Early pregnancy symptoms stomach tenderness

Pregnancy And Abdominal Tenderness

Occasional bouts of abdominal tenderness during pregnancy occur in many pregnant mothers. Even though it can cause significant concern, it is a normal occurrence and also quite harmless.

It is usually in the early stages that women experience pain and abdominal tenderness in pregnancy. There are several factors that could cause this. Abdominal pain and discomfort that mimics menstrual cramps and which occurs sporadically could simply mean that the uterus is preparing itself for the baby. Abdominal tenderness in pregnancy that is accompanied by other symptoms such as heavy bleeding, fever and chills may be a sign of a serious problem and requires immediate medical attention. There are some conditions which are usually associated with abdominal tenderness in early pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a serious problem that occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself outside the uterus. This usually happens in the fallopian tube in the first few weeks itself. If left untreated, this condition could cause serious complications as the fallopian tube may rupture. Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include tenderness and pain in the abdomen and spotting. Lower abdominal tenderness in pregnancy may sometimes be indicative of a miscarriage. Typical symptoms include painful cramping and heavy bleeding.

The good news is that mild abdominal tenderness and pain during pregnancy is experienced by most women and is usually a sign of gas buildup, stretching of the uterus or constipation. It is important to stay calm in spite of the symptoms and to contact your doctor immediately when in doubt. The doctor will be able to detect the cause of the tenderness and also carry out the appropriate treatment.

Ovulation Symptoms and Pregnancy

Ovulation and pregnancy symptoms are believed to be caused by increased levels of the hormone progesterone and the fact that symptoms of early pregnancy are often similar to those experienced during ovulation. The difference is that ovulation symptoms usually subside shortly after ovulation occurs while symptoms of pregnancy will only increase in frequency and severity as the fetus develops.

Below, we discuss and differentiate between the signs of ovulation and pregnancy to help women and expecting mothers prepare.

Swollen or Tender Breasts

Many women have breast tenderness just before they ovulate, but the tenderness usually ends after a day or two. If breast tenderness continues after ovulation, it may be an early symptom of pregnancy, which can begin as early as one or two weeks after conceptions.

Although tenderness is the only symptom experienced by most women during ovulation, pregnant women may see darkening of the color of the areola around the nipple, and more rarely, may have goose bump-like skin patches, called Montgomery’s tubercles, around the areola and nipples.

Nonetheless, other explanations for swollen or sore breasts can include hormonal changes or imbalances, your birth control or the arrival of your period.

Lower Abdominal Pain

Another of the shared ovulation and early pregnancy symptoms is a dull ache or bloated feeling in the lower abdomen, sometimes even in the form of a backache. During ovulation, this pain or cramping tends to more noticeable on one side of the abdomen, but as an early pregnancy symptom, it is typically general discomfort.

It may be accompanied by frequent urination which is not one of the ovulation signs, but is a possible indicator of pregnancy. As with other signs of ovulation, abdominal discomfort is short lived and lasts only about two days during the release of an ovum.

Nausea and Vomiting

Unlike breast tenderness and lower abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting (known as morning sickness) are not ovulation symptoms and are most likely an indication of pregnancy. Many women experience morning sickness between 2 to 8 weeks after conception, as their hormone levels change. In a fairly rare condition, called hyperemesis gravidarum, vomiting will persist throughout the pregnancy and may cause dehydration if not treated.

Women who have nausea and vomiting after ovulation should take a pregnancy test to confirm or rule out pregnancy as a cause of their symptoms. On the other hand, some women are fortunate enough not to experience any nausea or morning sickness at all and other causes may be food poisoning, stress, and/or stomach disorders.

Changes In The Senses

Some women report a heightened sense of taste or smell as a sign of ovulation, but changes in the senses of taste and smell are also fairly common indicators of early pregnancy. The difference between a pregnancy and ovulation symptom is the duration and severity of the change.

During ovulation, the symptom may last a day or two, but pregnant women often find they like or dislike the taste of foods they previously hated or loved. This can last through all 9 months of your pregnancy. The smell of certain foods and substances may bring on a bout of nausea or vomiting throughout the course of the pregnancy.

