Wondering whether or not you are pregnant can bring feelings of excitement, nervousness and anxiousness when you want to have a baby. If you think that you may be pregnant, you should definitely find out as soon as possible so that you can ensure you are taking the best care of your baby during pregnancy. You might be able to recognize certain physical changes that go along with being pregnant. These signs aren't perfect indicators, and taking a pregnancy test, either at home or at your doctor’s, is the best way to know more certainly if you are pregnant for sure.
Symptoms of pregnancy
Think you may be possibly pregnant? There are some signs that you may experience which can give you a clue as to whether the pitter patter of tiny feet is in your near future. Some women experience one or more symptoms as early as days into their pregnancies, but it is not completely uncommon for a woman to not have all, or any, of the following symptoms occur.
What are the most common symptoms of pregnancy?
- Food cravings: A cliché, yes, but having a craving for a specific food may well be your body’s way of breaking the news gently to you.
- Darkening of the nipples: You may experience a change in the colour of your areolas if you have successfully conceived.
- Implantation bleeding or cramping: After ovulation, you may experience a slight staining of pink or brown as well as some cramping. This is known as implantation bleeding and is caused by the fertilized egg burrowing into the endometrial lining of the uterus.
- Frequent urination: You may feel the need to visit the bathroom a little more often if you are newly pregnant due to the embryo producing the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
- Fatigue/exhaustion: The high levels of progesterone being produced by your reproductive system may be making you feel more tired than usual in the early days of pregnancy. But then again, you might just be tired.
- Tender, swollen breasts: Some women feel that their breasts become sore and swollen during and before they experience a period, but it can also be an early symptom of pregnancy.
- Altered sense of taste: Some women experience the opposite of food cravings during the very early stages of pregnancy. Having an altered sense of taste may include finding you are averse to certain foods that you love, as well as being uncharacteristically fond of foods that you would normally not enjoy as much.
- Nausea: Nausea during pregnancy is commonly referred to as ‘morning sickness’. This is a grossly misleading name as it can occur at any time of the day without remorse. Some women start experiencing morning sickness from as early on as before they even miss their first period, and it can last all the way through the pregnancy.
- Missed period: Missing a period is another cliché of a reason to suspect that you might be pregnant, however, clichés are just that for a reason – they usually ring true. Some women skip a period completely when they fall pregnant, and some might experience a lighter flow than usual (which could also be ‘implantation bleeding’). There are other reasons you might miss a period, stress, diet and nutrition, and physical fitness can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle, but most commonly a missed period is a fairly big clue when it comes to pregnancy.
When will I experience symptoms of pregnancy?
You may experience one, several, or all symptoms of pregnancy almost immediately after you conceive. Then again, you might not experience any symptoms until later on during your pregnancy, and even then there are certain symptoms that may not present themselves at all. Each woman’s experience with pregnancy will be as unique as the baby they give birth to. If you are experiencing any symptoms and believe, even hope, that you might be pregnant, the best thing to do is take a pregnancy test either at home or visit your healthcare professional.
Pregnancy tests work by checking a woman’s blood or urine for traces of a hormone made by the placenta called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. You can test for pregnancy at yourself with a ‘home pregnancy test kit’ or go to your healthcare professional. If you use a home pregnancy test kit and return a positive result, you should visit your doctor for confirmation and advice.
When should I do a pregnancy test
Although most pregnancy tests will be able to give an accurate result as soon as the first day of your missed period, it is recommended to wait until after your missed period would have been finished for more accurate readings. You can test at any time of the day, but the first urine you produce in a day will have the highest level of hCG concentrated in it. It is not advised to consume too much liquid before testing, as it dilutes the hormone levels in your urine.
What are the different types of pregnancy tests
Home pregnancy tests
Home pregnancy tests are readily available from pharmacies and grocery stores. There are many different brands available. Although the various types of home pregnancy tests will look as if they function differently due to their appearance, they don’t. Home pregnancy tests check for the presence of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in urine and, if found, bind it to an antibody indicator (the part of the test that changes colour). The test will return results within 10 minutes.
Urine pregnancy test used by doctors
Urine pregnancy tests that are given by doctors work in the same way that a home pregnancy test does, by checking for the presence of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in urine and, if found, binding it to an antibody indicator. The fact that these tests are given by trained technicians gives a decreased chance of an error being made during the process, and thus a more accurate result. The test will return results within 10 minutes.
Blood pregnancy test used by doctors
Blood tests used by doctors to test for pregnancy are considered to be 99% accurate and come in two variations. A ‘qantitative blood test’ will measure the exact amount of hCG present in the blood and is able to, fairly accurately, estimate how far the pregnancy has progressed. A ‘qualitative blood test’ will only check for basic hCG presence and will not give a gestational estimation. The tests are performed by drawing blood from the arm, which is then processed in a laboratory. The results will take several days after testing.
How accurate are pregnancy tests?
Pregnancy tests performed by a healthcare professional are rarely inaccurate. Home pregnancy test kits are fairly accurate but can give false results due to user error. Both methods of testing can give false readings for a number of technical reasons.
False positive/negative pregnancy tests
Tests may give a false reading for a number of technical reasons. These include:
- Unclean urine collecting container (detergent residue, for example, is known to cause false-positive results)
- Damaged, past its use-by date or heat or moisture exposed test kit
- Blood in the urine
- Protein in the urine
- Certain medications including anti-convulsants, some fertility drugs, diuretics and tranquillizers
- Recent birth or miscarriage (A woman’s blood and urine may still contain detectible levels of hCG)
- An ovarian tumour or some other type of hCG-producing growth.
If you take a pregnancy test and you suspect a false result, you should retest and/or schedule another test with your doctor. Most home pregnancy tests recommend testing more than once as a rule, and often come with more than one test in a pack.