12 unusual signs that may mean you're pregnant

Waiting to find out if you're pregnant can feel like an eternity. After all, most home tests require you wait for at least a week after your first missed period in order to confirm whether or not you're pregnant. However, there are some unusual signs that may mean you're pregnant, as hormonal changes can start to occur right after conception. In fact, approximately 90 percent of women will experience some pregnancy symptoms by their eighth week. With this in mind, it's never been more important to listen to what your body is telling you and pay attention to the subtle physical and emotional changes your body is experiencing. Here are the 12 unexpected indicators that can help let you know if you may be expecting.

Changes in your breasts

One of the top unconventional signs you may have a bun in the oven is that your breasts can start to feel a little sore, achy, and swollen. In fact, this kind of breast tenderness can occur within one to two weeks after conception, and nearly 20 percent of women indicated their first sign of pregnancy was tender and sore breasts, as noted by the American Pregnancy Association. In addition, changes in your breasts' weight and appearance are also early signs of pregnancy, as your breasts may start to feel heavier and fuller than usual or even a bit tingly. Further, you may also see your areolas, which is the area that surrounds your nipples on your breasts, can appear darker than usual. The best breast news is that once your body literally and figuratively grows accustomed to the hormonal changes taking place, your breast aches and pains will likely subside.

Exhaustion

Another unusual sign that may mean you're pregnant is fatigue, and you may find yourself feeling both physically and mentally exhausted right away. This is due in large part to the many changes occurring in a woman's body from the outset of pregnancy, and you may start to feel fatigued and run down as early as one week after conception. When looking more closely at these internal changes, it's been shown that a woman's levels of the hormone progesterone increase, and this can directly contribute to her tiredness. Further, your blood pressure and blood sugar levels are also on the lower side, and your body is even producing more blood, all of which can cause you to feel weak and exhausted.

In addition, another contributor to this increase in fatigue is the decrease in the amount of sleep women typically get each night during pregnancy. According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost 80 percent of women reported sleep disturbances during pregnancy, which isn't too surprising in light of the many physical and mental transitions and adjustments taking place, further adding to a woman's increased level of exhaustion.

Nausea

Are you feeling a little sick to your stomach? Or maybe a lot? One out of four women reported nausea was the very first sign of pregnancy. And while you may feel intense nausea and even overpowering queasiness, you may not necessarily vomit. In fact, this type of nausea is most commonly referred to as "morning sickness," but the name is truly a misnomer, as these waves of nausea can hit at any time, day or night.

When looking more closely at morning sickness, it's interesting to note the many different theories and explanations as to why pregnant women can experience it in the first place. Some people believe it has to do with the increased levels of estrogen and progesterone in a woman's body during pregnancy, while others contend that it's caused by human chorionic gonadotropin, known as hCG, which is a hormone that's produced following conception. It's even thought morning sickness can help to protect a woman from food poisoning, as her nausea can deter her from eating foods that may be harmful or contaminated. And while many women experience morning sickness starting at around the sixth week after conception, the good news is that typically subsides by the twelfth week of the pregnancy. Plus, even more fortunately, studies have found women who experience morning sickness actually have a lower likelihood of losing their pregnancy than women who don't suffer from any morning sickness, as discussed in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Spotting

It's widely known that a missed period is an early sign of pregnancy, and it's not too surprising that nearly 30 percent of women viewed their missed period as the first sign that they were pregnant. But it may surprise you to learn that spotting and even some slight bleeding can also be early indicators of pregnancy. This type of spotting is known as implantation bleeding, and it can occur approximately 10 days to two weeks following conception. This kind of bleeding actually has to do with the implantation of the embryo on the uterine lining — as the embryo attaches, it can cause some spotting. And while this bleeding is generally on the lighter side, some women do mistake implantation bleeding for their periods. However, it's typically different than the color one sees while menstruating, as it's usually a pink or a brown hue, and it isn't heavy enough to fill up a sanitary pad. So if you experience implantation bleeding, it's important to keep in mind that it shouldn't be a cause for concern, as it doesn't require any treatment. If the bleeding is heavy, on the other hand, it's important to contact your physician right away.

Cramping

While many women who experience cramping view it as an uncomfortable and unwanted symptom of PMS, it's interesting to note that cramping can also be an early sign of pregnancy. In fact, while cramping due to PMS usually occurs right before a woman gets her period and typically goes away approximately one to three days later, cramping in early pregnancy can last for much longer, sometimes even weeks. The cause of this cramping during the beginning of pregnancy is due to the numerous changes taking place in the woman's body, specifically in her uterus, where the egg has been implanted. Since the uterus is expanding and your muscles are extending, many women experience cramping on one or both sides of their lower abdomen and often describe the pain as a stretching or tugging feeling.

