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Am I pregnant?

The very early signs of pregnancy are not always clear. Here we answer questions about the early symptoms and the use of pregnancy tests.

If you are keen (or not so keen) to conceive, you might be watching very carefully and wondering: ‘am I pregnant’. Here are some answers to common questions about early pregnancy.

How soon can I take a pregnancy test?

Usually, the most reliable time to take a pregnancy test is any time from the first day of your missed period. If you are expecting your period to start on a particular day, you can use a pregnancy test on that day. You can get a test free of charge from your GP, or from a sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic. You can also buy a test from a pharmacy or supermarket. 

The test is quick and easy, and many women prefer to do it at home. You can choose a ‘pee on a stick’ test where you hold the ‘stick’ in your urine stream as you pee into the toilet. You can also buy pregnancy testing strips, which involves collecting a sample of your urine in a small pot or jar, into which you then place the pregnancy test strip. Follow the instructions for the test to find out whether you are pregnant or not.

How do pregnancy tests work?

Pregnancy tests detect the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) in your urine. Virtually all pregnancy tests will give the correct result if you use them properly and at the right time in your cycle (see below about taking a test too early).

Can I take a pregnancy test before my period is due?

Yes though read the information that comes with the test to see what the manufacturers advise. Some tests can detect a pregnancy a week before your missed period, though ‘false negatives’ (saying you are not pregnant when you are) are more likely at this stage.

You will increase your chances of a reliable result if you wait. This is because the hormone in your urine that means you are pregnant is not at a high level very early on when you are pregnant, and the test might not pick it up.

Sometimes you may see a faint line and this could mean you are pregnant but it's not reliable.  Testing as the kit suggests is the best way to be sure after you have detected the early signs of being pregnant. 

If I am in early pregnancy, when am I likely to have conceived?

Usually, a woman’s most fertile time is around 14 days before she would expect her next period to begin. If you have a period every 28 days, a so-called 28-day cycle, then this would be about day 14 of your cycle. If your cycle is 35 days, then your most fertile time would be on day 21. You’re most likely to conceive around this time.

Is it possible to have periods when you’re pregnant? I had a period, but I still have other symptoms of pregnancy.

It’s highly unusual to have a bleed that’s as heavy and that lasts as long as a normal period when you are pregnant. If you have the sort of period that’s normal for you, you can be pretty sure you are not pregnant. However, more commonly, some women experience a lighter bleed, or ‘spotting’ when they are 6 to 12 weeks pregnant (small streaks or spots of blood on your underwear). If you are not sure, then take a test or talk to your GP.

I am trying to get pregnant, is there anything I could do or should be doing while trying?

It is recommended that women take folic acid supplements until at least week 12 of pregnancy. There is good evidence to suggest taking folic acid supplements whilst pregnant – and, where possible, before you conceive – should reduce the risk of your baby being born with neural defects, such as spina bifida.

Read more about healthy eating in pregnancy, guidelines about drinking in pregnancy and giving up smoking

I am feeling really tired – could this be an early symptom of pregnancy?

Many women do feel tired early on if they are pregnant, but then again, we can all feel tired some times. If you feel noticeably more exhausted than usual and you can’t think of any other reason, then it could be a sign you are pregnant. 

What about feeling sick in the early stages of pregnancy?

Feelings of nausea and even actual vomiting are common in the early stages of being pregnant, and they can continue for several weeks or, in some cases, longer than this. Some women do have their very first feelings of sickness in the first days after conception.

I’ve got a strange taste in my mouth a lot of the time, and I seem to react more to smells and tastes.

Again, these changes sometimes happen very early on. The taste in the mouth is often metallic. Some women notice smells and tastes more strongly, too, and they may develop an aversion to foods they used to like, or equally start enjoying foods they used to dislike. This may be the effect of pregnancy hormones changing the sense of taste and smell, but it’s not very well understood.

I feel as if I have something in my tummy, as if I have wind.

Feeling bloated or having wind is not usually associated with the early stages of being pregnant. The fertilised egg is tiny and, in the very early days, there are no changes to your uterus or internal organs that you would actually feel at this stage.

What about tender breasts? I feel as if my breasts are more sensitive.

Breast changes may start happening very soon if you are pregnant. Some women notice that the colour of their nipples darkens, and the veins on their breasts are more noticeable. Breasts can feel more sensitive to touch and there may be a ‘tingling’ feeling.

I have to go to the toilet more often – is that a sign?

It can be. You might have to get up in the night to pee, as well as needing to go more frequently in the day. This can be the effect of the pregnancy hormone, HCG, as well as an increase in pressure on your bladder as your uterus starts to change its position in your pelvis.

Page last reviewed: 20 June 2014

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

The HER Foundation provides information about hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).