When Do Pregnancy Symptoms Start? 15


pregnancy symptomsWhile for most something like a missed period seems a pretty obvious reason to take a pregnancy test, there are cases out there where pregnancy symptoms are a more significant deciding factor. Maybe you don’t have regular menses. Maybe you’re concerned you may just be experiencing early pregnancy bleeding and not an actual period, or you’re worried about the possibility of a false negative pregnancy test. Maybe you’re trying to conceive and just really impatient—because 2 weeks? Really? that’s forever!—no matter the reason, understanding when pregnancy symptoms start is certainly useful information. Sadly, pregnancy symptoms and their onset vary widely from woman to woman and even from pregnancy to pregnancy. What is always the same is the timeline of events leading to what pregnancy symptoms may appear. To answer the question: when do pregnancy symptoms start, we’ll start there, and then look at general statistics on pregnancy symptom timing just to compare.

The pregnancy symptom timeline:

First, a quick crash course in the pre-pregnancy phase of things…

Every month, there is a cycle of hormones that prepare your uterus for possible pregnancy, develop and release an egg for possible fertilization, and either maintain pregnancy or prompt the shedding of your uterine lining so the process can start all over.  The majority of women ovulate, or drop said egg, mid-cycle. So if your cycle is say, 28 days, with cycle day (CD) 1 being the first day of bleeding, ovulation would be around CD14. Pregnancy is only possible when an egg is present in the Fallopian tube, and an egg on average only survives about 48 hours after ovulation. So, the first question you should ask yourself when questioning when do pregnancy symptoms start is if pregnancy is even possible.

For example, intercourse during or just before your period leaves a very slim chance of pregnancy, because sperm can only survive on average about 5 days, and the egg isn’t usually around until mid-cycle and is long gone by late cycle. You can read more about calculating your chances of pregnancy here.

Now, assuming sperm and egg met within 48 hours of ovulation, what happens next…

Once the egg is fertilized it has to travel to your uterus and implant. You will not have pregnancy symptoms before implantation because, well, you aren’t pregnant. Implantation takes an absolute minimum of 6 days. The average is closer to 10 to 12 days. After implantation hormone levels have to start to accumulate. At minimum again, a pregnancy test is possible 48 hours after implantation, and that’s on an early pregnancy test that detects exceptionally low levels, levels unlikely to cause symptoms. You can read more about pregnancy test timing here.

Back to hypotheticals again, if you had that average woman’s 28-day cycle with CD14 ovulation, this means at minimum pregnancy symptoms aren’t even possible until CD22. (6 days for implantation, 2-day hormone build= ovulation +8 or in conception forum speak DPO 8 (days past ovulation) a more likely timeline says you’d be looking at DPO 12 or CD26, coincidentally right about when your period would be due, and that’s just for hormone levels to be present and detectable for an early result pregnancy test, seeing pregnancy symptoms would likely take even longer. So, if you’re sitting here reading this 5 days after unprotected sex thinking you have pregnancy symptoms, the timeline says, “nope.”

Too lazy to read all that? The quick version is it is actually anatomically impossible to have pregnancy symptoms any sooner than 8 days after ovulation (or unprotected sex if you don’t know when ovulation occurred).

If that’s true why did your aunt’s sister’s friend Sally tell you she experienced pregnancy symptoms sooner than that? Because one of the hormones behind a large number of pregnancy symptoms is present just before your period each month (PMS culprit)  Progesterone. Progesterone begins to build just after ovulation and acts to maintain the uterine lining for pregnancy. If you don’t become pregnant, progesterone drops, and you get a period. If you do become pregnant, progesterone production increases and is joined by HcG (the pregnancy test hormone). Progesterone all by its lonesome will cause gas, bloating, sore boobs, cramps, night sweats, and much more, so a high progesterone cycle can mimic pregnancy symptoms.