Bloating

Gassiness and bloating are symptoms of PMS, but they can also be early indicators of pregnancy. Many women experience bloating once they become pregnant,due in large part to hormonal changes taking place in their bodies, specifically in terms of the increased amount of the hormone progesterone. Among progesterone's many functions, it can actually relax the muscles in your body, including the muscles in the walls of the intestine. And when this occurs, you're more likely to feel bloated and gassy, because the digestive process has slowed down. In fact, progesterone can extend the transitory time of food through the intestine by up to 30 percent. Additionally, gas also plays a role later in pregnancy, as your expanding uterus puts pressure on your abdomen. While it may feel unpleasant on many levels, bloating is a natural part of pregnancy that can last throughout the trimesters, and you shouldn't be alarmed or embarrassed due to your increased flatulence.

Mood swings

Are you feeling particularly moody lately? It may surprise you to learn that moodiness can actually be a sign that may mean you're pregnant. And while you may be feeling elated and excited one minute, and then depressed and dejected the next, these fluctuations in your mood have many different pregnancy-related causes. They're due in large part to the changing levels of hormones in your body, such as estrogen and progesterone, as well as to the increased amount of exhaustion and fatigue many women feel when they're pregnant. And while mood swings are common in the first trimester, women can also experience them later in their pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. In fact, you may find yourself feeling mentally drained during your entire pregnancy due to the rush of different feelings and emotions you may have about pregnancy itself, motherhood, and other questions, hopes, fears, and/or concerns. Fortunately, if you're looking to combat these mood swings and regain control over your tumultuous temperament, there are different activities that you can try, such as walking, meditating, practicing mindfulness, and spending time with friends and family.

Bladder and bowel changes

Other unusual signs of pregnancy have to do with changes in the frequency and purpose of your trips to the bathroom. On the one hand, many women experience an increased need to urinate starting at the very beginning of their pregnancy, which can actually continue throughout the trimesters. This urgency to urinate is due to the expanding size of a woman's uterus, and as it starts to push against her bladder, it increases her desire and need to pee. But even before the uterus starts to expand, you may find yourself taking more frequent trips to the restroom, as the pregnancy hormone hCG increases blood flow to the pelvic area, making the urge to go much stronger. In fact, simply by giggling, sneezing, or coughing, women may find themselves slightly leaking in their pants.

On the flip side, an additional unexpected sign that you may be expecting can also be constipation. Along with gas and bloating, many women experience chronic constipation because of the increased levels of progesterone, which can slow down the digestion process.

Stuffy nose

While a runny nose shouldn't send you running to a drugstore to take a pregnancy test, one of the more unusual signs that may mean you're pregnant is having a stuffy nose. A woman can typically experience congestion and a plugged up nose early in her pregnancy due to the increased blood volume and levels of hormones in her body that may cause her nasal passages to become swollen, therefore resulting in a stuffy nose. In fact, this condition is known as nonallergic rhinitis, and among its other causes, this condition can be brought on by various hormonal changes that are happening in the body, such as puberty.

Dizziness and achiness

Feeling dizzy and lightheaded, as well as having headaches and backaches, are some of the more unusual signs that may mean you're pregnant. This dizziness is typically due to an increase in the hormone levels in a woman's body during pregnancy, and it's also a result of the changes in her blood pressure and the volume of her blood. In addition, feeling faint and lightheaded in the early stages of pregnancy can also be caused by having low blood sugar levels.

And when looking more closely at the various aches and pains many women can experience at the outset of their pregnancy, a common complaint is headaches soon after conception. With this in mind, so to speak, there are different possible explanations for this increase in headaches. It may have to do with the shift in blood volume, the changing levels of hormones after conception, and/or exhaustion. It's also thought to result from the pressure of a stuffy nose.

Vaginal discharge

Though it may be unpleasant or embarrassing to discuss, an additional unexpected sign of pregnancy is discharge from your vagina. This discharge is commonly referred to as leukorrhea, and unlike blood, it's typically white in color as well as thick. And while many women associate vaginal discharge with other medical conditions, such as yeast or bacterial infections, the discharge at the outset of pregnancy is actually due to the elevated growth of cells that line the vagina, as the walls thicken soon after conception. It's important to note this type of discharge is common and can last throughout your pregnancy, as it's completely normal and natural. However, if the vaginal discharge has a foul odor, is yellow or green in color, and/or if you feel increasingly itchy in that region, it's imperative that you contact your doctor.

Food aversions

 

Does the thought of eating tuna fish make you want to hurl? Does the smell of milk make you queasy? While craving specific foods (ice cream, anyone?) is a well-known behavior of pregnant women, it may surprise you to learn that aversions to certain foods can actually be a sign of pregnancy. The reason behind a pregnant woman's food aversions has to do with the various hormonal changes taking place in her body, specifically in terms of the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin, which is the hormone known as hCG. And while morning sickness can be an early sign of pregnancy, research has found that many women experience food aversions at the same time they begin experiencing morning sickness. So while craving particular foods, whether they're sweet, salty, or spicy, may be in a pregnant woman's future, it's important to keep in mind that food aversions can also continue throughout an entire pregnancy, even after the baby is born.