Night Sweats and Hot Flashes

While not a common problem, night sweats and hot flashes can be ovulation symptoms or pregnancy signs. These symptoms are believed to be caused by increases in the hormone progesterone, and both ovulation and pregnancy cause the blood levels of this hormone to rise.

Women who have never experienced these symptoms during ovulation may want to take a pregnancy test. Women over 40 who experience night sweats and hot flashes may be beginning menopause which causes fluctuations in hormone levels. Stress, depression, and breast cancer can also cause hot flashes or night sweats.

Ovulation symptoms and pregnancy indicators are often similar with the primary difference being the duration of the symptoms. If ovulation symptoms persist for more than a day or two, they may actually be early symptoms of pregnancy.

Pregnancy Symptoms: Early Signs You May Be Pregnant

How Soon Do You Get Pregnancy Symptoms?

Many women wonder how soon you can feel pregnancy symptoms, what the earliest pregnancy signs are, and whether you can feel implantation or conception. The simple answer: you can get early pregnancy symptoms and signs even before you have a missed period! The earliest you may feel pregnancy signs and symptoms is right after implantation.

The earliest pregnancy symptoms in the order of appearance are:

(Scroll down to see each symptom explained as well as a handy timeline chart of early pregnancy signs!)

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Some women experience these feelings, think they are sick, and go to the doctor only to discover they are pregnant.

Just a few days after conception, the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. This is when the first physical signs of pregnancy begin. Women may first feel cramping. If spotting occurs, it may not show until one to two weeks after implantation. Spotting during this time can be implantation bleeding and can be mistaken for your period, but it is not as heavy as your period.

Around the same time, women may feel changes in their breasts, including swelling, tenderness, tingling, and breasts feel heavier or full. Progesterone levels rise during conception, which can cause early pregnancy fatigue. Estrogen levels also begin to rise which can cause the stomach to empty more slowly, resulting in nausea and loss of appetite. Often called morning sickness , the term isn’t quite accurate since “morning sickness” can occur at any time of the day, not just in the morning hours. Reduced blood sugar and blood pressure can lead to dizziness and fainting. Some women experience these feelings, think they are sick, and go to the doctor only to discover they are pregnant.

Vaginal Spotting

When ovulation and fertilization have occurred, the fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube towards the uterus where implantation takes place, about 6-12 days after fertilization. At that time, the fertilized egg implants itself to the wall of the uterus. Implantation can cause one of the earliest signs of pregnancy: implantation spotting, bleeding and sometimes cramping.

The cramps in your lower abdomen may resemble menstrual cramps. Bleeding and spotting may initially be similar to a menstrual bleeding, so it’s not unusual if some women mistake them for the start of their menstrual period.

Vaginal Discharge

Besides bleeding, a woman may notice white, milky discharge. This discharge could be related to the pregnancy hormones which lead to thickening of the vagina’s walls, which begins almost immediately after conception and implantation. This vaginal discharge can continue throughout pregnancy, is typically harmless and doesn’t require treatment. However, if there is a foul odor related to the discharge, or a burning and itching sensation, tell your doctor in order to rule out a yeast or bacterial infection.

Cervical Mucus Plug

Besides an increase in vaginal discharge, observing a cervical mucus plug may be among the early pregnancy signs.

Breast Changes

Breast swelling, size changes, or tenderness can be another very early sign of pregnancy. The swelling, which signals an increase in fat reserves and milk gland size, may be accompanied by soreness.

“All Day” Sickness

Morning sickness is probably the best known of the early pregnancy symptoms. Nausea may be more common in the mornings because stomach acids build up overnight, but most women who get morning sickness also feel nauseous at other times of the day.

Sickening Scents

Even before nausea kicks in, some women develop an extremely-heightened sense of smell. Scents can become so overpowering, some women avoided cooking and other activities in which strong odors are present for several weeks.


Need a nap or can’t stay awake? Fatigue is one of the most common early pregnancy signs. Blame rising progesterone levels in the first trimester. Fatigue may subside with your second trimester but may resurface later on. Carrying around all that extra weight can make you tire easily in the third trimester.

