Pregnancy heralds a significant milestone in a woman’s life. It brings about several physical and emotional changes. However, most women think that the signs of pregnancy are apparent only much later, when the second trimester starts. You would be surprised to know that you can experience pregnancy signs as early as a few days after conception!

Are you wondering if you are pregnant, but are unaware of the first tell-tale signs? These are the ones to look out for:

* You missed your period.

You started out thinking your period is late, which is perfectly normal. Stress, a change in diet, taking certain medication, hormonal imbalances, thyroid gland malfunction, endocrine or pituitary hormones imbalances, fatigue and underlying reproductive health issues can throw your menstrual cycle off kilter. However, a period delayed by more than 10 days is a sign that you may be pregnant, if other health concerns check out. You can take a blood test to confirm pregnancy 10 days after a missed period, or a urine test 15 to 20 days after the missed period. Meanwhile, keep panty liner pads in your bag in case your period suddenly appears.

* Slight bleeding

This is commonly thought of to be the period that you missed, but it could be ‘implantation bleeding’. This occurs when the fertilised egg attaches itself to the uterine wall, causing some hormonal changes and bleeding. Some women spot during this phase, while others experience light bleeding for about a couple or three days. Usually, a panty liner should suffice for this phase. However, if your panty liner or sanitary pad is soaked quickly and you need several of them, or if the bleeding does not stop, you should consult your gynaecologist – it might be a premature miscarriage.

* Breast tenderness or ‘heaviness’

Pregnancy causes an elevation in the levels of your hormones, and the breasts must prepare for possible nursing a few months later. However the breasts may change in size and feel tender or heavier even a few days into the pregnancy. Your breasts may appear fuller, with the nipples becoming more sensitive. The nipples become larger and firmer in the last few weeks of pregnancy, and you might leak a clear liquid from them in the second trimester. The veins in the breast become more visible through the skin and the areola becomes darker. If you have missed your period and feel tenderness in your breasts, you might want to check for pregnancy.

* Nausea

Colloquially known as ‘morning sickness’, a feeling of nausea during early pregnancy is actually a good thing – it is brought on by a spike in the HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) hormone, which is needed for a healthy pregnancy. An increase in HCG levels indicates the body’s effort to save the foetus from miscarriage or any health issues. The hormone starts getting produced after the fertilised egg implants itself in the uterus, and meanwhile, you might experience vomiting during the first trimester.

* Change of taste or aversion to food you normally like

It is very common to crave certain food and steer clear of others during pregnancy. Known as ‘pregnancy cravings’, they signal the hormonal changes in the body and whether you need certain nutrients. For instance, some women feel like eating chalk – this condition is called ‘pica’ and signals a calcium deficiency. Or you might suddenly develop an aversion to food and drink that you normally like; most women are averse to food with strong smells or pungent taste. It is fine to give in to certain cravings once in a while, but giving in to cravings for sugary, oily and buttery food often can lead to excessive weight gain. You should consult a nutritionist experienced in working with pregnant women to understand how to satiate your cravings in a healthy manner.

* Mood swings or increased irritability

Pregnancy floods the body with hormones right from fertilisation of the egg, and this can have a direct impact on your mood. If you have missed a period and feel moody, depressed without just reason, weepy or have flashes of irritability, then you should take a blood or urine test to find out if you are pregnant. The moodiness continues in some form or another during the entire pregnancy.

* A runny nose

One of the surprising early signs of pregnancy is a runny nose. This happens when the flooding of hormones in the system causes the mucous membranes in the nasal cavity to dry out. In response, extra mucous is formed in the nose to combat the dryness and this manifests itself as a runny nose.

Always manage your pregnancy symptoms with your doctor’s help and never self-medicate.