Subtle Signs of Pregnancy

By Lee Tea

Wondering whether or not you are pregnant can be nerve wracking. Waiting for a missed period can be excruciating---especially if your periods aren't regular to begin with. If you pay close attention to your body, you may notice some signs and symptoms that will tell you if you are, indeed, expecting.


Pregnancy often presents itself with a host of overwhelming feelings. Feeling more tired than usual, being irritable or moody, feeling suddenly sad without just cause and light nausea can present in very early pregnancy, even before a missed period.

Food cravings can also be a sign of pregnancy in even the earliest of gestation. This symptom alone, however, is unreliable.

Because these symptoms can feel a lot like what a woman might typically experience during regular PMS or stressful situations, they are often overlooked. By paying close attention to your feelings and moods, you might be able to get some insight into what is going on in your womb.

Subtle breast changes

One of the most common symptoms of early pregnancy are changes in the breasts. As hormones change to accommodate the embryo, the areolas, which are the dark circles of skin that surround the nipples, get darker in color. The nipples may become hypersensitive and ache slightly, followed by the rest of the breast. Both breasts may ache, especially when touched or moved. The breast tissue may also swell slightly and feel tender. A feeling of fullness in the breasts could be due to a developing pregnancy. Breast tissue is also sensitive during the week or so leading up to your period.

Cramping and Spotting

As a developing embryo attaches itself to the wall of a woman's uterus, it implants itself into the blood-rich lining so it can achieve a blood supply and grow into a fetus. This action is called implantation, and signals the actual beginning of a pregnancy. Sometimes, during implantation, a woman may experience light spotting and uterine cramping. This bleeding is usually very light and doesn't last long.

If you notice that your period is much lighter than usual, it could be that it isn't a period at all, but rather implantation spotting. If you experience this, take a pregnancy test to see if you're pregnant.

Frequent Urination and Headaches

Even in the earliest stages of pregnancy, a woman's uterus swells slightly and presses on her bladder, which can mean she might be heading to the bathroom more frequently than usual. If you notice that your bathroom habits have changed significantly, you could be pregnant.

Many women also complain of frequent headaches, especially in early pregnancy. The drastic change in hormones can signal headaches that seem to be recurrent but lessen as the pregnancy progresses and a woman's body grows accustomed to the new hormone levels.

A Missed Period

The most reliable symptom of pregnancy is a missed menstrual period. Because most pregnancy tests are unreliable until the day of a woman's missed period, it's best to wait until you know that you're period is missing or late before you spend the money on a test.

Testing before a missed period can result in a false negative test result. The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG, is the hormone detected by urine pregnancy tests. The concentration of this hormone increases with the age of the pregnancy, so testing too early can mean that your body may not be secreting enough hCG to give your test a positive result. Chart your menstrual period on a calendar to assure that you know when it is truly expected and missed.

About the Author

Leeann Teagno has been writing professionally since 2006. An English major, she continues to study information systems management at American Public University. Teagno is an organic gardener, cook and technology buff with past employment in mobile communications. She also volunteers at an animal shelter and operates a home bakery.