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Thursday, January 8, 2009

am i pregnant?

"Am I pregnant?" is probably the most common health question women ask. The signs and symptoms of early pregnancy are easy to recognize, particularly if this is not your first pregnancy. No matter how many times you get pregnant, the signs and symptoms of early pregnancy are the same. However, this does not mean that you will experience every pregnancy the same way. For example, during one pregnancy, you may experience incredible breast pain or nausea and vomiting, while during another pregnancy you might not experience these symptoms at all. The simple fact is that each pregnancy, just like each newborn, is different. So, don't count on having the same symptoms or the same intensity of symptoms during consecutive pregnancies.

Early Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms

  • Swollen, tender, or sore breasts and/ or nipples – Often this is the first physical sign of pregnancy. In fact, some women know when they are pregnant based on this sign alone. The reason breasts and/ or nipples are often sore, swollen, or tender during early pregnancy is because the breasts are undergoing changes to prepare for breastfeeding. The reason for this is the increased production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that occurs and the breasts and/ or nipples are often particularly painful during a first pregnancy.

  • Fatigue or unusual tiredness – Early pregnancy is time when a woman’s body is working very hard to keep up with the changes that occur. This means increased hormone production, as well as the fact that the heart is pumping harder and faster due to the escalation of blood flow – necessary to bring nutrients to the growing fetus. Increased progesterone production is the primary reason for the extra fatigue most pregnant women experience early in their pregnancy. Progesterone, known to cause sleepiness and a natural central nervous system depressant, is the reason this occurs. Another reason for fatigue and unusual tiredness during early pregnancy are the emotional extremes experienced often during pregnancy. It’s not uncommon for a pregnant woman to burst into tears for no apparent reason other than the hormonal fluctuations that occur during this time. This symptom is also a sign to get more sleep before your baby arrives when you’ll need your energy to care for your newborn baby.

  • My Period is Late, Am I Pregnant? – The most common reason for missing your period is pregnancy and this is often the first sign that makes you suspect pregnancy. Only a pregnancy test followed by a pelvic exam, can tell you positively whether you are pregnant. Once your health care provider rules out pregnancy as the cause of your late or missed periods, the next step is usually to rule in or out several other possible explanations for absence of menstruation or amenorrhea.

  • Light bleeding and/or cramping – The most common reason for light bleeding during early pregnancy is implantation. Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterine lining and usually occurs about 10 to 14 days after conception. Bleeding caused by implantation is very light, often the only sign you might notice that indicates implantation has occurred is a small (can be as small as a pinhead followed by no further bleeding) spot of blood left on your panties.

    Cramping that is similar to menstrual cramps occurs very early during pregnancy and happens when the uterus begins to expand to make room for the embryo to develop into a fetus that continues to develop for a total of 40 weeks gestation when your baby is born.

  • Morning sickness – Nausea during pregnancy can occur with or without vomiting. While morning sickness is most common between weeks four and eight during pregnancy, many women experience this symptom beginning about two weeks from their date of conception.

    Morning sickness is a misnomer since it can, and often does, occur at anytime of the day or night. The most common reason for this symptom seems to be the rapid rise in estrogen, produced by the fetus and placenta. Another trigger for nausea is odors. During pregnancy, a woman’s sense of smell increases considerably and can make almost anything from everyday household odors, foods, perfume, and smoke, to name a few, trigger a bout of morning sickness or nausea and vomiting.

    The most common foods to trigger morning sickness are coffee during the first weeks of pregnancy, meat, dairy products, and spicy foods. However, it’s essential to understand that literally anything can trigger nausea and/ or vomiting during pregnancy. In fact, I personally know someone who became nauseated during one of her pregnancies every time she passed a microwave in operation.

  • Running to the bathroom – During the first trimester of pregnancy, it’s easy to believe you might have to “move” into your bathroom since it seems you are constantly running to make to the bathroom. The growing uterus causes frequent urination during pregnancy. The first and third trimesters of pregnancy are typically when the most intense frequent urination happens.
While the signs and symptoms of early pregnancy listed above are the most common, other symptoms can, and often do, occur in pregnancy. Other pregnancy symptoms include:

  • Headaches – Headaches that occur during pregnancy are often intense and caused by increased hormone levels.

  • Mood swings – Don’t think you’re crazy if you suddenly develop atypical mood swings or if you are unusually emotional during pregnancy, these are very normal reactions during pregnancy. Many times, pregnant women burst into tears for reasons that are unclear to anyone, including the pregnant woman. Another symptom caused by increased hormone levels.

  • Feeling weak, faint, or dizzy – Caused by the circulatory system as dilation of the blood vessels occur. Low blood sugar, early in pregnancy, also triggers these symptoms.

  • Increased basal body temperature or BBT – Your basal body temperature is your temperature immediately upon rising in the morning. BBT normally increases during ovulation and decreases when menstruation occurs. However, when pregnancy takes place increased basal body temperature continues after menstruation is late. BBT is a good indicator of pregnancy for women who have used it, either to prevent pregnancy or when trying to get pregnant.

  • Constipation – Food digests slower than usual during pregnancy due to increased progesterone production. Slower digestion sometimes causes constipation during pregnancy.

I have one or more of these symptoms, does that mean I am pregnant?

Not necessarily, sometimes these signs and symptoms mean that you’re sick or that menstruation is about to begin. Another point to remember is that while these symptoms are common during pregnancy, sometimes none of these symptoms occurs.

If you experience the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, buy a home pregnancy test and see your doctor – either to begin prenatal care and confirm your pregnancy or to determine the cause of your symptoms if you’re not pregnant.

Tip: Keep track of your periods. Mark the first day, as well as the last day, of your period on a calendar – day one of the menstrual cycle is the day your period starts and is the basis for determining due dates during pregnancy.

Source:, Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy: Things You Might Notice Before You Start Prenatal Care, accessed 07/23/06