Most women are familiar with the common signs of early pregnancy. Things like morning sickness and food aversions are so inextricably linked to indicating a pregnancy that some women may find themselves the target of “suspicion” simply for mentioning their presence. If you’re trying to conceive, you’re no doubt even more familiar with these first indicators of conception.
Most pregnant women begin to present symptoms between two and three weeks into their pregnancy, but those on the journey toward conception may be on the hunt for indicators that can appear sooner than that. These indicators are called DPO symtoms; DPO refers to the days past ovulation, generally encompassing the days within a two week span post-ovulation and conception. Understanding and recognizing the presence of DPO symptoms is easier when you understand exactly how your menstrual cycle progresses.
An In-depth Look At Your Menstrual Cycle
Though most of us are basically familiar with the way our menstrual cycle works, certain details such as the timing of hormone release and how to track the window in which conception is possible aren’t usually addressed in health class. Taking a closer look at the way your menstrual cycle operates can help you gain a better understanding of when to look for DPO pregnancy symptoms.
- Proliferative Stage: This stage occurs after the “end” and before the “beginning” of your ongoing cycle, acting as a natural reboot which overlaps the proceeding follicular stage. During this time, your pituitary gland, which is your body’s primary hormone regulator, releases a hormone which stimulates your ovarian follicles to trigger the release of eggs within the ovary. These follicles, also called corpus luteum cells, then release a group of about 15 to 20 eggs as well as a burst of estrogen. This estrogen triggers the thickening of your uterine lining, which is intended to create an environment where an egg can safely implant if one is successfully fertilized.
- Follicular Stage: This stage marks the technical “beginning” of your cycle, and lasts approximately two weeks. At this time, your key reproductive hormones, which are estrogen and progesterone, are at the lowest point in your cycle — their levels begin to rise as your cycle progresses. The estrogen which was released during the proliferative stage is working its magic in your womb and thickening the lining; toward the end of the follicular stage, that same gradual raise in estrogen will trigger the release of luteinizing hormone, the hormone which is tracked by ovulation prediction tests. When your corpus luteum cells (egg follicles) receive luteinizing hormones, ovulation is triggered, and your largest egg — or eggs — release from the ovary to the fallopian tube.
- Ovulation Stage: t this time, your body is actively preparing to become pregnant or menstruate depending on what happens during the next few days. Both your estrogen and progesterone levels are on the rise, and your cervical mucus is altering itself to play a more effective role in conception, becoming stretchy, translucent, and thin; this is more accommodating to incoming sperm. About two weeks into your cycle, when ovulation occurs, the egg or eggs which have been released from your ovary will travel through your fallopian tube and into your uterus. The presence of viable sperm anywhere on this journey could lead to a fertilized egg. This is a very brief window of time, which spans approximately half a day to a day, and it can be easy to miss. That said, sperm are tough to kill, and they can survive (and fertilize an egg) within your body for about five days. This is one reason the rhythm method of preventing pregnancy can sometimes prove ineffective.
- Luteal Stage:The penultimate moment in conception; during the luteal phase, your corpus luteum cells, otherwise known as the follicles which released your egg(s), begin to release progesterone rather than estrogen. This works to soften the lining of your womb, which creates an environment in the uterus that accommodates implantation. Even if an egg has been fertilized, it can take between six and twelve days for implantation to be complete; progesterone levels do continue to rise during this time. If implantation has occurred during your luteal stage, a new hormone will quickly make its way into the mix. It’s called human chorionic gonadotropin, abbreviated as hCG, and it’s the hormone that triggers a positive pregnancy test. If no HCG is detected, the corpus luteum cells shrink up, and the levels of progesterone and estrogen in your body drop. This begins the initiation of menstruation, or the shedding of this softened uterine lining, which is again followed by the proliferative stage as your cycle begins anew.
DPO: The Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Now that you’ve taken an in-depth look at how your cycle works, you understand that the possible outcomes of your menstrual cycle diverge during the luteal phase depending on whether or not fertilization and implantation occur. There are certain symptoms that women can look to during this time as potential indicators of pregnancy, but everyone is different; the fact that many of these symptoms are associated with both premenstrual syndrome and early pregnancy certainly doesn’t take any confusion out of the process.
Keeping that in mind, take a closer look at the most common DPO pregnancy symptoms in order of the dates they may occur to get a better idea of what you may be able to expect. You may even begin to notice small changes at only one day past ovulation.
1 Day Past Ovulation
- Breast and nipple tenderness: Sore breasts and nipples are an extremely common symptom of early pregnancy, as blood flow is increasing to the area in order to prepare your body for eventual nursing. This soreness can also be linked to your time of ovulation in general, but tends to be more pronounced when it is caused by pregnancy. It’s a symptom that can make life a bit difficult and uncomfortable for a while, especially if you were already working with a large bustline, but maternity and sports bras that offer plenty of thorough support with a wide band and straps are ideal for relieving your discomfort.
5 Days Past Ovulation
- Problems with emotional regulation: It’s hard to miss the fact that hormones can send your moods both high and low depending on the day and situation, but like tenderness, mood swings are linked to an oncoming period as well. Though it can be hard to differentiate when you’re on top of the world one moment and crying into your Wheaties the next, taking a look at how many days beyond ovulation you are can put this symptom into context. If you’re weepy between one and four days beyond ovulation, you’re probably getting your period. If it’s happening after day five, it could be either, but the possibility of pregnancy should be considered.