Alright, so assuming you are 8 days past ovulation, statistically speaking, when do pregnancy symptoms start?

Surprisingly, there are very few actual studies on this subject. The only one to be found was conducted in 2002 and published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. If you can’t find a version online and would like to read that bad chicken, I’ve uploaded it to Life with Gremlins, and you can view it here. This study included 221 women of which 136 had successful pregnancies, only symptoms that persisted at least 3 consecutive days were counted as verified to rule out fluke tummy aches and the like.

-9% of non-pregnant women reported “pregnancy symptoms.” This rate increased in women who got a late period and suggested many women mistake PMS for pregnancy (see my note on Progesterone).

-None of the women who were actually pregnant reported symptoms before CD27.

-59% of pregnancy symptoms began between CD29 and 41. The average was CD36 (when half the women had symptoms) or about 1 week after a missed period for most.

-71% had pregnancy symptoms by CD42 (6 weeks pregnant).

-89% had pregnancy symptoms by CD52 (8 weeks pregnant).

-When data was counted using ovulation date, rather than the last menstrual period and counting cycle days, the average date for pregnancy symptoms to start was 20 days past ovulation.

-Smoking and/or marijuana use delayed the onset of symptoms. Women who had previously been pregnant showed symptoms slightly earlier (but never earlier than CD27).

-Nausea was the most common symptom.

These statistics are in line with the timeline suggested above. Our guess was pregnancy symptoms would occur no earlier than CD26 (the study stated the earliest date was CD27). It should be kept in mind that it is possible to be pregnant without pregnancy symptoms, and it is possible to get a negative pregnancy test and still be pregnant. If you suspect pregnancy, a blood test is the only definitive answer.

Wrapping it all up, when do pregnancy symptoms start?

when do pregnancy symptoms start

No earlier than 8 days past ovulation. On average 20 days past ovulation or cycle day 36 (period about 1 week late) with the vast majority of women showing symptoms by cycle day 52 (period about one month late).

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15 thoughts on “When Do Pregnancy Symptoms Start?

  • manuel

    Thank you for the good work. Please my girlfriend said she feels like she’s pregnant. She’s been extremely tired for no reason. Her palm changed colour, she’s insisting to get a pregnancy test but she saw her period just two days ago. I am confused and i cant remember ejaculating in her. Please advise me on what you think the situation is and what should be done. Thank you

    • unwirklich admin

      I have never heard of palms changing color in pregnancy (though some women do experience skin darkening). The easiest answer would just to be for her to take a pregnancy test.

  • Renee

    I had a period early August had unprotected sex around August 30 I had bleeding occur September 10 which only lasted 3to4 day normally 5 it started light but got heavy 3 day. I then had a different patner around september 15. I started having symptoms first week of October. I then had ultrasound around 18 weeks my due date was june six which gave me september 14th my conception date. Im really confused because i gave birth on june 19th who is likely the father.

    • unwirklich admin

      I would not count symptoms in your attempt to single out conception date because PMS symptoms are very similar to pregnancy symptoms. 18 weeks though, sadly, is far enough along some variance in conception date estimate is possible. If your baby was considered fullterm (natural labor, no complications with baby or signs of being premie) back 10 months gives you August. Full term can be 2 weeks either direction of conception, making either father entirely possible for late Aug/early Sept. It sounds as if DNA testing may be your only option.

  • Sayyidah

    I’m 28yrs and presently on my period. I have a normal 28 day cycle. We had sex on the two days before expected ovulation day, on the ovulation day (04.08.2016) and two consecutive days after. Since Monday the 14.08.2016, I’ve spent all mornings in bed. I’ve been experiencing nausea, heartburn, and a headache that refuses to go away. My husband believes I’m pregnant despite my period. My period came yesterday, and for the first 13 hours, there was just brownish discharge. It’s the first time I’m experiencing this symptoms. I’m worried coz I’m normally very active in the mornings. I’ve not undergone any lifestyle changes in the last 3 months. Do you think I should take a pt?

