Maybe you’ve been feeling a little off the last few days or your period did not arrive when you expected it and now you’re thinking, "Am I pregnant?" Here are a few of the most common symptoms of pregnancy to help you determine if you should take a pregnancy test:
You can develop sensitive breasts, even before your period is due, which can be shown in a feeling of fullness, tingling, and soreness in the nipples and breasts. This can feel like a more extreme version of how your breasts feel before your period.
You may also experience darkening areolas during the early stages of pregnancy due to the hormone change, which triggers an increase of melanin which can cause a darker skin pigment. More pronounced veins around your breasts may also be noticeable from extra blood flow.
Fatigue is common in early pregnancy as your body is working in over time. It's possible that rapidly increasing levels of the hormone progesterone are contributing to your sleepiness as well as other discomforts from pregnancy, like frequent urination or nausea.
You may see a spot of pink or brown blood and think your period is starting but it could also be implantation spotting, which can happen when the fertilized egg burrows into the uterus lining. This type of bleeding is usually much lighter than a period, lighter in color, and does not last as long. It also may happen a few days before you may expect your period, or around the same time, depending on when the egg implants. Cramping that feels like menstrual cramping is also very common in early pregnancy as your uterus begins to prepare and expand.
Another well-known symptom can be nausea or vomiting, also known as morning sickness. For some women it may be a first clue to potentially being pregnant but for others, this sign may not arrive until around 6 weeks. Nausea may be with or without vomiting. Food aversions can go hand in hand with nausea. While on the other hand, cravings may be a sign for you as well.
Pregnancy hormones cause an increase in blood circulation. As blood vessels dilate it may trigger dizziness when standing up or cause mild headaches.
The rise of hormones can affect everyone differently but mood swings can be common throughout this process. It may make you feel a little less like you at times, but rest assured it is very common throughout pregnancy. Note: If you've been feeling sad or hopeless or unable to cope with your daily responsibilities, or you're having thoughts of harming yourself, call your healthcare provider or a mental health professional right away.
Hormonal changes can prompt blood flow to your kidneys which can cause your bladder to fill quicker than normal, leading to frequent urination. As your uterus expands, it also puts pressure on your bladder and can intensify as pregnancy continues.
You may also develop a heightened sense of smell which can trigger the nausea and vomiting you might be experiencing.
Of course, some of these signs can resemble PMS symptoms and it can be a guessing game until you finally take a test or your period arrives. But if you have been keeping track and your period hasn’t arrived, it might be time to take a test to check if you are pregnant.
If you wait until your period is late before testing, you should get a clear positive or negative by then. If you desire, it is possible to take a test earlier by using a test sensitive enough. A very faint line may show up and you may need to take another to confirm. There is also a chance you might get a false negative, where it appears negative even though you really are pregnant. In both cases, keep testing or consult your doctor until either your period comes or you get a clear positive.
Pregnancy tests measure a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) that the placenta starts to secrete into the blood stream and urine once implantation takes place (usually around 6-12 days past ovulation). There are different kinds of tests but the two general ways of testing are looking for hCG levels in urine or blood. A blood test would be done by your health care provider and may also measure the amount of hormones which helps determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.
An at home pregnancy test using urine is convenient and private and often the route many women take. Pregnancy tests can be purchased at any grocery store, drug store, on the internet, and even at dollar stores. It is best to test after you have missed your period so the results should be very clear.
- Don’t discount cheap pregnancy tests. They can be just as sensitive and accurate as name brands. A dollar store, Walmart, eBay, and Amazon can be great places to purchase tests.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure test is used properly. Different brands vary slightly, some ask you to take the test first thing in the morning after you wake up as your hCG levels will be potentially the most detectable at this time.
- There are 3 different kinds of at home tests: midstream, cassette, and dip sticks. Each require urine but applied in different ways. The most common are midstream, where you collect your sample as you urinate for the recommended amount of time. Cassettes are a little plastic square where you apply urine with a dropper after collecting urine in a cup. A dip stick allows you to gather your sample in a cup and dip the test into it for several seconds.
- Use a cup to collect your urine sample, no matter what kind of test you choose to take. It can make it easier for you if you have shaking, nervous hands as well as be more efficient if you collect it in a cup.