- Feeling dizzy: Though it’s not as commonly associated with early pregnancy as hormonal mood swings and morning sickness, dizziness is something many pregnant women experience, and it can happen as soon as five days past ovulation. More often than not, it’s triggered by low blood pressure or sugar as caused by a need for a more sufficient or nutritious diet, but it can also be associated with hormonal changes. Dizzy spells may come and go, but typically aren’t an ongoing pregnancy symptom; most women who struggle with them have left them behind by the time their first trimester ends.
6 Days Past Ovulation
- Uterine cramping: Naturally, this symptom can lead to confusion or disappointment in women who are trying to conceive, but a cramping sensation that’s similar to menstruation is almost universally common in early pregnancy. Your womb is expanding and preparing for the growth of your child, causing sensations that are quite near to those caused by your period, including pressure and small, sharp pains. These cramps are associated with implantation of a blastocyst, or fertilized egg, and can happen as soon as six days ovulation. There’s no need to contact your OB-GYN unless the pain is unusually severe or you’ve tested positive for pregnancy and are having heavy bleeding or ongoing light bleeding lasting beyond a day.
- Spotting and/or bleeding: Again, this is a symptom that can be cause for concern or disappointment in those trying to conceive, but it can also be an indicator that a fertilized egg has implanted in the wall of your uterus. Light to moderate spotting or bleeding called implantation bleeding can occur when this happens, and generally lasts for between 12 and 24 hours. This can occur between six and twelve days past ovulation. If you’re detecting hCG via test and are concerned about this bleeding, a trip to your doctor may ease your mind a bit. Though this bleeding can be an indicator of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, the latter is fairly rare, and back to back blood tests which can detect increases in hCG can reassure you and your doctor that everything is okay.
9 Days Past Ovulation
- Increased rate of urination: Your mother and grandmother may have warned you about the number of times you’d find yourself running to the potty once you were with child, but you probably envisioned the cause as a several-pound baby sitting firmly on your bladder. Though that certainly doesn’t help, increased urination can begin as soon as nine days past ovulation. Hormones associated with your pregnancy increase your blood flow throughout your body, including your kidneys, which in turn makes your bladder fill up a good bit faster. The total volume of blood in your body also increases during your pregnancy, meaning more blood is passing through your kidneys in general resulting in more waste and a fuller bladder. We’d love to tell you this symptom will ease off soon, but moms don’t see much relief from their increased need for bathroom time until after baby arrives.
- Sudden super-smelling: Although science continues to puzzle over the exact hormonal cause of this symptom, quite a few pregnant women experience a sudden sensitivity to smells that can occur as soon as nine days past ovulation. This can play an unfortunate role in morning sickness, as strong smells like coffee and fried food, even if previously enjoyed, can trigger bouts of intense nausea and vomiting.
10 Days Past Ovulation
- Feeling extra exhausted: Pregnancy is physically exhausting to be sure — not only are you carrying the extra weight of your baby and your increased blood volume, but your energy and nutrients are being put toward the growth of your baby with little left for you. Intense exhaustion appearing as early as 10 days past ovulation as common, and if you’re able to sleep, do so; the extra rest won’t do any harm at all.
- Morning sickness and food aversions: Though some women struggle with severe morning sickness throughout their pregnancy, called hyperemesis gravidarum, most move past these unpleasant feelings of nausea and occasional vomiting by the second trimester if they’re ever felt at all. It remains one of the most common pregnancy symptoms, and can happen as soon as ten days past ovulation. Though it can occur at one time of day continually, it gives no real regard to morning, and as such has been given something of a misnomer; less fortunate women may experience it all day long in early pregnancy. Though the exact scientific cause is unclear, it may be related to an increased sense of smell and scent aversions as well as increased progesterone which may give rise to a sluggish gut and indigestion.
- A boost in appetite: You may be a bit surprised at just how soon your body will let you know you’re eating for two. In fact, you may alternate between feeling extremely hungry and extremely sick, and craving things that are far outside your usual wheelhouse isn’t an unusual occurrence for this time. These cravings can be triggered by hormones, but may also be caused by your body letting you know it requires a certain nutrient — a good prenatal vitamin can do wonders in abating so-called “weird” cravings.
- Increased cup size: Whether you’re excited about this natural increase to your bustline or simply dealing with it as yet another pregnancy symptom, it’s one that’s virtually unavoidable. In fact, you may find yourself having grown a full cup size or more by the time your first trimester ends! Though soreness can start sooner, you may note physical changes to your breasts as soon as ten days past ovulation. They generally won’t return to their original size until you’ve finished breastfeeding for good; the development of stretch marks and visible blue veins during this time is perfectly normal, as these veins are indicating the increased blood flow that’s needed to prepare your body to eventually nurse.
Our Final Word on DPO Symptoms
As we’ve established, there are quite a few potential early indicators of pregnancy, and at least one can happen as soon as a single day past ovulation. Of course, a test to detect hCG in your urine is your best bet for a solid early indicator of pregnancy, but having a deeper knowledge of what your body is doing and when can make the appearance of some symptoms easier to interpret. As always, it’s best to seek the guidance of your doctor/OB-GYN when trying to conceive and when making an official determination of pregnancy.