Says Janice, 35, who had been trying to conceive for several months, “The next morning, I woke up and felt cramps in my lower abdomen and I just knew at that moment I was pregnant. True enough, when I took a pregnancy test four weeks later, it was positive!”
The earliest you can take an over-the-counter pregnancy test is four days before your period is due. This is when the test can detect the presence of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in your urine. As your pregnancy progresses, the hCG levels will keep increasing daily. So, subsequent pregnancy tests will be more accurate than the initial one.
If you’re keen to know if you’re pregnant any earlier ― you’ll have to take a blood test at the doctors. Still, not everyone can bear the gruelling two-week wait ― the period between ovulation (or implantation if you’re doing fertility treatments) and the day you can take a pregnancy blood test at the doctors.
If you’re sensing that you could have a bun in the oven even before you can take a test, here are some subtle signs to look out for…
1. Changes in your breasts
Similar to that of pre-menstrual symptoms, your breasts may start to feel tender to the touch, appear bigger and feel like they weigh a ton. Breast changes usually happen early on in pregnancy because your breasts start to prep themselves for breastfeeding. Other physical changes you might notice are the veins around the boobs are more visible from the increase in blood flow. The areola ― the dark part around your nipple ― also darkens in colour. Some have even reported noticing bumps on the areola.
2. Metallic taste in the mouth
While it’s hard to put into words exactly what the experience feels like, the closest will be to compare it to tasting coins or drinking water from a metal cup. Medically known as dysgeusia, this weird taste in your mouth is caused by the increasing oestrogen levels in your body. Not everyone experiences it though and the taste usually subsides after the first trimester. If it’s driving you nuts, try banishing the taste with citrus juices like lemonade and by brushing your tongue more often.
Breast changes usually happen early on in pregnancy because your breasts start to prep themselves for breastfeeding.
3. Lower pelvic cramps
Another symptom that’s easily confused with Aunt Flo’s imminent arrival, but could be caused by all those hormonal shifts and implantation of the fertilised egg in your uterine lining. The cramps won’t be as intense as menstrual ones either. “It felt more prickly and also sometimes just felt like really, really bad gas,” recalls mum-of-one Cynthia Tan, 32.
4. Bloating and gas
Speaking of gas, you will experience more of it, plus some bloating. You can thank the increasing progesterone and oestrogen levels for that. Plus, your digestive system will also start slowing down, which explains the constipation and indigestion. Expect more of this as your pregnancy progresses, by the way. Heartburn and nine more months of flatulence are just around the corner!
5. Gagging while brushing teeth
There’s actually no medical explanation behind this, but if you have a sudden aversion to your favourite toothpaste or want to throw up every time you try to brush your teeth, it could well be you’re with child. That’s not to say you should stop taking care of your pearly whites though. Instead, follow Janice’s advice, “I changed my toothpaste to something less strong-flavoured, one of those organic ones and that helped a lot. I also brushed faster, because the longer I took the more I wanted to throw up.” The good news is that this symptom disappears by the first trimester. The bad news is that it won’t be the last time you’ll gag during your pregnancy.
If you notice some reddish or brownish discharge before your period is due, it could be a sign that implantation is taking place. This usually happens within the first six to 12 days after conception when the fertilised egg implants itself in the lining of the uterus. This light bleeding can continue throughout your first trimester and is no cause for alarm.
7. Nausea and aversion to certain foods and smells
While morning sickness (or as we like to call it, all-day sickness) kicks into full gear somewhere around week six or seven of your pregnancy, mild nausea can rear its ugly head much earlier. “A few days before my period was due, the nausea came out of nowhere and I couldn’t shake it off,” Janice recalls. “Plus, I suddenly couldn’t stand the smell of the lemon-scented body wash I had been using for years. I had to throw it away immediately.”
Feeling exhausted or “off” throughout the day or having bouts of sleepiness for no reason could signal that a baby is on the way.
8. More emotional
Did you just tear up at a car commercial? No, you’re not going crazy, it’s all the hormones wreaking havoc on your body and emotional stability. Your body is producing more and more progesterone and oestrogen, the same hormones that give rise to pre-menstrual symptoms. Except now the levels are much higher, so yes, you can expect to act a little weepier from now onwards.
9. Increased sex drive
“I remember all I wanted to do for a week or so before I found out I was pregnant was to leap on my husband all the time,” says Janice sheepishly. “But this quickly ended when the morning sickness started.” Again, you can thank the hormones, plus the increase in blood production for making all your lady parts a little more sensitive.
10. More tired
Had a good night’s rest, yet can’t seem to get out of bed? Falling asleep at your desk in the middle of the day? If you feel exhausted or “off” throughout the day or have bouts of sleepiness for no apparent reason could signal that a baby is on the way. “Once, I was so sleepy that I added salt into my coffee,” says mum-of-two Serene Tan. “And I realised it only after the first gulp! It was so out of character for me that I knew something was up.”
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