Bathroom Breaks

Frequent urination is another early pregnancy symptom most expectant moms know all too well due to hormonal changes early on. Later in the pregnancy, frequent bathroom breaks are often caused by an enlarged uterus (and the rapidly growing baby inside) putting pressure on the bladder.

Itching is a very common complaint and can occur throughout pregnancy. The usual areas are the breasts and abdomen, where the skin is stretching to accommodate your growing shape.

Changes In Digestion

There are many causes that affect digestion in pregnancy:

  • Increase in the hormone progesterone
  • Increased water absorption in the large intestines
  • Iron supplements
  • Pressure of the uterus on the rectum
  • Heartburn

Seasonal allergies and asthma may become unpredictable during pregnancy. Some women see their symptoms improve, while others notice the opposite. Expectant moms with asthma generally should continue using their inhalers. If you don’t breathe, your baby won’t either.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs Timeline

Changes occur in the female body as soon as conception occurs, but these changes cause no physical changes until about one week after pregnancy. From that point until the end of gestation, physical changes can be felt throughout the pregnancy.

  • 6 to 12 days after conception: Implantation of the fertilized egg may cause cramping.
  • 7 to 14 days after conception: Breasts may feel swollen, sore, tingly and heavy.
  • 7 to 14 days after conception: Fatigue due to increased progesterone, low blood sugar, and low blood pressure.
  • 7 to 14 days after conception: Increased estrogen and slowed gastric emptying may lead to nausea known as morning sickness.

The time frame in which women report feeling the first signs of pregnancy varies widely as different bodies change at different rates. Typically, the first signs of pregnancy are not recognized as being associated with pregnancy until after a positive pregnancy test or a missed menstrual cycle.

PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms: What Do You Need to Know?

Women sometimes find themselves asking “Is this PMS or the early signs of pregnancy?”. The difference between PMS and early pregnancy symptoms are often difficult to differentiate, as they are subtle and vary from woman to woman.

PMS Symptoms vs. Pregnancy Symptoms

A simple way to determine if you are having symptoms of pregnancy before a missed period is to take a pregnancy test. If you are pregnant, you may receive a positive pregnancy test five to six days before your missed period.

During the time before or after a missed period, you may be experiencing typical PMS symptoms and will wonder if these are instead early signs of pregnancy. Could PMS symptoms mean that the pregnancy test is wrong? Not likely.

Again, PMS symptoms and early pregnancy symptoms are so similar that it’s hard to tell the difference. In PMS, there is breast tenderness, bloating and cramping. These happen to be the same symptoms you will find in early pregnancy. The only real difference is that the period is usually missed if you are pregnant.

How to Tell the Difference between Premenstrual Symptoms and Pregnancy Symptoms

The change in hormones from the premenstrual state and the pregnancy state is not very much in the beginning. Only hCG is added in early pregnancy and only after the period is missed is this significant enough to reveal any changes in symptoms. In both cases, there are elevated progesterone levels that can contribute to PMS symptoms. These elevated progesterone levels drop precipitously at the time of the menstrual period but stay elevated if the woman is pregnant.

Eventually, the cramping disappears, and there is no withdrawal bleeding. Breast tenderness persists, and it becomes more obvious that the symptoms are due to pregnancy. In the beginning, the hormone levels are just too similar to be able to identify definitively a pregnancy versus PMS symptoms.

Comparison of PMS and Early Pregnancy Symptoms

PMS Symptoms
Pregnancy Symptoms

Nausea or vomiting (morning sickness)

Sudden food cravings

Food cravings or aversions

Constipation or diarrhea

Constipation or diarrhea

Mood swing (aggression)

Lower back pain

Skin changes (melasma, linea nigra, stretch marks, spider veins)

Increased vaginal discharge

Bleeding or spotting

Swollen feet (edema)

Shortness of breathe

Sensitivity to smells

PMS: A small percentage of women experience nausea during the premenstrual time period.

Pregnancy: One of the most common symptoms of pregnancy – often referred to as “Morning Sickness”, nearly all women experience a combination of nausea and/or vomiting during the 40 weeks of pregnancy.

