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How to Determine if You Are Pregnant.
Whether you’re trying to conceive or you are concerned about an unintended pregnancy, evaluating the symptoms of early pregnancy can be confusing.
Hormone changes can produce a wide variety of symptoms, but since every woman’s body is different, your specific symptoms may vary.
The only way to know for sure whether you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test.
That said, careful evaluation of your monthly menstrual cycle and of physical changes in your body can provide you with important clues.
Assessing Changes in Your Monthly Cycle
Determine whether you have missed your period.
Missing a menstrual period is the most common sign of pregnancy.
It is important to note, however, that not all missed or delayed periods are the result of pregnancy.
Also, some women may experience mild bleeding during pregnancy.
If this is the case for you, consult your doctor about what level of bleeding might pose a concern.
If you have missed your period, evaluate whether this may be due to non-pregnancy related reasons such as:
Gaining or losing a great deal of weight.
Non-pregnancy related hormone problems.
- Recently ending a prescription for birth control pills.
Assess any spotting or cramping you may be experiencing.
Ten to 14 days following conception, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of a woman’s uterus.
This process can cause minor spotting and cramping.
This is called implantation bleeding, and it is easily mistaken for premenstrual symptoms.
If you suspect you may be pregnant, keep track of these symptoms and watch to see if they develop into a full-fledged menstrual cycle.
If they don’t, you may be pregnant.
Evaluate changes in your vaginal discharge.
Many women begin to experience an increased volume of white, milky vaginal discharge almost immediately following conception.
This harmless discharge is caused by an increase in the growth of the cells lining your vagina, and may continue throughout pregnancy.
Often, women experience varying levels of discharge over the course of a normal menstrual cycle.
If you notice changes or a new degree of persistence in the level of discharge you experience, you may be pregnant.
Contact your doctor if the color of your discharge changes and is accompanied by a smell, pain, or an itching or burning sensation;
these symptoms are signs of a yeast or bacterial infection and they may also indicate an STD like trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia.
Take your temperature.
Your basal body temperature — your temperature when you first wake up in the morning — rises during the last two weeks of your menstrual cycle and then drops once your period begins.
If you’ve been tracking your basal body temperature as part of an attempt to get pregnant, watch to see if your temperature remains elevated.
If it does, it may be a sign of pregnancy.
Evaluating Other Physical Changes
Consider any changes in your breasts.
Rapidly changing hormone levels may cause your breasts to become swollen, sore, or tingly as soon as one to two weeks into a pregnancy.
They may feel heavier or fuller, or tender to the touch.
The area around your nipples, called the areola, may also darken or grow in size.
Determine whether you're feeling nauseous.
Nausea, often referred to as “morning sickness,” affects 70 to 85 percent of pregnant women.
Despite the “morning sickness” label, nausea can occur at any time of day, though morning is most common.
The exact cause of this common symptom is unknown, but pregnancy hormones likely play a leading role.
You may find yourself craving (or repulsed by) certain foods.
You may also find yourself more sensitive to smells.
If you find yourself experiencing this symptom, you may experience relief around weeks 13 or 14.
Unfortunately, however, some women do experience nausea throughout their pregnancy.
You may lessen your symptoms by using a variety of tactics:
Eat small, frequent meals.
While this may seem counterintuitive, eating something may actually help to calm your stomach.
Rest as much as you can.
Choose bland foods without strong smells.
Saltine crackers, oyster crackers, or unsweetened dry cereals may be good choices for snacks.
Drink ginger tea or suck on ginger candies.
Note increased fatigue.
Pregnancy may make you feel more tired as soon as one week following conception.
Pregnancy hormones will direct your body to start increasing its blood volume so you can provide for both you and your baby.
This can lower your blood pressure and your blood sugar levels — and leave you feeling exhausted.
Evaluate whether you're urinating more frequently.
Pregnancy causes your kidneys to work harder. Your increased blood volume means they must filter extra fluid.
As a result, even early in pregnancy you may find yourself making extra trips to the bathroom.
If you have a burning sensation with urination, then this may be a sign of infection.
Assess whether you feel constipated.
Pregnancy hormones slow your digestive cycle so that additional nutrients can reach the fetus.
Hormones can also relax the muscles that push waste through your digestive tract.
Gauge your mood
Pregnancy hormones can take a toll on your body, resulting in mood swings over the course of your first trimester.
While these changes in your mood may feel similar to symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), persistent mood changes without a period following are a potential sign of pregnancy.
You may experience mood swings both due to physical changes and for emotional reasons.
Consult your doctor if you find that changes in your mood are damaging your ability to cope with daily life.
Note if you're feeling more dizzy -- or fainting.
Your blood vessels dilate during pregnancy as your blood volume increases.
This can contribute to lower blood pressure or blood sugar, and cause you to become dizzy or faint
Understand what pregnancy tests are looking for.
Pregnancy tests examine either your blood or your urine to detect the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
This hormone is produced by the placenta shortly after an embryo attaches to the uterine lining.
While hCG builds up quickly in your body over the first few days of pregnancy, testing too quickly can produce a negative result.
If your pregnancy test is negative but you experience a variety of other symptoms, it’s a good idea to re-test.
Purchase a urine test.
Home pregnancy kits test urine in one of two ways.
Some tests require you to collect urine in a cup and either dip a test stick into the urine, or place some urine into a special container using an eyedropper.
Other tests require you to place a test stick into the path of your urine stream and catch the urine midstream — in short, you urinate on the stick.
How long you wait for a result may vary, so follow your kit’s instructions carefully. You’ll be looking for a chance in color or the appearance of a line or other symbol.
Most urine tests have a “control indicator” line or symbol that should appear regardless of your test results as an assurance the test is working.
Be sure this control indicator is working — if not, your test is likely invalid.
Always check the test’s expiration date to ensure it will give you accurate results.
It’s best to wait until at least the first missed day of your period before taking a urine exam.
This will likely be about two weeks following conception.
If your test turns out negative but you continue to experience other symptoms, re-take the test in a week.
Urine tests are 97 percent accurate when performed correctly.
Contact your health care provider to take a blood test.
Blood tests come in two forms.
Qualitative tests simply assess whether any hCG is present in your blood and give you a yes-or-no answer.
These tests are about as accurate as a urine test.
Quantitative tests will tell you the exact quantity of hCG in your blood.
These tests are extremely accurate and can be useful if your doctor needs to track potential problems in your pregnancy.
Blood tests can often detect pregnancy as early as seven to 12 days after conception.
They are, however, more expensive, and must be done in a doctor’s office.