If you’re trying to get pregnant, it can seem like eternity until you get a positive pregnancy test. To make it even more of a challenge, many of the early signs of pregnancy can be mistaken for your menstrual period, a stomach bug or even stress.
Here’s how to tell whether your symptoms are early signs of pregnancy or something else.
1. Increased vaginal discharge
If you notice an increase in vaginal discharge, you might think you have a vaginal yeast infection or, if your cycles are irregular, you might think you’re ovulating.
But leucorrhea, a clear, odorless vaginal discharge that doesn’t cause itching, is an early sign of pregnancy. Leucorrhea is a result of the increased blood supply to the vaginal and genital regions which increases vaginal fluid, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a board-certified OB-GYN in Mt. Kisco, New York, and author of “The Complete A to Z for Your V,” told Fox News.
2. Spotting and cramping
It’s easy to mistake spotting and cramping for the start of your period, but it can also mean you’re pregnant. “Often times when the embryo implants in the uterus, [women] can have some spotting or light bleeding that oftentimes [they] will mistake as a period,” Dr. Kelly Kasper, a board-certified OB/GYN at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, told Fox News.
Although this implantation bleed is nothing to worry about, it’s always a good idea to put a call into your doctor if you have any of these symptoms to rule out miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the embryo implants itself in the fallopian tube or in the abdomen. This condition affects between 1 and 2 percent of pregnancies, according to a 2014 article in the journal American Family Physician.
It’s easy to blame feeling run down on clocking long hours in the office, a hard workout, lack of sleep or stress. Yet for some women fatigue, especially if it’s overwhelming, is the first sign that they’re pregnant.
4. Strong — or brittle — nails
Many women notice that their nails are stronger than ever, and although this is due in part to pregnancy hormones, taking prenatal vitamins before conceiving has a lot to do with it too.
5. Increased sense of smell
If you live for your cup of joe in the morning but all of a sudden the aroma makes you sick, you might want to take a pregnancy test. “Sense of smell can become extraordinarily keen, and in fact, certain smells that people might have enjoyed in the past, they may find to be totally nauseating,” Dweck said.
6. Bloating and constipation
It’s easy to blame bloating, gas or any change in bowel habits on a change in diet, a vacation or PMS. In the early weeks of pregnancy when progesterone starts to rise, however, everything can slow down. If you’re craving carb-heavy fare and can’t stomach vegetables, it can also affect your GI tract.
7. Frequent urination
An increase in both blood volume and the filtration rate of the kidneys will make it so that you need to urinate more frequently.
8. Mood swings
Chalk it up to not sleeping well, PMS or stress, but irritability can mean you’re in the early weeks of pregnancy.
9. Breast soreness
If your breasts feel tender or your nipples are sore, it’s easy to think it’s your period but often the difference is the severity. “Even your shirt touching your nipples could be noticeable,” Dweck said.
Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.