- Read the results at the time suggested on the instructions. If you try to read your results right away and it appears negative, a positive could develop a few minutes later. If you read your results at the time suggested and it is negative, don’t go back and look again an hour later. Evaporation lines can occur making it appear to be a positive result when you are not pregnant. So if the directions say to read at 5 minutes, set a timer and trust it.
- If you get a negative but still miss your period, try again in 2 days. The hormone hCG usually doubles every 48 hours the first few weeks, so if you are pregnant, levels will rise over time to be more easily detected. Or, contact your medical provider for a blood test.
- Of course, once you get a positive, make sure to schedule an appointment with your provider to confirm and begin prenatal care.
Calculating your Due Date
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, the next thing you will want to know is when the baby is expected to arrive. Typically, pregnancy lasts 40 weeks or 280 days following the first day of your last menstrual period.
One way to calculate your due date, assuming you generally have a 28 day cycle, is to begin by marking the first day you started bleeding (your last menstrual period or LMP). Add 7 days to that day, and count back 3 months. For instance, if you started bleeding on Sept 3, add 7 days to get Sept 9, then subtract 3 months and your due date is June 9. Another way is to add 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period.
Don’t want to do the math yourself? A very simple way to calculate the due date is to use a pregnancy calculator. Pregnancy calculators can be found on numerous websites. Often a pregnancy calculator will do more than just calculate your due date. Some pregnancy calculators will give you additional information, such as telling you what stage of growth and development the baby is at, or provide an illustration of what the baby looks like at this point.
It is important to note that no pregnancy calculator can pinpoint the exact day you will give birth or how your baby is progressing through significant milestones. Each pregnancy is unique and your baby can arrive before or after the calculated due date. Only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date but calculating your due date will give you a good idea of when to expect your baby.
If your periods are irregular or if you don’t remember the date of the start of your last period, there are other ways to calculate your due date. One is to add 38 weeks to the date of conception. If you are still unsure, your doctor can help you calculate the due date by checking the size of your uterus to determine how many weeks along you are. Some practitioners might do an early ultrasound, but not always. The ultrasound will ascertain the size of the baby and provide a good frame of reference for how far along you are. As your pregnancy progresses, your doctor can track developmental milestones to calculate the due date.
Be sure to talk to your health care provider about your due date at your appointments. As he or she monitors the growth and health of the baby, your due date might shift forward or backward slightly. Go ahead and schedule your first prenatal appointment as soon as you know you are pregnant. Your doctor will perform some screenings and tests to make sure you and your baby remain healthy throughout the pregnancy.
About a week after conception, a growing ball of cells implants on the wall of your uterus. This growth is the baby’s embryotic stage where most major body organs are developed. During this time it is important to avoid any substances that could harm the baby. Most birth defects and miscarriages happen in this trimester.
By the 9th week, the embryo is now called a fetus and is now a little more than 1 inch long and has developed far beyond a cluster of cells.
During the second trimester, the morning sickness has usually subsided and you will be able to learn if you are having a boy or girl. Sometime between week 16 and week 20, you might feel the little flutters of your baby moving. Some women have an increase in energy during the second trimester.
However, you might experience new symptoms as your pregnancy continues. Leg cramps, heartburn and constipation. Your regular sleep position is no longer comfortable and you may want to use pillows for support.
Your doctor will do a sonogram this trimester to measure the growth of the baby and screen for any problems. During the sonogram you will learn the sex of the baby if you want to know. You are also tested for gestational diabetes.
Your fetus is about 10 inches long at the end of this trimester.
A full-term pregnancy can be anywhere between 37-42 weeks. The baby grows faster than it has during any other trimester and organs mature. The baby will move quite a bit at the beginning of this trimester with movement slowing down as delivery gets closer and there is less “wiggle” room.
The baby’s head will generally descend into the pelvis in preparation for delivery, but this will also trigger the need to pee since baby is resting on your bladder. Some women experience swelling and varicose veins, not to mention back pain. Try to put your feet up when you can and wear comfortable shoes.
You should be seeing your doctor more frequently and your vital signs and general health will be assed at your visits. Ask your doctor any questions you have as you prepare for delivery.