I hate to brag, but after more than 24 cycles of trying to conceive, I am something of an expert on the early pregnancy symptoms that people report on fertility-related message boards, which I will not link to because (a) I have vowed never to enter an early pregnancy symptoms post again, or at least not during this cycle, (b) I have all the symptoms memorized, anyway, and (c) I would like to keep any neophytes away from such posts, for their own good. But it is safe to say that I've done my research.
Moreover, I can be quite imaginative and empathetically hypochondriacal, and so in the heady early days of TTC (and, later, the post-lap period and the early IVF era), I detected and/or persuaded myself that I was feeling these symptoms. As a result of this pioneering research, I can now bring you a list of some of the most commonly cited symptoms and possible alternative explanations.* If this saves even one desperate, imaginative, Dr.-Google-consulting IFer from wasting hours and hours wondering if maybe, maybe, she is knocked up (instead of just waiting a couple of days and then peeing on a stick), then my efforts shall have been worth all the heartache. With the time I have spent poring over these posts and analyzing my body, I could have written a hit screenplay that might have paid for more fertility treatments.
So here goes:
Possible explanation: You're pregnant!
Alternative explanations: Progesterone is making your boobs hurt. Or: that vise grip you've had on them for the last week (in order to check to see if they hurt) has resulted in bruises, which hurt.
Cramps that feel just like AF:
Possible explanation: Your uterus is expanding, since you're pregnant!
Alternative explanations: Your ovaries are each the size of your cat's head, and your uterus resents the fact that they're occupying all the real estate down there. Or: AF might be coming. Or: those are actually bowel cramps, indicating that perhaps you shouldn't have ordered the large seaweed salad or chased it with the cheese course. Or: so great are your psychosomatic powers that you have willed your uterus to cramp, in which case I acknowledge your accomplishment.
Possible explanation: Your body is producing temperature-raising progesterone, because you're pregnant!
Alternative explanations: If you're doing IVF, you're injecting progesterone into your body every day, duh. Or: you're in such a frenzy of anxiety and anticipation at all times that you've pushed up your own body temperature. Yes, thank you, I am well known for this feat.
Discharge down thar:
Possible explanation: Your body is producing lots of fluid and plugging up your cervix in anticipation of 38 more weeks of pregnancy!
Alternative explanations: If you produce a solid amount of progesterone on a normal cycle, you probably have always done this and are only noticing it now, since why would you notice it normally, since, uh, gross? Or: drugs!
Possible explanation: Your body is slowing down its digestion to get all the nutrients out of every bite you eat! You know, so it can feed your baby!
Alternative explanations: You've upped your fiber intake since you're TTC. Or: see seaweed salad comment, above.
Possible explanation: Your body is working overtime to clear toxins from your body! Since you're knocked up! (Note that I just made this explanation up.)
Alternative explanations: You're drinking water since you're TTC. Or: you always pee all the time. Or: you want to be peeing all the time since it would mean you're pregnant, so this makes you have to go more often. Or: someone has just told you you can't go to the bathroom for ten hours, which makes you have to go now.
The cat food smells bad:
Possible explanation: Pregnancy hormones have made your nose attuned to smells, perhaps to keep you from eating something rancid and endangering your baby-to-be.
Alternative explanation: The cat food always smells bad - you just don't normally get so close or indulge in a long, wine-sniffing snort of the stuff.
Metallic taste in your mouth:
Possible explanation: I have no idea. But you're pregnant!
Alternative explanations: You've been sucking on a penny. Or: your powers of psychosomatic conjuring are so great that you've created this sensation, in which case I bow humbly before you, because even I have never been able to feel this one.
Glass in your nipples:
Possible explanation: Pregnancy hormones are making your nipples grow and expand into disturbing, dark, saucer-sized entities.
Alternative explanation: Progesterone in oil.
Insomnia and nightmares:
Possible explanation: Your brain is detecting subtle changes in your pregnant body, and it is processing this rather major development.
Alternative explanations: This is merely a symptom of being (a) in the 2ww, (b) infertile, or, (c) in the most severe cases, in the 2ww and infertile.
Possible explanation: Your uterus is cramping as it expands, and so your sleeping mind tries to create a scenario around this physical sensation, which then results in some sort of pleasurable dream, which in turn creates a pleasurable physical sensation.
Alternative explanations: This is the one feint by the universe towards rectifying the injustice you're suffering; enjoy. Or: you're horny! (Note: this explanation is less likely if you are on your sixth (or higher) unsuccessful natural TTC cycle, in which case you may feel you never want to have sex again.)
Possible explanation: Your body is in overdrive, trying to raise a good citizen of the world!
Alternative explanations: Progesterone. Or: all that hoping has worn you out. Or: insomnia and nightmares (see above).
Possible explanation: Pregnancy hormones are upsetting your tummy, which doesn't seem to make much sense, but then neither does your appendix.
Alternative explanation: You've been sniffing too much cat food.
Blue veins in boobs and stomach:
Possible explanation: Because you are working to support two lives, your circulatory system has to ramp up majorly - hence the visible veins.
Alternative explanation: You are descended from a long line of pallid, possibly inbred people of Northern European heritage, and your skin is always translucent; also, you were looking at yourself underneath fluorescent lights.
* Please note that I have no medical training and, in fact, haven't taken any science classes since I was in high school, except for "physics for poets" in college, which was one of my worst grades. Moreover, I have a short attention span and tend only to solipsistically read through studies that have direct bearing on my personal situation. Also, I am not very smart.