PMS: Some women may experience tiredness and fatigue during the premenstrual state

Pregnancy: Typically one of the first early signs of pregnancy. Fatigue as a symptom of pregnancy of pregnancy before a missed period may be caused by increased levels of progesterone.

PMS: After ovulation, some women may experience breast changes, such as swelling, enlargement, and tenderness. These symptoms are only temporary and may indicate that your period is coming.

Pregnancy: Breast changes and tenderness is a very common pregnancy symptom and one of the early signs of pregnancy. Heavy, fuller breasts may appear as quickly as two weeks post-partum.

PMS: Some women experience painful stomach cramps 24 to 48 hours prior to the beginning of their period. The pain decreases throughout the duration of the menstrual cycle.

Pregnancy: Mild to slight stomach cramping in early pregnancy is experienced by some women. Similar in intensity to period cramps, these cramps are often felt in the low stomach and back. The experience of cramps in early pregnancy may extend to several weeks or months.

PMS: Due to changes in hormone levels, some women find them laughing one minute and crying the next during the premenstrual time period.

Pregnancy: Just as with PMS, these symptoms are a result of changing hormones which may create emotional changes.

How to Deal with Early Pregnancy Symptoms

When it becomes obvious because of a positive pregnancy test and symptoms of early pregnancy that you are pregnant, there are things you can do to help control some of the symptoms. A hot water bottle can be used to ease cramping, and a cold pack can be used on the breasts to ease breast tenderness. Many doctors recommend wearing a tight, supportive bra early in pregnancy to take down some of the tender nipple pain you experience in early pregnancy.

Tylenol or Advil can be taken for mild discomfort, but most women are reluctant to take any medication during pregnancy, especially in the early stages when development and growth are so rapid. There is no evidence to suggest that these are dangerous in early pregnancy so if your doctor says it’s okay, you can take these medications for your discomfort.

There is medication available for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. If your symptoms are severe, you may be able to get a prescription for this but, again, such medications aren’t proven to be 100 percent safe in pregnancy, so you take a risk taking any medication for early pregnancy symptoms. Years ago, medications were taken by women for nausea in pregnancy that caused severe birth defects. While better testing is available to show that the newer medications are safer in pregnancy than, say, thalidomide was, nothing is absolutely fool-proof, and you are better off tolerating the pregnancy symptoms than you are medicating them.

Ovulation vs. Pregnancy Symptoms

At the time of ovulation, the cervical mucus is clear and stringy. There may be ovulation pain on one side of the body or the other, and there may be some cramping, signaling ovulation. This does not last, and the corpus luteum is formed on the ovary that can be tender when palpated depending on what size it is. The corpus luteum secretes estrogen and progesterone to try and maintain the fertilized egg until it implants and begins making its own estrogen and progesterone.

If you are pregnant, there may be some increase in cervical mucus but it is usually not similar to ovulatory mucus. It is not stringy or stretchy like ovulation mucus is, and it is usually white in color rather than clear. This is one of the first signs of pregnancy, and it is generally present just at about the time of the missed period. The breast tenderness that is part of PMS symptoms does not go away as it does when you are not pregnant. Instead, the breast tenderness intensifies as the pregnancy hormones are predominant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a woman have a period while she is pregnant?

A woman may notice light vaginal bleeding/spotting around two weeks after conception. It typically last only a few days and is lighter and shorter than a normal period.

Some women may experience intermittent vaginal bleeding during pregnancy that they may confuse for a regular period. Bleeding during pregnancy is not the same thing as bleeding during menstruation.

Spotting is slight vaginal bleeding that leaves light traces of pink or light brown blood. Causes of spotting included ovulation, implantation, the beginning of labor, infection, and other illnesses.

Menstrual bleeding (period) is caused by the body’s natural hormonal cycle. Period bleeding has a heavier flow than spotting and may last from 5 to 7 days. In addition, period blood is bright red and requires the use of pads or tampons.

You may experience a variety of symptoms during the time before your period or after your missed period. Keep a log of the symptoms you are experiencing to determine if there is a pattern. Five to six days before your missed period you may choose to take an at-home pregnancy test. You may also choose to an appointment with your health-care provider to get a blood test to detect pregnancy hormones in your body.

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Ovulation Symptoms and Pregnancy



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