Am I Pregnant?
(The Early Signs And Symptoms Of Pregnancy)
Think you might be pregnant? Want to check out a few symptoms before you buy a pregnancy test or two?
There are many factors that indicate being pregnant, however they do vary between different women and even between her pregnancies.
You will have heard of cases whereby women have conceived without experiencing any of the ‘typical’ signs. However, if you are expecting, you may well see one or more of the following – but not to worry, you’re unlikely to experience them all at the same time!
Missing your period
This is the most obvious indicator of pregnancy. If you have a very regular monthly cycle, a missed period is usually the earliest and most dependable symptom of pregnancy.Having said that, some women still have light bleeding or spotting around the time they would normally get their period, even when pregnant.
And, if you tend to have irregular periods, you may experience other pregnancy symptoms before you notice a missed period. In fact it has been suggested that even for women with a regular cycle, by the time you notice a missed period you might have experienced up to 5 other early pregnancy symptoms.
Elevated Basal Body Temperature
Your body’s lowest temperature during rest is known as your basal temperature. Your basal temperature starts to rise after ovulation and remains elevated beyond your next expected period.
Implantation of a fertilised egg usually occurs 6 to 12 days after ovulation – about 2 to 3 weeks before your next period will be missed. A one-half to one degree Fahrenheit increase in basal body temperature can be an early symptom of pregnancy.
This elevation can occur as little as 2 days after ovulation – which could be about 2 weeks before a missed period.
You may experience breast swelling, tenderness, prickling or tingling in the early weeks of pregnancy. Your nipples may also get a bit darker and more erect and the bumps around them may also become more pronounced. The veins in your breasts might be more visible too.These are the very early preparation stages for breastfeeding in the months to come.
Cramping and spotting
It’s a frequent misconception that when you become pregnant you will experience absolutely no bleeding.
This is not necessarily true. It’s actually quite common to experience some blood spotting, a pinkish or brownish stain in your underwear or when you go for a pee, as well as some cramping. This spotting can often be due to the implantation of the egg in your womb. Another possibility is some bleeding around the time you would usually expect your monthly period. This may be due to a breaking through of the hormones that control your periods.
One of the parts of pregnancy most women could definitely do without! You might feel rapid and dramatic changes in mood in early pregnancy and could even find yourself bursting into tears without knowing why. This is generally down to your changing hormone levels.
You may feel especially tired and drained during those early weeks of pregnancy. This is thought to be the result of rising levels of the progesterone hormone.
Needing the loo a lot
About 6-8 weeks into pregnancy you may find yourself getting up in the night to go for a pee. Some women also find that they experience a little bit of ‘leaking’ when they laugh, sneeze or cough. This heightened need to pee in early pregnancy is probably due to increased blood and fluid used in pregnancy that your kidneys excrete.
In early pregnancy mild constipation is an often overlooked sign. Changing levels of the hormone progesterone (which slows down food movement through the digestive system) can really play around with bowel movements even in non-pregnant women.
Nonetheless constipation, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, may be a sign of early pregnancy.
Read more about constipation during pregnancy here.
Increased vaginal discharge
While it’s true that many women watch their discharge to see when they’re ovulating, in some cases an increase in vaginal discharge can actually be a sign of early pregnancy. This may be because of a rise in oestrogen levels and increased blood flow to the vagina.
This early pregnancy discharge will generally be milky white in colour and should either be odourless or have only a mild odour.
A change in your sense of taste
Many pregnant women find they go off certain foods and drinks such as coffee, tea or fatty foods, or find themselves craving strange things they don’t normally like.
You might notice an unusual ‘metallic’ taste in your mouth too. This is quite possibly due to changing oestrogen levels in pregnancy.
A ‘classic’ pregnancy sign that we’re all familiar with. Many women start feeling sick or experience vomiting somewhere between the 2nd and 8th week into pregnancy.
This is traditionally referred to as ‘morning sickness’ although it can actually come on at any time of the day or night. Many doctors think it’s down to changing hormone levels.
If you are experiencing symptoms like these and you think you might be pregnant, the next step is to get hold of a good home pregnancy test, which you can find at any chemist.
When and how should I take my pregnancy test?
Pregnancy tests work by picking up on the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG), a chemical that the placenta secretes shortly following fertilization.
The placenta itself starts to develop after the fertilised egg is implanted in your uterus. This happens about six days after conception – so the earliest a home pregnancy test can be taken is usually about six days after conception occurs.
However, fertilisation doesn’t always take place on the same day as intercourse, so that’s why many women are advised to wait for a missed period before taking a test.
Because hCG levels double roughly every couple of days in a pregnant woman, a home pregnancy test taken two weeks after possible conception will be a lot more reliable than one week after. Also keep in mind that certain medications that contain hCG can affect your test results – for example Pregnyl, Profasi, and Humegon.
For best results, carefully follow the directions on the packet, wash your hands before use and use your first morning pee as the test sample.
Which pregnancy tests are the best to get?
The best pregnancy tests are those that are designed to be incredibly sensitive to the presence of even a small amount of hCG. A pregnancy test that is designed to detect a higher hCG level than what your placenta is releasing may give you a false negative result.
With this in mind, ideally, you should look to buy a good quality pregnancy test from a tried and trusted brand – good examples are ClearBlue and First Response. Many women also prefer to make sure the packet contains two actual tests, for extra confirmation and peace of mind.
Some tests, for example ClearBlue Digital Pregnancy Test with Conception Indicator, also tell you how far along you are.
When am I most likely to get pregnant?
If you are trying to get pregnant, you should really take some time to get to know your menstrual cycle – because successful conception depends largely upon its phases.
You’ll need to identify when you’re ovulating as this is the best time to conceive.
You should get medical advice before you try home ovulation prediction methods but here’s some things to consider.
You can measure your temperature each morning when you wake up with an oral thermometer, before drinking any fluids. Note the results on a chart. When you ovulate, your temperature will rise by half a degree. After you’ve recorded a few cycles, you should be able to predict your ovulation time.
In the mid-point of your cycle (during ovulation), you might notice a clear, odourless vaginal discharge. This discharge is mucus-like and when you wipe yourself the tissue should slide. If you place the discharge between your fingers it should stretch to more than 5cm without breaking.
Ovulation Kits and Fertility Monitors are available to buy. There are a number of different types on the market and they most often use your urine to predict ovulation through detection of high levels of Luteinising Hormone (LH).
If you’re trying for a baby and want to know more, you may want to schedule a Fertility Check Up at a reputable clinic, to make sure everything is in order. (See How Fertile Am I? article.)
Good luck and above all, look after yourself!