Do you ever wonder what the early signs of pregnancy are? Are there any symptoms you might experience as soon as a few days past ovulation (DPO)?
Many women recognize changes in their bodies a few weeks after ovulation. There are the classic symptoms of tiredness, grumpiness, and stomach cramps. Then comes the bleeding as your period starts, or not, as the case may be.
I knew from about two weeks after ovulation that I was pregnant, even before the lines on the test confirmed it. I was one of the unlucky ones that experienced nausea straight away. The smell of fried food and just the thought of cooking it was repulsive.
Coffee and tea no longer appealed, and I developed an addiction for what I call posh fruit. Forget your apples, oranges and bananas, only strawberries, raspberries, satsuma oranges, and grapes would do.
But were there any symptoms I could have picked up on in the very early days? Let’s take a look at DPO symptoms in the first 14 days.
Basics of the Menstrual Cycle
Before we detail the DPO symptoms you might experience, it will help if you understand the stages of your menstrual cycle. This is what prepares our bodies for pregnancy each month.
1. Phase One
The first phase of your cycle is the follicular stage. This begins with the start of the period and ends when you ovulate. Essentially, it covers approximately days one to 13 of your cycle.
Your period will generally last between four and seven days. What’s happening here is that the body is shedding the uterine lining, which had prepared itself for supporting a fertilized egg. Obviously, if you happen to be pregnant, the thick uterine lining remains.
The hormones that control these functions in our body, estrogen and progesterone, are at their lowest levels during week one of your cycle. They begin to rise gradually.
The proliferative phase overlaps with the follicular phase, and begins once your period finishes. This is when the main gland which controls our hormones, the pituitary gland, sends out signals to stimulate the follicles in the ovaries. This follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) tells about 15–20 of our eggs to prepare themselves for release.
The follicles which contain the maturing eggs release estrogen, signalling the lining of the uterus to thicken. This creates a supportive environment for a fertilized egg to embed and thrive.
The higher estrogen levels trigger the pituitary gland to release another hormone, the luteinizing hormone (LH). If you have ever used an ovulation kit, this is the hormone that it detects.
When the follicles detect this hormone surge, it’s blast off time. The largest egg, or eggs, are released from the follicle. While it’s generally one, it can be several. So beware, it could be twins or triplets, or even more.
2. Phase Two
This is now the start of ovulation. Testosterone and estrogen levels rise, and cervical mucus goes from thick, sticky, and yellow, to clear, watery, thin, and stretchy.
Essentially, the mucus becomes sperm friendly, allowing those little swimmers to enter the uterus and find an egg.
Ovulation happens around day 14 of your cycle. The egg is released from the ovary and carried along the fallopian tube to the uterus. If it encounters a viable sperm along the way, then fertilization may take place.
The window for this to happen is very short, only 12 to 24 hours. Now you can see why so many films and television programs portray women calling their partners home from work, when the time is right.
It’s worth noting, however, that sperm are pretty hardy and can live for up to five days. They could be loitering in your uterus, planning a sudden attack on your mature eggs.
3. The Third and Final Phase
Days 15 to 28 constitute the luteal phase, taking its name from the small mass of cells which remain of the empty follicle. These cells, or corpus luteum, release progesterone which signals the uterine lining to prepare itself for a fertilized egg. It becomes a soft, spongy, egg-friendly environment.
Two things can then happen. A fertilized egg will find its cozy home and embed itself in the uterine lining during implantation. This can take between six and 12 days, and progesterone levels will continue to rise to protect the pregnancy.
During this period, if an egg takes up residence in the uterus, another hormone is released, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
If the egg has avoided the sperm, the remaining follicle cells shrink and hormone levels drop. This sets off the trigger for the uterine lining to be released from the body, and menstruation begins.
What Happens in the Days Past Ovulation?
With a little understanding about the fertility cycle, let’s now consider the symptoms we can expect between days 14 to 28 of our cycle, and whether they indicate pregnancy or not.
