CHOICES : A Sourcebook of Reproductive Health Care in Maryland

Early Symptoms of Pregnancy

Early Signs of Pregnancy

You might think that it would be pretty easy to know if you are pregnant. It turns out that it can actually be trickier than you might think – there are some common signs that you might be pregnant (see below) but you can have some or all of these symptoms, and not be pregnant. It’s also true that you can be pregnant and have none of these symptoms. Some of these signs are the same things you might feel just before you get your period.

Possible signs that you might be pregnant[1]:

  • Missed periods
  • Periods with a lighter flow or shorter duration than usual
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Frequent urination (you have to pee a lot)
  • Changes in appetite (super hungry or not hungry at all)
  • Fatigue (you feel very tired or sleepy)
  • Feeling bloated and/or cramping
  • Changes in digestion (constipation, heartburn, etc.)
  • Abdominal enlargement (your belly gets bigger)
  • Clothes feel tighter
  • Mood changes

How Can I Know for Sure? The good news is that when used as directed, pregnancy tests are highly reliable, 97-99% accurate. If you think you might be pregnant, the only way to know for sure is to take a pregnancy test.

How Does a Pregnancy Test Work? When you are pregnant, your body produces a special hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) (a.k.a. the pregnancy hormone). A pregnancy test detects whether or not your body has made HCG. Most pregnancy tests, like the ones you see in commercials, search for HCG in someone’s urine (or pee), but it can also be found through a blood test (which is given in a doctor’s office).

Where Can I Get a Pregnancy Test? You can take a pregnancy test at your doctor’s office, a local clinic or health center, or you can buy an at-home test at drug stores and some grocery stores. It’s a good idea to purchase two kits (or a kit with more than one than one test) and take the tests a few days apart - if it’s really early in the pregnancy, it’s possible that your body hasn’t made enough HCG to be detected by the test –this way you can be sure of the results. And it’s always good to check the expiration date before you buy a test. Beware of organizations offering "free” pregnancy tests—they may be crisis pregnancy centers who give out false information on birth control, pregnancy, and abortion. You can learn more about these centers—and how to spot them—at

If You are Pregnant:
Read the "What are my options?” page to learn more about carrying a healthy pregnancy, adoption, and abortion.

If You are NOT Pregnant:

  • This may be a good time to choose a method of birth control. Check out our Birth Control page to learn more about your birth control options.
  • If you are already using birth control, consider whether you should choose a more effective method. Each woman reacts differently to birth control, so it can take a while to find the method that is best for you. Also, your needs may change over time – the birth control that worked for you at 17 may not be the same one you want at 32.

How to know if you had a Miscarriage:

Spontaneous abortion, commonly known as miscarriage, is the involuntary loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. Having a miscarriage can be physically and emotionally hard for any woman and couple. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, it is important to contact your health care provider or a medical facility to evaluate if you could be having a miscarriage:

  • Mild to severe back pain (often worse than normal menstrual cramps)
  • Weight loss
  • White-pink mucus secretion
  • True contractions (very painful happening every 5-20 minutes)
  • Brown or bright red bleeding with or without cramps (20-30% of all pregnancies can experience some bleeding in early pregnancy, with about 50% of those resulting in normal pregnancies)
  • Tissue with clot like material passing from the vagina
  • Sudden decrease in signs of pregnancy

These signs may be caused by a condition that is less serious than miscarriage, but you should have a health care provider check you to be safe.

Why do Miscarriages happen? Miscarriage is very rarely due to something the woman did or did not do during the pregnancy. Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally. Abnormalities are rarely understood, it's often difficult to determine what causes them.

How common are Miscarriages? About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies, and as many as 50 percent of all pregnancies, end in miscarriage. Many times, a miscarriage happens so early that a person doesn’t know they are pregnant. These miscarriages can seem like a regular period. Miscarriage is a relatively common experience — but that doesn't make it any easier.

What are the consequences of having a Miscarriage? Having a miscarriage can result in physical and emotional difficulties. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor and support groups to express your concerns and feelings (access links on the Additional Resources page).

Will having a Miscarriage result in difficulties to have future healthy pregnancies? Having a miscarriage doesn't mean you can't have a healthy baby. Talk to your doctor for more information about future pregnancies. If you suffer a miscarriage it is important to know that you are not alone. There are numerous services available linking women with similar experiences and helping answer any questions you may have.

[1] "Am I Pregnant?" National Abortion Federation (NAF) visited July 13, 2015)


A publication of the NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland Fund
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