AM I PREGNANT?
If you have been planning to get pregnant, chances are this question will rise in your mind the day you miss your period. But for some of us who may not have regular monthly cycles, a home pregnancy test and physical symptoms can provide the answer.
HOME PREGNANCY TEST
The home pregnancy test works by detecting a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in urine. This hormone appears in a pregnant woman’s urine, approximately 20 days after her last menstrual period. The levels then rise rapidly, reaching a peak in the next 60 to 80 days. Today, these kits are available over the counter at most chemists and are quick and easy to use.
If you have a negative result when you first test, it may be that the levels of hCG have not yet reached a level where they can be detected by a test, even by the day your period is due, so you may want to wait a few days then test again.
Some laboratories also conduct the urine test in case you are not able to procure the home pregnancy test in your vicinity.
BLOOD TEST FOR PREGNANCY
Blood tests are used less often than urine tests. These tests can detect pregnancy earlier than a home pregnancy test, or about six to eight days after ovulation. But with these tests, it takes longer to get the results than with a home pregnancy test.
Two types of blood pregnancy tests are available:
A qualitative hCG test simply checks to see if hCG is present. It gives a “yes” or “no” answer to the question, “Are you pregnant?”
A quantitative hCG test (beta hCG) measures the exact amount of hCG in your blood. It can find even very low levels of hCG. Because these pregnancy tests can measure the concentration of hCG, they may be helpful in tracking any problems during pregnancy. They may also (in combination with other tests) be used to rule out a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy or to monitor a woman after a miscarriage when hCG levels fall rapidly.
EARLY SIGNS OF PREGNANCY
A woman’s body starts changing from the moment the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, which indicates a successful start to pregnancy. Following are some symptoms that can indicate that you could be pregnant; however note that not all symptoms may occur and are not a reliable indication of pregnancy.
Breast changes: Because of hormonal changes, breasts may become swollen, sore, or tingly a week or two later. Or they may feel heavier or fuller or feel tender to the touch. The area around the nipples, called the areola, may also darken.
Spotting and cramping: When the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, it can cause spotting or implantation bleeding. It occurs anywhere from six to 12 days after the egg is fertilized. The cramps resemble menstrual cramps, so some women mistake them and the bleeding for the start of their period. The bleeding and cramps, however, are slight. Some women may also experience an increased vaginal discharge without any soreness or irritation.
Fatigue: A woman can start feeling unusually fatigued as soon as one week after conceiving. It is often related to a high level of a hormone called progesterone, although other things — such as lower levels of blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and a boost in blood production — can all contribute.
Morning sickness: Not all women experience nausea or morning sickness during their pregnancy. Contrary to its name, it can happen at any time during the day. At the same time, some women crave, or can’t stand, certain foods when they become pregnant. You may also experience a strange taste in your mouth; many women describe it as metallic. While the symptoms lessen for many women at about the 13th or 14th week of their pregnancy, it is possible that the nausea, cravings, and food aversions can last for the entire pregnancy.
Frequent urination, constipation, mood swings and headaches / back pain are also experienced by some women early on in their pregnancy.
CONFIRMING YOUR PREGNANCY
Whether you have tested positive with the home pregnancy test or have one or more of the above symptoms, it is important to confirm your pregnancy with a blood test – called the Beta hCG test – at a reliable pathology laboratory, run by a certified pathologist.
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, you will then need to make an appointment with your gynecologist to advise you further on your pregnancy. All the best!