It’s not an exact science since all women are different. But let’s look at some of the more common DPO symptoms you might experience, from as early as the first day after an egg has implanted.
1. Tender Breasts and Sore Nipples
Are you waking up and finding your breasts are a bit more tender than normal? You might even find your favorite, most comfortable bra doesn’t give you any relief.
This is one of the first signs that a new life is now growing inside you. It can be experienced from the first day past ovulation and continue right through your pregnancy (1).
Along with tenderness in the breasts can come soreness in your nipples.
Going out for that morning run with ll that bouncing around can certainly aggravate the soreness! Investing in a good sports bra or maternity bra could be the way forward.
Remember, though, that these are symptoms you might normally experience around the time of ovulation anyway, whether you’re pregnant or not. It’s a result of the surge in hormones we spoke about. However, it’s likely to be more exaggerated than normal when you’re pregnant.
Those same hormones could be at it again, making you feel extra tired. All the physical and hormonal changes going on in your body are making it work harder than normal. Even though you’re sleeping loads, maybe even more than usual, you still have no energy (2).
From about 10 DPO you might feel the need to take naps.
One of the best pieces of advice I was given when pregnant was: if you’re tired, sleep. Mid-afternoon naps became the norm and I rarely stayed awake later than 10pm each night.
3. Abdominal Cramps
Tummy cramps are something most of us are used to on a monthly basis. For some they’re mild and manageable, for others, excruciating and debilitating.
Cramps are also quite normal during early pregnancy. You might feel these cramps as a mild pressure or a quick sharp pain. They could even be felt as soon as the egg nestles into the uterus, at about 6 DPO.
Your womb can grow quite rapidly during the early stages of pregnancy, bringing with it these uncomfortable feelings. After all, it’s preparing itself to house your baby for the next nine months.
While these pains are generally nothing to worry about, if you’re concerned in any way, it’s best to see your doctor (3).
4. Pinching and Pulling in the Abdomen
As well as getting stomach cramps, a number of women describe a sensation like their muscles are being pulled or stretched. Some feel like something is pinching them inside their abdomen (4).
These feelings are quite normal, and can happen from six days past ovulation and onwards. While this might be a bit uncomfortable, it shouldn’t be painful. If you are experiencing painful cramps or bleeding, contact your OB provider.
5. Frequent Urination
I dare say we all know that needing the bathroom more when you are pregnant is something most women experience. At this early stage you won’t be reaching for the pack of adult diapers or letting out a drip when you cough, sneeze or laugh.
You could, however, experience the need to pee a little more often than usual.
It’s partly to do with those sneaky hormones, yet again. They can make your blood flow to kidneys quicker, filling your bladder up with more urine.
Another contributing factor is the increase in the volume of blood in your body. So, as well as moving quicker, there’s more blood passing through the kidneys. This means more waste products and a full bladder (5).
This can start as early as 9 DPO, and the bad news is it’s unlikely to get better until after the baby arrives.
As your pregnancy progresses, pressure from your baby and uterus on your bladder increases. This will have you in the bathroom what feels like every five minutes.
6. Increased Sense of Smell
Just like Spiderman has his spidey senses, pregnant women also get superpowers. One of these, be it good or bad, is an increased sense of smell, which may be noticeable from day nine post ovulation and onwards.
For me it was definitely a bad thing; just the smell of coffee or fried food sent me running to the bathroom.
The cause of this ability to smell at a heightened level is not clearly known, but those darn hormones could be the culprits again. Combine them with your increased blood flow, and your nose goes into overdrive (6).
There is a theory that nausea and vomiting in pregnancy is a protective agent from our hunter-gatherer days. This would keep a woman who doesn’t know she is pregnant yet from eating game that had spoiled or ingesting potentially poisonous food (7).
