Whether it's tender breasts, a touchy stomach, or something else altogether, the first sign of pregnancy is different for every woman. I remember being out to dinner with my husband and feeling the sudden, overwhelming urge to skip dessert and climb into bed. I like to get plenty of sleep, but this was ridiculous -- it wasn't even 8:00 pm yet! Something was definitely up. Sure enough, the next morning I took a home pregnancy test and got a positive result. If you suspect you're pregnant, the most definite way to find out, of course, is to take a pregnancy test. But there are signs and symptoms that can help clue you in, too. Here are some of them:
A queasy stomach is probably the most well-known early pregnancy symptom. Despite the name "morning sickness," this symptom can rear its head at any time of day -- or all day. And you may or may not actually vomit. "Although we don't know the true cause of morning sickness, we do know that pregnancy hormones play a large role," says Stephen Rechner, M.D., the Division Chief of General Obstetrics and Gynecology at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.
If you're pregnant, you might notice -- like I did! -- that you're completely exhausted. Chalk this one up to hormones too. "Many women feel tired because of the extra pregnancy hormone progesterone," says Dr. Rechner. "This symptom should go away during the second trimester, but might begin again in the third trimester."
Food aversions and cravings
Suddenly notice you can't stand a food you usually love, like salmon? Or that you're dying for eggplant Parmesan? Many women realize they're pregnant when they have newfound craving for (or aversion to) certain foods, another byproduct of the hormone shift.
Tender, swollen breasts
You may have thought a woman's breasts wouldn't change until late in pregnancy, but they actually can become sore and sensitive, and feel heavy and full very soon after conception.
"Each one of these symptoms individually might be perceived like an illness or regular menstruation," says Dr. Rechner. "When someone has more than one of the symptoms, [she] should take a pregnancy test to be certain whether or not [she is] expecting."
And even if you're not exhibiting symptoms you could still be pregnant. "If you feel no signs that's okay too," says Cristina Perez, M.D., ob-gyn at the Women's Specialists of Houston at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women. "You're just lucky."
To be sure, you'll want to take a pregnancy test.
At-home pregnancy test In order to get the most accurate reading on an at-home pregnancy test, you'll likely have to wait until you miss your period, says Dr. Perez. That's because home pregnancy tests measure the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a pregnancy hormone, in your urine, and before your missed period, you may not have enough hCG for the test to pick up. (In general, a urine test needs 50 units of hCG to get a positive result -- although some tests are more sensitive -- and while you might have enough even before your missed period, some women's bodies take longer to produce that amount.
If you do take a home pregnancy test and it's negative, don't lose hope. "Take another one the following week," recommends Dr. Perez.
Blood pregnancy test
Another option is to head to your doctor's office to get a blood test. Blood tests are more sensitive than urine tests -- less hCG needs to be present for the blood test to signal a positive. Most women don't undergo a pregnancy blood test, but Dr. Perez explains that it can help evaluate for a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tubes) for women who are at risk for them.
Once you get a positive pregnancy test, make an appointment to see your doctor. Usually it will happen around 8 to 10 weeks after the first day of your last period. That's when she'll do an ultrasound to see or hear baby's heartbeat and confirm that your pregnancy is progressing healthily.
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