How Early Can You Feel Pregnancy Symptoms?

Most symptoms don't show up until after you miss a period

Positive pregnancy test

Verywell / Michela Buttignol

While some pregnancy symptoms start very early, most of the time, you won't notice anything right away. Anything that happens immediately after having sex, like spotting, increased discharge, or feeling tired or nauseated, is usually unrelated to pregnancy.

Other than a missed period, pregnancy symptoms tend to really kick in around week five or six of pregnancy. One 2018 study of 458 pregnant people found that 72% detected their pregnancy by the sixth week after their last menstrual period.

Symptoms, such as breast tenderness and morning sickness, tend to develop abruptly. Typically this happens about two weeks from when you missed your last period (six weeks since you actually had a period). Occasionally you will hear of someone who has symptoms right around their first missed period, but this timing is less common.

When Do Early Pregnancy Symptoms Start?

Regardless of your feelings about a possible pregnancy, it can be easy to ascribe any sensations you're having to potential pregnancy symptoms. However, keep in mind that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and those of early pregnancy can be very similar—and pregnancy symptoms most often don't occur until after you've missed a period not before.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Some of the earliest signs of pregnancy include:

  • Slight bleeding or spotting
  • Fatigue
  • Tender, swollen breasts or nipples
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent urination
  • Food aversions or cravings
  • Nausea and/or vomiting (also known as "morning sickness")

Having symptoms a day or two after having sex is usually not a sign of pregnancy. Here are some things to consider as you try to determine if you're pregnant.

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Nausea immediately after sex is something you may question as a sign of pregnancy. However, your body doesn't have enough time to react to produce that symptom due to a pregnancy resulting from recent intercourse.

For most pregnant people, pregnancy-related nausea begins two to eight weeks following conception. So, if you are having pregnancy-related nausea, you became pregnant weeks before.

Pregnancy Test

A pregnancy test is the best way to tell if you are pregnant or not. However, you must wait until you miss your period to get the most accurate results from a urine pregnancy test.

This can be a home pregnancy test or a pregnancy test from your doctor, midwife, or health department. A blood test (quantitative beta HCG) might show positive results as early as one week after ovulation.

Basal Body Temperature Charting

Basal body temperature (BBT) can predict and suggest ovulation. This only works if you have been taking your temperature in the days prior to ovulation. Temperature elevation (approximately 0.5 to 1 degree F) begins one or two days after ovulation and persists for several days.

Temperature elevation identifies prior ovulation; it does not diagnose pregnancy.

Why You Might Feel Pregnant

It can be fairly common to experience some physical symptoms as you enter into what many people call the two-week wait, the period of time between when you ovulate and when you expect your period. These symptoms can include:

  • Breast soreness
  • Feeling bloated
  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea and/or changes in appetite

While all of the symptoms could be pregnancy symptoms, they can also be explained by either fluctuation in your hormones due to your menstrual cycle, or by other events in your life. These events can include illness, stress, or even something as simple as not enough sleep or too much exercise.

Some people experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms as pregnancy symptoms, whereas others do not typically have these symptoms every cycle.

When you experience a symptom that is not common to your cycle, it may be easily confused with a potential pregnancy.

To help relieve focusing on these symptoms, you can take positive steps for your physical and emotional health. Eating nutritious foods, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol will promote your health and wellness whether or not it turns out you are pregnant.

When Pregnancy Is Unintentional

If you had unprotected sex or a contraceptive failure and fear you could get pregnant, emergency contraception is an option. Commonly called the "morning-after pill," medications are available over-the-counter (without a prescription) that can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days of having unprotected sex.

The sooner you take these medications, the more effective they are in preventing unintended pregnancy. These medications do not cause an abortion, but rather prevent a pregnancy from being established.

A Word From Verywell

Fears or hopes of getting pregnant can be an emotional roller coaster. You won't know for sure whether you are pregnant until a couple of weeks have passed since the potential conception. To help relieve focusing on symptoms, you can take positive steps for your physical and emotional health. Eating nutritious foods, quitting smoking, and limiting or avoiding alcohol will help promote your health and wellness whether or not it turns out you are pregnant.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. McCarthy M, Upadhyay U, Biggs MA, Anthony R, Holl J, Roberts SC. Predictors of timing of pregnancy discovery. Contraception. 2018;97(4):303-308. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2017.12.001

  2. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are some common signs of pregnancy?

  3. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Morning sickness: Nausea and vomiting in pregnancy.

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Pregnancy test.

  5. University of Michigan Health. Basal body temperature (BBT) charting.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnancy: Am I pregnant?

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Emergency contraception.

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.