If you have been sexually active, missing a period is the most tell-tale sign of pregnancy. If you have missed your period, you may want to consider taking a home pregnancy test. However, even though a missed period is a common sign of pregnancy, there are other reasons why you may miss a period as well. Diet, excessive exercise and stress may all cause a woman to miss her period. In addition, certain birth control methods such as Depo ProveraTM and Hormonal Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) can also reduce or stop menstrual bleeding.
Some women, particularly younger women, may have irregular menstrual cycles, making it very difficult to predict when her period is due. After conceiving, some women may experience what is called implantation bleeding. This bleeding is caused when a fertilized egg implants on the wall of the uterus. Sometimes, a woman may mistake this bleeding for a light period.
In addition to missing or having a delayed period, some common signs of pregnancy can include:
Fatigue: Women may often feel tired or fatigued soon after becoming pregnant.
Faintness: Some women may feel faint or lightheaded early on in her pregnancy.
Breast Changes: Breasts may begin to feel tender and/or swollen and heavier. The areola (the circle of skin directly surrounding the nipples) may become darker.
Constipation, Gas or Bloating
Nausea/Morning Sickness: This is a common symptom of pregnancy, although it is also a very common symptom of other illnesses such as the flu. Even though it is called “Morning” sickness, you may vomit or feel nauseous at any time of the day. Nausea may sometimes be triggered by the taste or smell of food.
Backaches and Headaches: Backaches are common during pregnancy and can sometimes start early. Headaches can be caused by hormonal changes in pregnancy.
Mood Swings: Though also a possible symptom of PMS, hormone changes during pregnancy can cause mood swings for some women.
Cramping: Also a very common symptom of PMS, cramping can occur during early pregnancy.
What do these symptoms mean?
It is very important to remember that having any, or even all of the symptoms above, does not necessarily mean that you are pregnant. None of these symptoms are unique to pregnancy. They are all very common and may be caused by PMS or common illnesses such as the flu. In addition, while some pregnant women will have many of these symptoms, others will have only one or two, and still others will have none at all. If you believe that you may be pregnant, you may want to do a home pregnancy test.
Home pregnancy tests and their accuracy
Home pregnancy tests work by detecting a special hormone in your urine called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). If used correctly, home pregnancy tests are quite accurate. However, accuracy of the test depends on several things, most importantly:
When you take the test?
Pregnancy tests are less accurate if they are taken too early after conception. This is because less of the pregnancy hormone is in the urine soon after conception. Many tests will instruct you to wait for one to two weeks and then take a second test to confirm the results of the first. Most urine pregnancy tests are sensitive enough to detect a pregnancy by the first day of a missed period.
To ensure an accurate result, make sure that you follow all of the instructions carefully, and make sure the test kit has not passed its expiry date.
If the home pregnancy test is negative, this does not necessarily mean that you are not pregnant. Occasionally, particularly if the test is taken too early, home pregnancy tests give false negatives, meaning the test will indicate that you are not pregnant when it is really too early to tell. Follow the test’s instructions carefully and repeat the test as directed.
False positives (when the test tells you that you are pregnant and you are not) are very rare. If a home pregnancy test shows up positive, contact your healthcare provider or a health clinic to schedule a visit.
If a home pregnancy test confirms that you are pregnant, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider or clinic soon, whether you plan to continue the pregnancy or not.
If you plan to continue the pregnancy, you should contact your healthcare provider or a local health clinic to arrange your first prenatal visit. In the meantime, you should take care to eat well and avoid alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other things that could harm your baby. You should also continue to take or start to take a prenatal vitamin that contains folic acid.
At your first prenatal visit, your healthcare provider can confirm that you are indeed pregnant. He or she will likely measure your height, weight and blood pressure. You may have a pelvic exam including a pap test if you have not had one within the last year, and blood and urine samples may be taken to ensure that you and your baby are off to a healthy start.
Your healthcare professional will also discuss your medical and obstetric history and answer any questions that you may have. At this visit, your healthcare provider will estimate your due date, based on the date of your last period. If you are unsure of when your last period was, your health care provider may arrange for you to have an ultrasound to determine how far along you are in your pregnancy.