person sitting on couch looking at their phone
FG Trade / Getty Images

A missed period is the first sign of a baby. It does when you have a regular menstrual cycle.

When your period makes a regular appearance every few weeks — on average, menstrual cycles range from 24 to 38 days long — you might suspect pregnancy within just a few days of missing your period. A pregnancy test or two will usually provide the confirmation you need and give you the chance to start considering your options.

But maybe you don’t have regular periods. Some months you have two, others only some light spotting. You might go for several months without any bleeding at all. When irregular or light periods happen as a result of hormonal birth control, you might be even less likely to wonder about the possibility of pregnancy until several weeks have passed.

Maybe you know pregnancy and parenthood aren’t right for you right now (or ever), but you also live in a state that bans abortion after 6 weeks. These extra days of uncertainty can mean the difference between getting an abortion and not getting one unless you’re able to travel.

And of course, the overturning of Roe v. Wade would heavily restrict, if not ban outright, abortion for people living in 26 states. If you need to gather funds and find time to make a trip out of state, you’ll likely want to know you’re pregnant as soon as possible.

We’re here to help. In the guide below, we’ll cover six of the earliest signs of pregnancy, plus offer more information about your options.

First, a quick rundown on conception

Conception happens during ovulation, which takes place in the middle of your cycle.

You have had penis-in-vagina sex once in the last year. You could only have conceived about 2 weeks into your cycle. You might think you are 2 weeks along when you miss your period and have a positive pregnancy test.

But, as a recent press release from Planned Parenthood explains, healthcare professionals typically count weeks of pregnancy by your last period. The first day of your last period marks the beginning of the first week of pregnancy. By the very first day of your missed period, you’re already considered 4 weeks pregnant. Yes, even though conception only happened 2 weeks earlier.

This leaves you a mere 14 days to find an abortion provider, make an appointment, and navigate any extra hurdles like counseling or mandatory waiting periods. In short, it significantly limits access to abortion in states with 6-week abortion bans.

Morning sickness is not entirely accurate since pregnant women can experience nausea at any time of day.

Morning sickness doesn’t always involve vomiting, either. It’s pretty common to simply feel nauseous.

Research from 2019 suggests that while somewhere around 80 percent of people notice nausea during early pregnancy, only between 35 and 40 percent also report vomiting.

Early in the pregnancy, nausea can begin.

In a 2021 study of 241 pregnant people, researchers tracked the onset of pregnancy sickness beginning from the day of ovulation.

The majority of participants had symptoms within a few days after they had an egg. 5 percent of participants noticed symptoms earlier.

94.1% of the participants experienced nausea and vomiting.

Again, ovulation happens around the middle of your cycle, so if you have a 28-day cycle, you may start to notice some nausea around the time you miss your period.

Not everyone experiences nausea during pregnancy. It is not possible to say that no nausea is not pregnant.

Changes in your breasts and chest tissue can begin during early pregnancy.

You might notice.

  • swelling
  • There is some soreness.
  • Sensitivity to the touch and tenderness.
  • A heavy feeling.

Of course, There is some soreness. and tenderness commonly happen with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Wondering how to tell the difference? Your breast or chest veins can offer a clue: blue, visible veins often suggest pregnancy, as can tingling in the area and aching underneath your armpits.

The color of your areolae, or the ring of skin surrounding the nipples, might begin to appear darker, or even slightly larger, in early pregnancy.

You might associate frequent urination with late pregnancy, but this uptick in bathroom trips can happen a whole lot sooner, sometimes as early as week 4 of pregnancy (or right around the time you miss your period).

Another key change you might notice in your bathroom habits? Constipation.

Even though you might be peeing a lot more, you might feel bloated and backed up by week 4.

Hormonal changes in early pregnancy can affect senses like smell and taste.

You might notice.

  • Increased sensitivity to odors.
  • Coffee, spices, or cleaning products suddenly become unpleasant, like smelling like a bad smell.
  • a metallic or sour taste in your mouth
  • You can be an appartement to certain foods.
  • salivation increased

“Can’t seem to keep your eyes open even though it’s the middle of the day? Fight off yawns and nap urges?”

Feeling more tired than usual is a common sign of pregnancy, one that often shows up around the 4-week mark.

“It is very common to feel tired just before your period starts. If your period doesn’t show and you are tired, you may want to take a pregnancy test sooner rather than later.”

