When Do Pregnancy Symptoms Start? 57

While 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.pregnancy symptoms

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 24 to 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 8 to 10 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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57 thoughts on “When Do Pregnancy Symptoms Start?

  • Sangita dhara

    Hello.i had a missed misscarriage in January 2018 and dc was done.then it was found my prolactin level was high and Dr advised me to take cabgolin .5 weekly.it was suggested to take this medicine up to mid June.now this month I’v unprotected sex on 11th 12th 14th and 16th day of my cycle(i’v a 28 days cycle).and felt cramping backache from day 18th….is that meant I m pregnant….in this condition can I take cabgolin weekly.pls help

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Cabgolin has insufficient evidence to determine it’s safety during pregnancy, so in general it isn’t prescribed during pregnancy without supervision, since you’ve been using it now almost 6 months, I’d recommend returning to your care provider to evaluate your situation as far as pregnancy and continued need for the prescription.

  • Anonymous

    I m TTC from 3 months nd I have intercourse without any gap whole month nd on cd21 feeling bloating,heavyness abdomen,cramping on left side of abdomen and leg nd back wattery mouth from yesterday and upset stomach,sore throat,

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Unless you became pregnancy in your prior cycle, this would be too early for pregnancy symptoms. You can, however, have period-like bleeding in pregnancy, so if all these symptoms are new and you don’t suspect another cause such as a virus, it may be worth it to take a pregnancy test.

  • Peninah Wanjiku

    I have a 28 day cycle. I had unprotected sex on 21st of may ,am expecting my periods on 29th may. Is there any chance that I am pregnant?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      The week before your period poses the lowest chance of pregnancy all cycle (arguably no chance, as you would have to ovulate very late).

  • Dhrishti

    I have a normal 28 day cycle. My last period was on april 24. On 10th and 12th day of my periods I had unprotected sex. On the 17th day there was a brown color discharge from the morning till evening and slight bleeding during night. The blood was light red in color and the bleeding stopped next morning. From 17th day I had frequent urination tendency. Had Lower abdominal pain on 21st day of this cycle. Consulted a Dr and she told that it may be symptoms of urine infection. I feel tiredness during day time. All of a sudden I feel dizziness foe a second or two and will be ok after that. There is mild pain in lower abdomen at some point of time. Is there a chance that I’m pregnant? When can I take a pregnancy test?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      If the sex was on cycle day 10 and 12 (counting from the first day of bleeding), pregnancy is possible, yes, even with the spotting. A test would be accurate 14+ days after the intercourse or about 4 days late for your period, either way is fine.

  • Shan

    Hi. It’s my 30th CD now and i have been testing 3 times and it’s Negative. I’m kinda paranoid. But is it really just safe having an intercourse during periods?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      Sex during a period is generally safe in regards to avoiding pregnancy, yes, but any time there’s intercourse there’s a chance of pregnancy, even if very small.

  • Srj

    I had an unprotected sex with my girlfriend on february 13th and she took a pill after 10 min, on 25th she got periouds.
    Bt she didn’t get the next periouds stil today(31-3-2018).
    Is she pregenent?
    Am scared…
    Plz reply…

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      By pill, do you mean a regular birth control pill or an emergency contraceptive such as plan B (2 pills only, rather than a full month-daily regime)? If it’s the later, emergency contraception very frequently causes irregular bleeding, delayed or early periods. If you meant regular birth control, that’s less likely to be the culprit and she may want to take a pregnancy test.

  • Shasbby

    I have read nearly all comments here. You are indeed doing a great job. I have been ttc for some months now. In January, I was tested positive on the 9th then got my period on the 10th. It was a normal red blood with cramps. Took injection to relief the pain but I didn’t bother to test again.Though I was still have pregnancy symptoms. My cycle was 28 days but it got changed to 31days. Had sex on the 24 and 27th of January and was tested positive again in February when my visit to the restroom was so frequent. I spotted a blood when wiping on the 4th of February but it only for that day. It was pinkish and I didn’t worry about it since I’ve read a lot about implantation bleeding. My period suppose to come today, but it started with a drop yesterday. Though not heavy like other period but fresh red and it came with cramps. No clots unlike the one I had in January which has many cloted blood in it. I will be going for scan today but I want to hear from you. What do you think is going on in my body? Am I still pregnant? Cos I’m even afraid to do the scan or test.

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      It’s hard to say, from January? Probably not. Multiple occurrences of bleeding in pregnancy are a lot less common, but it is possible you had a chemical in January, then became pregnant again in Feb. It’s also possible that you’re see false positives if it is the same brand test. Blue dye tests in particular are frequently misread (they seem to have evaporation lines more often). Depending on how far along you are if you are pregnant, a scan may also not show much if anything, you might ask for blood testing if a urine test is positive and the scan shows nothing.

  • Racial

    I have irregular period, my last period was January 20th, I took ovulation tests and I was ovulating, on those days I had unprotected sex. I took blood work to check if I’m pregnant and it came back negative. Can it be that I took the test too early ?

  • Krishmama

    Hi i have a 30 day cycle. Lmp was 30th october. Had sex on 12th. The tested for ovulation on 14th and got a faint line, so had sex. Again tested on 15th and got a dark line indicating ovulation, had sex the same day too. Now 8 dpo (if ovulation on 15th) i feel so tired for past two days and now back and leg cramps. Do i have any chances looking forward!!

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      You won’t have pregnancy symptoms before a missed period, but it does sound like your timing was great and you have a good chance of pregnancy this cycle. Good luck 🙂

      • KrishMama

        Its 16 dpo. I took a test today and got a BFN. Did two tests in past 2 days which resulted in BFN. No signs of AF. Should i test again or it is a BFN this month? I have a flight journey in a weeks time. It would be better if i know whats happening fyi, i used pregnosis in stream test. I have a mild mrng sickness kind of thing ( not sure though). Is there any chance left to keep my hopes up?
        Please guide

        • Life with Gremlins admin

          If ovulation wasn’t confirmed it’s possible you ovulated a bit late, but yes, with a negative test at DPO 16 pregnancy is a lot less likely I’m afraid.

  • Dulce

    I had a miscarriage July 28 at 8 weeks I had my period September 2 I took an ovulation test and my high peak was September 16 my cycle is usually 35-37 days it’s day 36 I’ve had several pregnancy symptoms. Should I test or wait another week and see if I get my period?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      That’s really up to you, it sounds like you should be in accurate range for a test, but waiting that extra week would decrease the chance of a false negative too.

  • Cassi

    I had an unprotected sex on May 30, which also happened to be I think the start of my ovulation because I have a 28-day cycle. All my life my mens would come a day early or on my 28th day and barely late.
    So, my last period before the sex was on May 17.
    I missed my period for June. I was late for 9 days. And then I had a period-like bleeding.
    Can it be that I had an early miscarriage?
    Or is there any chance that I might “still” be pregnant?

    • Life with Gremlins admin

      1 in 4 women experience bleeding in pregnancy, not all of them miscarry, but then late periods do happen for even the most regular of ladies. In your case, I’d just go ahead and take a test to be sure.