 2017). Tenderness tends to be most common in the first trimester, easing as pregnancy progresses.

Find out more about sore breasts in pregnancy.

2. Feeling tired

Exhausted? You may find yourself diving for your doona as your body cranks up to support your baby, right from the early stages of pregnancy (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2016, Payne 2017). Pregnancy hormones in your body are to blame, because they can make you feel tired, upset and emotional.

Though fatigue isn't a sure-fire symptom on its own, it's common in early pregnancy (Bastian and Brown 2019). You may find that tiredness wipes you out the most in your first and third trimesters.

Get tips on dealing with pregnancy fatigue.

3. Bloated tummy

Hormonal changes in early pregnancy may leave you feeling bloated (Bastian and Brown 2019), similar to the feeling some women have just before their period.

That’s why your clothes may feel more snug than usual at the waistline, even early on when your uterus is still quite small.

4. Mood swings

It’s common to have mood swings during pregnancy. You may experience this just a few weeks after conception, thanks to hormonal changes (Bastian and Brown 2019, NIH 2017, Payne 2017).

Learn more about mood swings in pregnancy.

5. Spotting and cramping

It's common to have some spotting when you’re around six weeks pregnant (Hasan et al 2010, NIH 2017). You may notice a slight pink or brown-coloured stain in your undies, or when you wee, or feel slight cramping.

Experts aren't entirely sure why spotting in very early pregnancy happens. It's thought to be caused by the developing placenta (Hasan et al 2010).

If you think you may be pregnant and you have any bleeding, tell your doctor or midwife, to be on the safe side.

Read more about spotting and bleeding in early pregnancy.

6. Feeling sick

If you're lucky, you'll escape nausea completely. But morning sickness is a common symptom of early pregnancy (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2016, 2018a). It often starts when you're about six weeks pregnant (Payne 2017), though it can start as early as four weeks (Murray and Hassall 2014).

You may feel sick and queasy, or even vomit. Despite the name, morning sickness can affect you at any time of the day or night (NHS 2018a).

Check out these natural remedies for pregnancy nausea.

7. Needing to wee a lot

From about six weeks of pregnancy, you may notice that you're weeing more often (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2016, 2018b, Payne 2017, Rankin 2014).

This is because of a combination of pregnancy hormones, a larger volume of blood in your system, and your kidneys working extra hard (Payne 2017).

If you feel pain or a burning sensation when you wee, though, you may have a urinary tract infection (UTI) (Payne 2017). See your doctor if you think you have a UTI.
Frequent urination in pregnancy
Find out why you need to wee more often.More pregnancy side-effects videos

8. Food cravings and aversions, and changed sense of smell

Food cravings can be a sign of pregnancy (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2016, Payne 2017). You’re more likely to go off some flavours at first, though, possibly even before you've missed a period.

You may notice a metallic taste in your mouth (NHS 2016, Payne 2017), or find that you can’t face your morning coffee or a food you usually like, such as eggs (NHS 2016).

Your sense of smell may become stronger as well (Payne 2017), and you may become more sensitive to food or cooking smells (NHS 2016).

Learn more about food cravings in pregnancy.

9. Skin changes

Skin changes are common during early pregnancy.

Many mums-to-be notice dark patches appearing on their skin. This is called melasma, or chloasma, and is a harmless and very common side-effect of pregnancy (Murray and Hassall 2014). It's caused by your body making extra melanin, the tanning pigment (Murray and Hassall 2014).

Your vulva and vagina may change to a deeper, purplish red, too (Murray and Hassall 2014), though you probably won't notice this!

Discover more about skin changes during pregnancy.

10. A missed period

If you're usually pretty regular, and your period doesn't start on time, you'll probably take a pregnancy test before you notice any other symptoms. A missed period is one of the surest signs of pregnancy (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2016, Payne 2017).

But if your periods are usually irregular, or you lose track of when your next one is due, you may not realise that your period is late. In this case, tender breasts, feeling queasy and making extra trips to the loo may be early clues that you’re pregnant (Bastian and Brown 2019).

Find out what it means if you've missed a period but a pregnancy test comes back negative.

11. The proof: a positive home pregnancy test

Most home pregnancy tests will give you a reliable result if you wait until at least the first day of a missed period (Bastian and Brown 2019, NHS 2018c). Some tests are more sensitive, though, and can be used as early as four or five days before your period is due (NHS 2018c).

If a positive result appears in the test window or digital display, you're probably expecting. If the test is negative, but you're feeling some of the symptoms of early pregnancy, wait a week and test again (Bastian and Brown 2019).

Once you’ve got a positive result, make an appointment with your doctor, read 50 reasons to be glad you're pregnant, and celebrate the exciting journey ahead! And head over to our pregnancy area to check out amazing pictures of how your baby develops during your pregnancy week by week. Congratulations!

Talk to others who are hoping to get pregnant in our Getting pregnant group.

Don't forget to download our free app for a day-by-day guide to your pregnancy. My Pregnancy & Baby Today gives you all the expert advice you need, right at your fingertips.


Bastian LA, Brown HL. 2019. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of pregnancy. UpToDate. [Accessed August 2019]

Hasan R, Baird DD, Herring AH, et al. 2010. Patterns and predictors of vaginal bleeding in the first trimester of pregnancy. Ann Epidemiol 20(7):524-31

Murray I, Hassall J. 2014. Change and adaptation in pregnancy. In: Marshall JE, Raynor MD. eds. Myles textbook for midwives. 16th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, pp143-77

NHS. 2016. Signs and symptoms of pregnancy. NHS, Health A-Z. [Accessed April 2019]

NHS. 2018a. Vomiting and morning sickness in pregnancy. NHS, Health A-Z. [Accessed April 2019]

NHS. 2018b. Common health problems in pregnancy. NHS, Health A-Z. [Accessed April 2019]

NHS. 2018c. How soon can I do a pregnancy test. NHS, Common Health Questions. [Accessed August 2019]

NIH. 2017. What are some common signs of pregnancy? US National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. [Accessed April 2019]

Payne J. 2017. Early pregnancy signs and symptoms. Patient, Health Info. [Accessed April 2019]

Rankin J. 2014. The female urinary tract. In: Marshall JE, Raynor MD. eds. Myles textbook for midwives. 16th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, pp81-90

Whelan C. 2017. Breast changes in pregnancy: what to expect. healthline. [Accessed August 2019]
Megan Rive is a communication, content strategy and project delivery specialist. She was Babycenter editor for six years.

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