“If you are worried about an unborn child, the faintest hint of pink on the toilet paper or underwear might bring you some relief. We have been there. You aren’t pregnant if you get your period.”

That blood may not be your period arriving, though.

Implantation bleeding, which can happen when the fertilized egg attaches, or implants, to the uterine lining, typically happens somewhere between weeks 3 and 4, or between 10 and 14 days after conception. That’s often right around the time your period would show up, or just before.

If your periods are on the lighter side, you could easily mistake this bleeding for a light period.

There are a few differences between a typical period and a implantation bleeding period.

  • It usually lasts a few days.
  • You will not see much blood, usually not enough to fill a cup, a pad or a tampon.
  • The blood will often be brown or pink, rather than bright red.
  • It can involve some pain in the uterus, or you can not notice any pain at all.

If your period seems light and the blood never becomes red, you may want to take a pregnancy test.

A monthly pregnancy test is never a bad idea, especially because most signs of early pregnancy can mimic PMS symptoms or have other causes unrelated to reproductive health.

Taking a test each month is the best way to tell for certain whether you’re pregnant, say Cynthia Plotch and Jamie Norwood, co-founders of Stix. The Philadelphia-based online brand aims to increase stigma-free accessibility to pregnancy and ovulation tests, along with other reproductive health products, with discreet and direct shipping.

It is possible to have a pregnancy test done in a day without having to wait for symptoms.

If you have missed a period or have irregular periods, we recommend taking a pregnancy test the first day.

They also suggest testing first thing in the morning before you’ve had any water, as your urine will be most concentrated at that time.

If you want to continue the pregnancy, you should reach out to a doctor or other healthcare professional.

“If you have a positive test but don’t want to be pregnant, you should reach out for care immediately. Depending on the state you live in, your abortion timing will vary.”

Abortion options also depend on how far along the pregnancy is:

  • You can usually get a medical abortion up to the 12-week mark. In some states, it’s possible to get a medical abortion using telehealth services.
  • You will need a surgical abortion after 12 weeks.

Get more details on when and how you can get an abortion.

Depending on how long you are pregnant, healthcare professionals can offer you information about your options.

If you can no longer get an abortion in your state, you still have options. These resources can help.

You’re not alone

When facing an abortion, you will experience a mix of emotions.

“You might be relieved to know you have the option. You might be worried that you won’t be able to get one after all, but at the same time, you might also be worried about the potential hurdles you’ll have to overcome.”

Plotch and Norwood say that they hear from women every day that they are scared. Women in Texas are afraid of their safety and are afraid similar laws will be passed in their state.

This lack of control over your health, your body, and your choices can lead to plenty of stress and fear. If you need to talk with someone but aren’t sure where to turn, the All-Options Talkline offers free, confidential peer support.

  • You can call in the United States or Canada.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed but prefer to text, you can also connect with a crisis counselor through the Crisis Text Line. These peer counselors are trained to offer support for any type of emotional distress.

  • Text home to 741741 to get free and confidential support in the United States or Canada.

Everyone deserves a right to make their own healthcare decisions, but abortion bans prevent that.

Sure, birth control can go a long way toward preventing unplanned pregnancies — but the fact remains that not everyone has access to birth control. Plus, even the most effective methods can still sometimes fail.

Some hormonal birth control methods can also lead to lighter or irregular periods, making it even harder to recognize one of the most obvious signs of pregnancy in time to get an abortion.

Plotch and Norwood recommend monthly pregnancy and ovulation testing to get in tune with your cycle.

“Now more than ever, we need to understand what’s going on with our bodies,” they say. “Ovulation tests offer a great place to start. You can use them whether you’re trying to get pregnant or trying not to since they find your fertile window and help you know your likelihood of getting pregnant.”

If you’ve had penis-in-vagina sex since your last period, it never hurts to take a pregnancy test if your period doesn’t show up when you expect it. The sooner you know you’re pregnant, the more time you have to consider your options.

“If you pay attention to changes in your body and menstrual cycle, you can see early signs of a baby and end the baby’s life if you choose.”

You should have control over your healthcare decisions. The right to abortion is not something that should be taken away.

We dedicated our careers to empowering women to make health decisions. Plotch and Norwood say that this means doubling down on creating the right resources and products to help the members of our community make the right choices.

Need help with abortion? Try these resources.


Crystal Raypole is a writer for Healthline. Her interests include Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. She is committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues. She lives in Washington with her son and cat.