You’ve probably seen the show “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” and thought it was impossible to be pregnant without knowing that you’re pregnant. However, this is a little bit more common than you might think.
While most people know they are pregnant based on pregnancy test results, missed menstrual periods, or a growing belly, some individuals are surprised to experience none of the pregnancy symptoms.
Here’s everything you need to know about asymptomatic pregnancies and what specific symptoms of early pregnancy (or a lack thereof) might mean.
What Are Common Symptoms of Pregnancy?
Everyone experiences pregnancy differently, and there are certain things that you might experience while someone else might not.
So it’s important to know the usual signs of pregnancy and when to visit a doctor or healthcare provider.
First Trimester (0 to 13 Weeks)
Early pregnancy (or the first trimester of pregnancy) can often be the most overwhelming because of the significant changes happening in the body after the first missed period or menstrual cycle.
It’s a major adjustment, and many different shifts and swings occur within your body.
While you are unlikely to start noticing any early signs of pregnancy like physical changes (because the baby is still tiny inside of your womb), there are a good number of emotional and internal symptoms that are very normal.
One of the most common is morning sickness. Despite its name, this can strike anytime and can include nausea, vomiting, and food aversions.
You might also notice some increased fatigue, tiredness, or feelings of drowsiness as hormone levels rise (like progesterone and hCG).
Hormonal changes might cause breast tenderness or swelling.
It’s also common for individuals to experience frequent urination as increased blood volume causes the kidneys to need to process extra fluid.
Second Trimester (13 to 26 Weeks)
As you move into the middle part of your pregnancy, the second trimester, you’ll probably start to feel a little better. Nausea usually passes, and your baby isn’t large enough to be too uncomfortable.
However, some new symptoms are likely to occur.
Now you’ll start noticing physical changes like a growing belly and breasts as the body makes room for the baby inside. A supportive bra with wide straps can help.
Also, you’ll probably start to feel mild contractions or cramps.
These shouldn’t feel like anything more than some slight tension in the abdomen.
You can also experience digestive changes like constipation or heartburn. If cramping worsens, contact a doctor or health care professional immediately.
Other symptoms include mood swings, dark patches on the skin, increased risk of nosebleeds, sensitive gums and teeth, cramps in the legs, or increased risk of UTIs.
Many individuals also notice some vaginal discharge that is sticky, clear, or white. Discharge is normal, but if it’s an unusual color or has a strong smell, be sure to speak with your doctor.
Weight gain is noticeable, and you’ll also start to feel your baby move and shift inside your abdomen.
Many symptoms from the second trimester will carry over, but some might feel stronger, such as contractions.
Increased blood circulation may also cause red-purplish veins on the face, neck, or arms.
You might also notice that you get winded easily and have shortness of breath.
Heartburn is also common, as pregnancy hormones relax the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, making acid reflux more common.
Should I Be Concerned if I Feel No Symptoms?
If you experience a lack of symptoms during pregnancy, it’s normal to feel like something might be wrong.
Firstly, remember that symptoms vary from person to person. Secondly, while it’s uncommon to experience no symptoms while pregnant, it’s not entirely impossible.
Cryptic pregnancies, also known as stealth pregnancies, occur in one out of every 475 women.
With these, a pregnancy might go undetected or unnoticed until around the 20-week mark. And one in about 2,500 stealth pregnancies goes unrecognized until labor.
Symptoms To Watch Out For
Many people fear that an absence of symptoms might be signs of a miscarriage.
However, a miscarriage has a few specific symptoms that alert you that something is wrong.
The most common sign is vaginal bleeding, which can happen over several days.
While light spotting is normal, a miscarriage includes heavy bleeding and bright red blood clots.
Other symptoms of a miscarriage can include cramping in the lower tummy, discharge of fluid or tissue from the vagina, and loss of certain symptoms.
Light bleeding and spotting (implantation bleeding) are normal and shouldn’t cause concern. If your bleeding gets heavy, contact your doctor right away.
Changes or Loss of Symptoms
Some symptoms might come and go during pregnancy, but if you experience a sudden loss of symptoms, you should contact a doctor or OB-GYN as soon as possible.
While the loss of symptoms completely before the end of the first trimester isn’t necessarily a sign of a miscarriage, it’s best to be safer rather than sorry.
