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Signs of pregnancy
Signs Of Pregnancy
The signs of pregnancy are the changes a woman experiences in the days and weeks after conception.
Listed below are the most common symptoms of pregnancy and their other possible causes. If you have five or more of these symptoms, you may be pregnant. However, some pregnant women experience only a few of these symptoms, while others experience all of them.
- Amenorrhea. Absence of your monthly period. Other possible causes: weight gain or loss, hormonal problems, tension, stress, breast-feeding, discontinuing birth control pills or birth control injections.
- Morning sickness. Nausea and queasiness, usually experienced in the morning, but sometimes during the entire day. Thought to be caused by a high level of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in the blood, rapid stretching of the uterine muscles, excess acid in the stomach, and an enhanced sense of smell. Morning sickness usually starts two to eight weeks after conception. Other possible causes: food poisoning, tension, infection, gall bladder disease, other diseases.
- Tender, swollen breasts. Caused by an increased amount of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. This is rarely accompanied by nipple discharge (galactorrhea). Breast tenderness usually begins a few days after conception. Other possible causes: birth control pills, beginning of period, fibrocystic breast condition.
- Darkening of the areolas, the skin around the nipples. The bumps on areolas (called Montgomery's tubercles) may look more prominent. These changes happen gradually during the first few weeks of pregnancy, as your breasts prepare to produce milk. Other possible causes: hormonal imbalance, prior pregnancy, tanning, the physical changes of puberty.
- Food cravings. Caused by hormonal changes in the body. Food cravings are usually experienced during the first trimester. Other possible causes: poor diet, stress, beginning of period (PMS).
- Frequent urination. Caused by an increased volume of body fluids and pressure from the growing uterus. This usually starts six to eight weeks after conception. Other possible causes: urinary tract infection, diuretics, tension, diabetes, drinking excess fluid.
- Fatigue. Caused by high levels of the hormone progesterone and the body's increased use of energy as the fetus develops. This usually appears during the first trimester. Other possible causes: tension, stress, depression, poor diet, flu, lack of exercise, poor sleep or lack of sleep.
- Bleeding. Spotting of blood that's pink or brown in color, sometimes accompanied by stomach cramps. Caused by the egg implanting itself in the endometrial lining. Usually occurs about a week after ovulation. Other possible causes: beginning of period, breakthrough bleeding from the pill.
What Should I Do?
Take a pregnancy test. Here are the different types:
- Home pregnancy test. Most such tests can determine if you're pregnant as early as the first day of your missed period (about 14 days after conception). They detect the hormone hCG in your urine. Results are available in as little as five minutes. If the test indicates that you are pregnant, contact your health-care provider as soon as possible for a physical exam. Home-pregnancy tests are very accurate, but not foolproof. If you test negative but are still experiencing symptoms of pregnancy, contact your health-care provider.
- Lab test. This can determine if you're pregnant as early as seven to 10 days after conception. It also detects hCG in your urine. You must go to your health-care provider's office or lab to take this test. Results are available in just a few minutes if the test is given in your health-care provider's office. If administered in a lab, your results will be ready the day after you take the test. The accuracy is close to 100%.
- Blood test. This can determine if you're pregnant as early as one week after conception. It assesses the presence of hCG in your blood. You must go to your health-care provider's office or lab to have the test, and results are available the day after the test. The accuracy is virtually 100%.
If any of these tests is positive, your health-care provider will want to examine your abdomen, uterus, and cervix. An enlarged uterus and abdomen, as well as a softening of the cervix, are other strong clues that you are pregnant. The definitive proof comes when your health-care provider can view a fetus by ultrasound (at four to six weeks after conception) and can hear a fetal heartbeat with a handheld instrument called a doptone machine (at about 10 or 12 weeks after conception).
Once pregnancy is confirmed, your health-care provider will set up a schedule of prenatal visits to assess you and your baby's well-being throughout your entire pregnancy.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I took a pregnancy test and physical exam and they both indicated that I'm not pregnant, but I'm still having symptoms. Could I be pregnant?
A: You may be. To find out, ask for another test (preferably a blood test, since it's the most accurate). Also ask for another physical exam. In the meantime, take all prenatal precautions, such as avoiding alcohol.
It is possible, however, to experience symptoms and not be pregnant. Wishful thinking may be playing a part, or there might be other biological causes such as hormonal imbalances or diabetes that your health-care provider should investigate.
Review Date: June 29, 2001
Reviewed By: Peter Chen, M.D., Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of
Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare
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