  • Serenity

    My last cycle was April 21st. It stayed for only 3 days and my normal cycle is 5-7 days . I have a 28 day cycle. I found out I was pregnant a week after my last period was due. I’m basically worried because I had sex with a different partner on the 20th day after ovulation. I never gotten pregnant with my usual partner. I’m scared that this baby could possibly be the other partners baby due to never being pregnant by my usual partner. I’m trying to figure out if it’s actually my boyfriends baby or the other guy. When I calculated my cycle even THOU it was short last month it says my ovulation could have occurred between May 2 – 7 . I had sex with the other partner on the 10th. Could this baby possibly not be my boyfriends baby. I need help trying to figure out exactly who the father may be.

    • unwirklich admin

      A dating ultrasound would be a good way to narrow down your efforts. In early pregnancy they are pretty accurate. If you normally have a 28 day cycle, you should have ovulated around 14 days after the first day of bleeding which would be May 5, May 2-7 is an acceptable range, but here’s the problem, almost all women fluctuate a bit in ovulation and not every woman ovulates mid-cycle on the dot. The 10th is close enough to when you probably should have ovulated that it’s entirely possible it’s his baby. Without temping or ovulation tracking at all, a dating ultrasound is about all that’s going to give you a better idea, but even with that there’s some variance. I would recommend that you are honest in this situation, especially if your aim is not to hurt your BF more than you already have. He has a right to know the child may not be his, and that you have been with someone besides him. In my opinion, the longer the lie, the worse the hurt. The only way you’ll ever know for sure is to do DNA testing.

      • Diata Wallace

        I had unprotected sex on the 16th…a few days later I noticed I started feeling exhausted around noon-ish. Had more unprotected sex this morning(midnight)22nd…Slept throughout the night and woke up at 7:30am but now I feel I can crash…I keep finding myself mention how tired i am….I am never tired during the day. I have been making sure I get my daily folate as well..because we’re ttc. I was taking vitamins, Now I’ve been juicing my greens and eating spinach everyday in variety of ways.I belch a lot after every thing i eat..Also, i can’t sit my laptop on my lap without discomfort on my abdomen…feel a bit bloated and its uncomfortable to lay flat on my stomach….I been trying for long time and am over getting hyped up only to see AF….What gives…I have not been as “trying” as i nornally would be because i keep feeling let down when my AF begins…

        • Diata Wallace

          to add to my previous post….I’m only on cd 18 by the way..So, I’m not getting hyped up this time but seriously, what gives?

        • unwirklich admin

          You won’t have pregnancy symptoms so soon after intercourse. Things like weight gain and pain when lying on your stomach, those don’t pop up until you are several months along. The change in diet could, however, be to blame here. You’re body probably just needs some time to adjust.

  • kanieisha

    Ive had a period like bleeding it came almost a week before my usual period & ive also been experiencing swollen ankles sore breasts nausea & smells are getting to me also the bleeding was bright red/orangey in colour & had a butterey smell to it what could this mean ???I

    • unwirklich admin

      If you’re getting orange discharge with an odor infection is actually most likely, you may want to see a care provider. Pregnancy symptoms won’t start a week before your period.

  • Sarah

    Hi, I had unprotected sex on Tuesday night 26.4.2016 which was the day before my period finished, on Thursday and Friday I had lite coffee brown slippery cm and today 30.4.2016 I washed my hair with organic everescents cinnamon and patchouli and I really did not like the smell, this is the second time I have used it and the first time I really liked the smell, thoughts? My predicted ovulation day is the 6.5.2016
    Thanks

    • unwirklich admin

      Pregnancy during your period is unlikely, especially with a projected ovulation weeks away, but either way, pregnancy symptoms aren’t instant. 4 days after intercourse it is impossible to have them. I’m not sure why your shampoo would smell bad to you all the sudden though.