Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms

You’re probably reading this because you had sex without protection, missed a period or forgot to take your birth control, and you think you may be pregnant. This can be a super stressful and scary time in your life, but know that you are not alone. In fact, there was a 2011 study that noted that approximately 45% of all pregnancies in the US were unplanned. You may or may not have taken a pregnancy test yet so the first step is to recognize some of the signs of early pregnancy.

So what are the signs I may be pregnant?

Pregnancy symptoms can differ from woman to woman, but the most common signs of early pregnancy include:

  • A missed period: this is the most common indicator unless you typically experience irregular menstrual cycles. It's important to note that Plan B can also affect your menstrual cycle
  • Swollen tender breasts
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Increased urination
  • Fatigue

Some other signs women experience in the first trimester can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Backache
  • Headache
  • Food cravings
  • Bloating

I'm experiencing some of these symptoms, now what?

If you’ve had unprotected sex within the last few weeks, missed your period and don’t typically have irregular periods, or have recently taken Plan B, here’s what to do:

  • It’s best to wait at least 10-14 days after you had unprotected sex
  • Urine pregnancy tests work by measuring levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
  • There are some things that can also cause a positive test result of a urine pregnancy such as medications or certain health conditions. Some of these include:
    • Medications – Sleeping tablets, opioids, tranquilizers, infertility medications, diuretics, some antipsychotics, and some allergy medications such as Promethazine
    • Health Conditions – having a deficiency in an important antibody used in immune function, rare pregnancy related tumors, rare uterine tumors, cancers of the intestinal tract or carcinomas of the bladder and urinary tract
  • If your test is positive, the next step is to medically confirm the pregnancy as an at home test alone cannot confirm a viable pregnancy. A positive urine pregnancy test does indicate that you have higher levels of the pregnancy hormone HCG but it cannot tell you if the pregnancy is developing in the correct place or that the pregnancy is viable (if the pregnancy is progressing). About 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, but the actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur very early in pregnancy before you might even know you are pregnant.
  • Before deciding, you need to medically confirm your pregnancy, determining how far along you are and if the pregnancy is progressing or not.
  • You can also contact an OB/GYN to make your first appointment; however, it’s important to note that most doctors will not schedule your appointment until towards the end of your first trimester (10-12 weeks).
  • You can only truly know all your options once your pregnancy is confirmed. If you have had your pregnancy confirmed, it’s crucial to research and be fully aware of all of your options and to know the risks and effects that every option presents.
  • You have 3 choices: to parent the child, to place the child in an adoptive family or to abort the pregnancy. None of these decisions are easy and they all have pros and cons. It’s important for your mental health to be fully informed before making any decision regarding your pregnancy. Know that there’s help available to you, such as financial help, emotional support, materials goods, housing, classes and more, to help you to make a decision on this journey. 

Reviewed by Lynn B., BSN, RN


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