Tingling nipples? Discharge? 12 early signs you might be pregnant

an unrecognizable woman sitting on her bed alone and waiting for a pregnancy test result at home
Early signs you could be pregnantLumiNola

When you think of the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, the classic ones that first come to mind are often morning sickness and a late period, right? But aside from feeling unusually nauseous and being late, there's actually a whole string of other clues that you could be missing - especially in the early stages of being pregnant.

As such, very, very early signs of pregnancy can manifest themselves in multiple ways, be it through different sensations in your vagina or even discharge. That said, while you might have a hunch, the only real way to tell is of course to do a pregnancy test (which you can do from the first day of a missed period, or at least 21 days after you last had unprotected sex).

But in the meantime - whether you're planning on getting pregnant or are just curious about the nicher signs - here are 12 early pregnancy symptoms to be aware of according to the experts, from darker nipples to a fuller bladder.

1. Tingling nipples

"As pregnancy hormones (including progesterone and prolactin) increase the blood supply to your breasts, you may notice a prickling or tingling sensation around your nipples or boobs," says Dr Hana Abu-Hassan from the Chelsea Pharmacy Medical Clinic. This can be one of the first signs that you're pregnant.

2. Sore boobs

Sensitive breasts are also a common sign of pregnancy, and are usually noticeable after or around the four-week mark. Since the tissue in your breasts is incredibly hormone-sensitive, they swell and feel a lot heavier as progesterone and hCG (a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy) start flooding the body and increasing blood volume after fertilisation. This is also what leads to bigger boobs and gets them ready for breastfeeding, adds Dr Abu-Hassan.

3. Your vagina has changed colour

This is one you probably weren't aware of, we can imagine. But from as early as four weeks into pregnancy your vulva and labia can literally change colour, so you may notice this before any other symptoms. For example, as the amount of blood being supplied to the area increases, it can turn vaginal skin from pink to dark purplish or red.

4. Increased vaginal discharge

Noticing extra vaginal discharge is extremely common in early pregnancy. Pregnancy can also make you more prone to bouts of thrush, so if you notice unusual changes in discharge appearance or smell, make a trip to your GP.

pregnant woman reading a book while lying down
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5. Unusual stomach cramps

You may dismiss them as period pains, but stomach twinges or cramps, or even a tingling vagina, can be triggered by implantation – when the fertilised egg attaches to the uterine wall. If you experience any of the above, be it cramps or tummy pains that aren't followed by a period, it's probably time to pee on that stick.

6. Unexpected spotting

As above, the implantation process can also cause a little bleeding or spotting. If you had a bleed that was much lighter than usual, or at a different time than expected, you may be experiencing implantation bleeding.

7. Bloating

Dr Abu-Hassan explains that "the progesterone produced during pregnancy can cause muscle relaxation and slower bowel movements," which collectively "can cause bloating."

Granted, this is also a common PMS symptom that typically lasts a few days, but it's worth being on guard in case the bloating outstays its welcome and that period never arrives.

8. Extreme fatigue

If you've gone from feeling super-energetic to being unable to stop thinking about curling up on the sofa for multiple daily naps, note that extreme tiredness can be an early sign of pregnancy.

"It's common to feel tired, or even exhausted, during pregnancy, especially in the first 12 weeks," states the NHS website. "Hormonal changes at this time can make you feel tired, nauseous and emotional."

9. Your period's late

We probably don't need to tell you, but this is a pretty surefire sign you might be pregnant – especially when teamed with all the signs above. But a missed period can also be caused by many other factors, from stress to dietary changes, so maybe you want to reach for that pregnancy test to double-check.

Whether you're trying to get pregnant or not, it can help to keep track of your period by using an app (Flo and Clue are good options) or go old school and mark the days you're menstruating in your diary. Understanding your cycle can help you know when you're ovulating and when you should expect your period.

an unrecognizable woman checking her phone

10. Your nipples look darker

Just like the vagina, your nipples changing colour can be one of the early indicators that you may be pregnant. Pregnancy hormones can affect the activity of melanocytes – the cells in the nipples responsible for their colour – resulting in a darkening of the areolas.

11. Nausea

Although morning sickness tends to kick in a little later in pregnancy, some women do experience more subtle motion sickness very early on – perhaps you're feeling nauseous when reading on transport or getting travel sick on planes when you haven't before. According to Dr Abu-Hassan this is believed to be caused by the pregnancy hormone hCG (which is also responsible for the sore boobs in point two above).

12. Needing to wee more often

Are constant pee breaks keeping you up all night? If so, it might not be the fact you downed two pints of water before bed, but more that you're in the early stages of pregnancy. This is because the hormonal changes cause blood to flow more quickly through your kidneys, therefore filling your bladder more often.

And another thing that progesterone and hCG are the cause of during the first trimester – Dr Abu-Hassan explains that "the uterus growing in size is responsible for frequent urination later on during the pregnancy."

So, if you're experiencing one or more of these symptoms, your best option is to do that pregnancy test ASAP.

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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