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
7. Nausea and Sickness
This is the one symptom that hit me like a train for the first four months of pregnancy. It can begin as early as ten DPO, and for me this was the case. Even before I thought about peeing on a stick, the thought of drinking tea and coffee nauseated me.
These feelings affect different women at different times of day. Some get it in the morning, others in the afternoon, and a few unlucky ones suffer all day long.
Again, it’s one of those things that just happens without the exact cause being known. It could be hormones, yes, they’re still running the show, or it could be our new increased olfactory ability.
Heightened levels of progesterone can affect the gastrointestinal system, causing it to become a little sluggish. This could increase gas and bloating, and make you feel sick (8).
Your new super smell sense can also contribute to nausea. That cologne you bought your partner last year may have to be relegated to the back of the bathroom cabinet for the next nine months.
While you loved it at the time, it now makes you feel sick, as does the smell of many other things.
8. Increased Appetite
Some of these symptoms are a contradiction in terms. One day you’re feeling nauseous, and the next like you could eat everything off the McDonald’s menu.
It could be that you’re craving foods you wouldn’t normally eat. It might be savory things like pizza and other fast foods, or sweet things like chocolate or candy, or a particular kind of fruit. Some moms have strange cravings, such as the proverbial ice cream and pickles!
There are few hypotheses for why this happens. It could, once more, be hormonal, or it may be your body telling you what nutrients it needs (9).
Whatever the cause, an increase in appetite, especially if you aren’t feeling nauseous, can happen from about 10 days past ovulation.
9. Enlarged Breasts
Now, bigger breasts are one symptom many will welcome, while others will dread. I was in the dread camp. My already DD size cup didn’t really need any enhancement.
It’s possible you can gain a whole cup size, and that’s just during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. While mine expanded to an F cup, luckily they returned to normal — eventually.
Larger breasts can start manifesting as early as 10 DPO, and keep growing from then on (10). You may also notice a crisscrossing of blue vessels across your growing bosom, as blood flow increases to the area to prep for breastfeeding.
You are definitely riding the waves on a stormy sea during the early stages of pregnancy. Mood swings can be quite extreme. You’ll be euphoric one minute, and inconsolably down in the dumps the next.
It’s those hormones playing havoc again. Moodiness up to 4 DPO can indicate that Aunt Flow may be on her way, but between days five and seven it could swing either way, just like your mood.
If you think about all the changes that your body is undergoing, it stands to reason that everything will take a while to adjust (11).
Weepiness is something all pregnant women will likely experience. While your hormones are working hard to build a baby from scratch, an unpleasant consequence is that you may feel a little more sensitive than usual.
You might cry at the drop of a hat — I know I did. Sad films were a no-no, unless I wanted to use up a whole box of tissues. Even the wrong words at the wrong time which wouldn’t normally bother me, could set me off (12).
12. Dizzy Spells
Dizziness can be experienced during early pregnancy, especially if you aren’t eating properly, or if your blood pressure is low. It can manifest itself as early as 5 DPO.
One moment you feel fine, the next, you need to sit down as you feel faint. Luckily this symptom is usually temporary and will settle down as your pregnancy progresses. (13).
This could be the result of the egg implanting in the uterus, and seems to last anywhere from a couple of hours to a day or two. Again, this is one of those instances where you should see your doctor if you’re concerned.
For some, it could be a sign of early miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, but for most women, the pregnancy will continue to full term. If you’re concerned, your OB provider can do back-to-back blood tests to check that your pregnancy hormone levels are increasing normally.
The Bottom Line on DPO Symptoms
It’s clear that many symptoms can be experienced in the days after you ovulate (15). However, there’s only one sure way to know whether you’re pregnant or not and that’s to do a test.
What is a sure-fire thing is that every woman is different. Some might be unlucky enough to experience all the symptoms we’ve mentioned, while others may feel just a few, or none at all.
Either way, you now have some insight into what can go on in your body after that egg is released from your ovary.
Remember, if any of these symptoms cause you concern, see your health care provider for advice.
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