Presumptive, Probable and Positive Signs of Pregnancy

Am I Pregnant?

If you’re trying to get pregnant you may ask this question with hope and excitement. If you’re not trying to get pregnant, you may ask it with apprehension and concern. Either way, it’s nice to know whether you have a bun in the oven as soon as possible. What is it that prompts women to say, “Could I be pregnant?” Let’s find out.

Presumptive, Probable and Positive

The signs of pregnancy come in three categories: presumptive, probable and positive. “Presumptive” means “presumed in the absence of further information.” If you have certain symptoms, you may presume that you are pregnant, but you really can’t be sure. There may be other things causing your symptoms. “Probable” indicates that if you have certain symptoms, you can be pretty sure that you are pregnant, but there is still a chance that something else is going on to account for your symptoms. “Positive,” of course, means there’s no doubt.

Presumptive Signs of Pregnancy

Sometimes a headache or dizziness is your first sign of pregnancy, as it was for me. Other times, a headache is just a headache. So how do you know? You can’t, really, unless you have one of the positive signs of pregnancy. But having two or more of these symptoms certainly gives you a reason to investigate further.

Amenorrhea is a fancy word that means you stop having your period. While this is a pretty obvious sign that something is different in your body, pregnancy is not the only thing this can indicate. Menstruation can also stop if your hormones are imbalanced, you have nutritional deficiencies, or you’re under a lot of stress. There are a variety of other reasons your period may stop as well, so check with a doctor if this is your only sign of pregnancy.  

Fatigue is common in early pregnancy, but is by no means limited to pregnant women. Changes in hormones can make you sleepy and sluggish. If you have fatigue in combination with other symptoms, it could indicate pregnancy.

Enlarged, sore breasts are a common first sign of pregnancy. As your body prepares for breastfeeding, your breasts may feel tender, sore, or even tingly. 

Back pain may be something you associate with late pregnancy but it can be common in early pregnancy. This is due to the ligaments in your body softening and stretching, which can put strain on your joints. 

a woman with back pain

Dizziness or Lightheadedness strikes early in pregnancy and can last the full 40 weeks, though it is more common in the first trimester. You may feel dizzy when pregnant because hormones cause your blood vessels to widen and relax, which lowers your blood pressure. There may be a lot of reasons that you feel dizzy, however, so watch for other presumptive signs of pregnancy. 

Mood swings are easy to explain in a pregnant woman, who’s body is raging with hormones. Increased estrogen can lead to anxiety, irritability and depression, whereas progesterone can cause fatigue and sadness. If you experience mood swings with PMS, you’re more likely to experience them when pregnant.

Constipation is common in pregnancy as the new flood of hormones, namely progesterone, slows your digestion. Fiber, fluids and exercise are the best remedies for constipation.

Quickening refers to fetal movements, normally detectable between 16 and 20 weeks. It seems unlikely that this would be the first time you notice something is different in your body, and since it can sometimes feel very similar to gas, it is not a positive or even a probable sign of pregnancy.

Poor sleep sadly afflicts most pregnant women in their first trimester. This can be due to a variety of reasons, including increased need to urinate, back pain, and heartburn, to name a few.

Food cravings and aversions usually accompany nausea and vomiting in the first trimester. This may be due to fluctuations in hormones. One study showed that food aversions typically start earlier and last longer than cravings.

Heartburn in early pregnancy comes from the same changes in digestion that can cause constipation. It could be that something you normally enjoy starts to give you trouble. The heartburn usually gets worse when you lie down (which isn’t great news for sleeping). 

Nasal congestion occurs when increased blood production (remember that your blood volume doubles when pregnant) causes your mucous membranes to swell, which leads to nasal congestion. Since this can be caused by something as simple as allergies, it alone cannot indicate pregnancy.

Shortness of breath is caused by our good friend, progesterone. It’s important in maintaining the uterine lining, but it can also cause you to feel short of breath, probably because it increases the amount of air you inhale and exhale. 

Elevated basal body temperature is something you will only be aware of if you’re monitoring for it. The basal body temperature method is used by some to predict ovulation, either to attempt to get pregnant or to avoid getting pregnant. If you’re using this method, noticing an elevated temperature may be a clue that you’re pregnant!

Spider veins can occur not only on your legs, but also on your face. Unlike varicose veins, spider veins are small and delicate, and typically look more red than blue. Happily, most people can’t feel them, unlike varicose veins, which can be painful.

Vivid Dreams may be caused by hormone changes, and may be scary or intense.

Implantation cramping or bleeding are less common, but possible. 30% of women experience implantation cramping, while 1 in 3 experience bleeding. Both should be mild and not last more than 2 days. 

An increased need to urinate is another symptom that you may think would come later, when the weight of the baby is pressing down on your bladder, but women can begin to feel the need to pee more often as early as 6 weeks pregnant. This is because your blood volume doubles, and the extra fluid needed to maintain that blood fills your bladder more quickly.

Nausea in pregnancy can strike at any time, not only in the morning. It usually starts between 6 and 9 weeks pregnant, and typically lasts until 16 weeks. Nausea can indicate pregnancy whether or not you ever vomit. 

an open toilet

Remember that these are signs that you may be pregnant that each have other possible causes. The more of them that you have, the more likely it is that you are pregnant.

Probable Signs of Pregnancy

These are signs that you are very likely pregnant. You cannot be 100% sure, but there are few other explanations for these signs.

A soft cervix, also known as Goodell’s sign, can occur as early as 4 weeks of pregnancy.  The cervix, which normally feels like touching the tip of the nose, will feel more like lips when a woman has conceived. You can check this yourself if you’re trying to conceive, though a pregnancy test is probably easier.

Increased pigmentation is common in pregnancy, though it usually doesn’t show up until the second trimester, at which time you will probably already know that you are pregnant. This increased pigmentation can show up on your face, which is sometimes called the mask of pregnancy, or as a line going down from your belly button, called the linea nigra. 

A positive pregnancy test. That’s right, medically speaking, a positive pregnancy test is only a probable sign of pregnancy. It is possible to have a false positive on a pregnancy test, which is why this is classified as a probable sign. However, since the chances of a false positive are so low, most people will take this as a positive sign of pregnancy. 

Positive Signs of Pregnancy

If you have any of these signs of pregnancy, there is no doubt that you are pregnant. There is no other explanation for these signs.

A fetus detected via ultrasound is definitely a positive sign of pregnancy. If your pregnancy is considered high-risk, you’ll likely get an ultrasound between 6 and 8 weeks. If not, you may have either a dating ultrasound between 10 and 13 weeks to assess the baby’s size, and/or at 18-20 weeks to survey the baby’s organs and find his or her gender. Whenever it takes place, it’s an event you’ll always remember!

  an ultrasound

Hearing a fetal heartbeat via doppler can mean only one thing. There’s a baby growing! There are at-home fetal Dopplers, or you can wait until your first appointment (usually at 12 weeks) to hear your baby’s rhythm.  

A doctor or nurse feeling or seeing fetal movement can also confirm your pregnancy. Unlike you feeling the movements, which can be gas mistaken for fetal movement, this sign is undeniable!  

You birth a baby. While this seems pretty silly, it’s considered a positive sign of pregnancy! You have to admit, at that point, there can be no doubt!

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