Let’s kick this off with a question: how many at-home pregnancy tests have you taken in your life? (p.s. let us know your estimate in the comments below!)
We ask because back in 2018, Channelmums.com did a quick study and found that, on average, when a woman discovers she’s pregnant she will buy 6 different pregnancy tests just to ensure she’s truly expecting. And when you look at the numbers, it all makes sense. There are over 20 million pregnancy tests purchased in the US alone every year — but only 4 million confirmed pregnancies. At $10 a pop (roughly) that all starts to add up quickly! In fact, 1.68 billion dollars worth of pregnancy tests are sold each year, globally.
And we get it! When you first see those two little lines indicating a positive pregnancy, you just want to make sure it’s really true and not just a fluke. But false positives are pretty uncommon, even when taking an at-home test. Chances are, if you take a pregnancy test and it’s positive, then you’ve got a bun in the oven.
However, that brings us to false negatives… which are a little less reliable. But that doesn’t mean you need to take test after test after test to confirm. In fact, experts recommend that if you’ve missed a period but have a negative pregnancy test, then you should wait 1 week and take another test.
Why you might get a false negative pregnancy test
At-home pregnancy tests are looking for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (or hCG for short) present in your urine. This hormone is produced shortly after an embryo has attached itself to your uterine wall, as hCG levels start building up in the body after that point. However, this doesn’t happen right from the moment of conception. It can take anywhere from 6 to12 days on average for the embryo to attach and for hCG to be detectable through home tests. Which is why after your first negative test it’s recommended that you take a second test a week later. But we also know that it’s hard to wait!
So, in lieu of you going out and buying a basketful of pregnancy tests, we wanted to go over the most common early signs and symptoms of pregnancy that might pop up before a positive pregnancy test, so you know exactly what to look out for.
6 Early Signs of Pregnancy
- Spotting or light bleeding and cramping is actually one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. This can feel counterintuitive as this is likely how your period starts, too. This light bleeding and cramping is actually caused by the embryo implanting into your uterine wall. As we mentioned, this happens 6-12 days after your egg has been fertilized, so you may notice the spotting and cramping slightly earlier than your typical period symptoms.
- Tiredness and fatigue is a common symptom throughout pregnancy, but it can be experienced as early as the first week after conception. As soon as that egg is fertilized your body sets off to work and your nutrition and energy demands increase, which can leave you feeling more depleted than usual.
- Breast changes are fairly common as an early pregnancy symptom, but breast tenderness can also happen right before your period starts. In both cases it’s due to increasing reproductive hormones that cause an increase in blood flow — causing slight enlargement and tenderness in soft tissues. If you are pregnant, your breasts might also feel fuller, heavier, and more sensitive overall. This usually happens 1-2 weeks after conception.
- Morning sickness is not always experienced, but 25% of women indicated that nausea was their first symptom of pregnancy. Although the cause of morning sickness and nausea is not fully understood, it’s thought to be closely linked to rising levels of hCG, which actually peak around week 9. So, you may not notice this in the very early days, but some women do experience nausea as early as 2 weeks after conception.
- Headaches and mood swings can also pop up pretty early on, all thanks to the drastic change in hormones that your body is undergoing. We all have moodier days and stress-induced headaches, but if you notice you’re much more irritable or uncomfortable than usual, it could be a sign of a growing baby.
- A missed period is of course the most obvious early sign of pregnancy, and nearly 1 in 3 women reported a missed period as their first symptom. Exactly when a missed period occurs will vary from person to person as it depends on your typical menstrual cycles — but it can be anywhere from 1-3 weeks after conception.
Are there any other early signs of pregnancy?
Of course! Every woman and every body is different. Here are a few other early symptoms you may experience
- Frequent urination, especially at night, can also be an early indicator of pregnancy. This doesn’t typically show up until about 6 weeks after conception as it’s largely due to your expanding uterus starting to place pressure on your bladder, but it can also be caused by increased blood flow.
- Back pain is a staple of pregnancy symptoms, and tends to be most common in the third trimester, but some women start experiencing back pain from the very start of pregnancy.
- Food cravings or aversions in pregnancy aren’t totally understood, but for the most part we can point to hormones modifying both our sense of smell and taste, and so you may also notice a change in your food preferences even in the early weeks.
An important thing to remember…
One thing we want to make clear is that you may experience all of these symptoms and not be pregnant. Or you may experience none of these symptoms and be pregnant. Our bodies — and the reproductive process it goes through — are incredibly complex and every woman is different.
If you’ve missed your period but have a negative result on your pregnancy test, it’s advised that you wait one week and take another test. If your second test comes back negative but you still haven’t gotten your period, then it’s advised for you to go to your doctor for a blood test which can be more definitive. At the end of the day, staying in tune with your body and what it’s telling you is always good practice, and will benefit you whenever that positive pregnancy result does come through.
Want to optimize your health before you get pregnant? Baby2Body’s Trying to Conceive program (now on the app!) will help you track your cycles, predict your fertile windows, and give you personalized fitness and wellness programs to get your body ready for baby.