If a loss of other symptoms co-occurs alongside symptoms of miscarriage, like vaginal bleeding, it might be more of a cause for concern. Contact your doctor either way just to ensure nothing is wrong.
Why Do Asymptomatic Pregnancies Happen?
It might seem otherworldly to think about having a pregnancy without experiencing symptoms.
Sometimes, it might not have anything to do with the symptoms but rather your perceptions.
Fear or Stress
Fear or stress are common reasons someone might not experience symptoms or experience symptoms differently.
Stress and denial are powerful defense mechanisms that can change how you perceive the world around you.
Some pregnant people, especially those who do not want to be pregnant in the first place, may deny their symptoms to an extent where they believe they do not even feel them in the first place.
This is a rare phenomenon known as psychotic denial of pregnancy.
It’s most common in individuals with an underlying mental illness such as schizophrenia or those who have previously lost custody of their children.
In more minor instances, such as teenage pregnancies, individuals might simply play off their symptoms as something else entirely.
For example, they might play off abdominal pain from the womb expanding as “just some gas or bloating.”
For these reasons, it’s important to understand what pregnancy symptoms entail.
Additionally, taking a home pregnancy test after unprotected sex never hurts, as it can bring some closure and help you identify the next steps.
Individuals who are overweight or obese might fail to notice some physical changes that occur alongside a pregnancy because they might not be able to distinguish pregnancy weight gain from their typical body type.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important, even if you’re not pregnant.
Healthy eating, exercise, and sleep management can enhance your quality of life and make pregnancy symptoms more apparent once the time comes.
Inability To Feel the Baby Move
Usually, a mother-to-be will start to feel their baby move, kick, or roll between the 18 and 20-week mark.
However, there are certain situations where a mother might not feel this symptom besides a miscarriage.
If the placenta happens to be in front of the uterus, an individual might not feel the baby move.
Some babies are just not as active in the womb as others. The general rule of thumb is that you should feel at least 10 kicks every two hours during the third trimester. If you feel any less, contact a doctor.
Of course, if you have any general concerns, consult your doctor as soon as possible.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a hormonal disorder in which hormonal changes or prolonged periods can cause cysts to form on the ovaries.
Cysts can make it difficult to release eggs regularly, making it more difficult to become pregnant.
Individuals with PCOS often experience very few or very subtle symptoms while pregnant.
And since it is difficult to conceive, some mothers might not even realize they are pregnant until the second trimester.
It’s Too Early
Many people have the misconception that you’ll start to feel pregnancy symptoms right after conception.
However, the reality is that you may not begin to notice anything until around the second half of the first trimester.
Early in pregnancy, most of the changes happening are so minute that they do not cause recognizable symptoms.
A lack of symptoms early on doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, but if you’re hoping to start noticing signs, give it a few more weeks.
Not to mention, some mothers expect the worst when it comes to pregnancy symptoms, but the reality is that everyone feels them differently.
You might think you’re not pregnant just because the symptoms don’t feel as severe as you were expecting them to be.
The only accurate way to know if you’re pregnant during the first half of the first trimester is by getting a positive pregnancy test.
Even then, false negative pregnancy tests are possible, and getting a negative test even when you’re pregnant might also cause you to misattribute your symptoms to something else entirely.
Feeling no symptoms while pregnant is rare, but it’s not entirely impossible. One in every 2,500 pregnancies is asymptomatic up until labor.
It’s normal not to feel any symptoms for the first few weeks, and symptoms can also come and go as you move through each trimester.
However, if you experience a sudden loss of symptoms accompanied by vaginal bleeding or severe abdominal cramping, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
Additionally, things like fear or stress, PCOS, weight gain, or false negative pregnancy tests might make it difficult to distinguish pregnancy signs from other factors.
In general, keep in contact with your doctor after unprotected sex to ensure everything runs smoothly from start to finish.
References, Studies and Sources:
Bridget Reed is a Tampa-based content development manager, writer, and editor at GR0; specializing in content related to varying fields including medicine, health, and small businesses. Bridget went to St. Petersburg College and majored in Management and Organizational Leadership.
Recent Publications: Body Acne 101: Prevention and Treatment, Stress Acne: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment, What are the Side Effects of Midol?