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Women ask themselves whether they could be pregnant for three basic reasons:

  • Their menstrual period is late or they are experiencing other symptoms that could point to pregnancy.
  • They are trying to conceive and are really hoping they're pregnant.
  • They had unprotected intercourse or a contraception failure and would like to know whether or not they got pregnant as a result as soon as possible.

Regardless of your circumstances, the answer to the question whether you could be pregnant is the same. In short, it's this: you can't know whether you are pregnant or not until your period is late and you take a pregnancy test. The long answer is a little more complex, however. While every woman is different and her pregnancy signs and the time at which they show up can vary even from pregnancy to pregnancy, very early pregnancy signs can sometimes appear even before you miss your period.

Early pregnancy symptoms don't necessarily mean you are pregnant, as the rest of this answer will demonstrate. But they can give you some insights (or keep you in suspension for a few weeks!). Let's take a look at the most common very early pregnancy signs.

Cramping And Spotting (Very Light Bleeding)

A minority of very newly pregnant women will experience an "implantation bleeding" a while after their fertilized egg nestles into the lining of the uterus. This can occur between seven and 10 days after conception, and is usually so light that it's pretty easy to miss — you may notice a slight streak of blood in your underwear or on your toilet paper.

Implantation is also sometimes accompanied by a cramping sensation very similar to that many women experience in the days leading up to their period. This cramping may continue after you miss your period, in which case it would be caused by pregnancy, or you may get your period, in which case the cramps would be "period cramps".

Tender Breasts

Tender and slightly bigger breasts are another early pregnancy sign. Again, this is something women who are about to have their period also often experience, making it very frustrating to anyone who thinks they may be pregnant.

Heavy Fatigue

Progesterone dominating your system, lower blood pressure and lower blood sugar levels can all make women who just got pregnant feel awfully tired — to the point you may want to take a nap during the day. Being awfully tired is a clearer pregnancy sign than either spotting and cramping or tender breasts, but be careful: stress, caused either by really wanting to be pregnant or really hoping you are not pregnant, can also lead to fatigue.

Nausea (Morning Sickness)

Pregnancy nausea, more commonly referred to as morning sickness despite the fact that it can show up at any time of the day, can indeed set in before your period is due. If you feel nauseous after unprotected intercourse, there is a good sign you may be pregnant. (Though again, be careful: even certain STDs, including chlamydia, can lead to feeling nauseous.)

It's also important to note that not every pregnant woman will experience morning sickness and not every pregnant woman who does will first notice it before she misses her period.

Take A Pregnancy Test!

Ultimately, taking a pregnancy test is the only step you can take that will tell you whether you are pregnant for sure. All pregnancy tests are extremely reliable on the day your period should have arrived. Yes, having irregular periods can make this a bit tricky, and you may have to repeat your pregnancy tests a few times.

You can buy an at-home pregnancy test almost anywhere, but women's health centers also tend to offer them for free if you don't have the cash to spend.

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