I Think I Am Pregnant: Now What?
Do you feel as if you may be pregnant? You're not alone; hundreds of thousands of women every day contemplate the same question.
Anytime you have unprotected sex, there's a chance of pregnancy. Here you will learn about pregnancy symptoms, early signs of pregnancy, and taking a pregnancy test.
Before you read, take the quiz below to see how much you know about pregnancy symptoms.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms Quizview quiz statistics
What Are the Major Differences Between Early Pregnancy and Pre-Menstrual Symptoms?
"They certainly are similar!," says Mark P. Trolice, M.D., reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Fertility CARE, The IVF Center, and Associate Professor of Ob/Gyn at University of Central Florida College of Medicine. "A pregnancy test at the time of expected menses can make the distinction."
- Premenstrual symptoms include mood swings, increased appetite/cravings, abdominal bloatedness, fatigue, breast tenderness, headaches, and hot flashes.
- Early pregnancy symptoms include nausea (with or without vomiting), breast tenderness, fatigue, frequent urination, mild uterine cramping, abdominal bloatedness, constipation, heartburn, food cravings, and mood changes.
When Do Pregnancy Symptoms Start?
"Usually 1-2 weeks following the missed period," says Dr. Trolice. "This is 5-6 weeks estimated gestational age."
Did you know that when you're pregnant, your first week is the first week of your last period?
It may seem confusing, but healthcare professionals have tracked pregnancies beginning with the first day of the last menstrual period. Forty weeks after that is when birth occurs on average. They did not and do not track from the moment of conception, simply because it is nearly impossible to determine the actual date and time of conception when the sperm meets the egg. Sperm can live from 3-5 days (sometimes a bit longer) inside of a woman's body after intercourse, so there's no way to know exactly the moment of conception.
In the time after your last period, your body is preparing itself for a pregnancy. In a 28 day cycle, an egg will be released from the ovaries around the 14th day of the cycle, in a process called ovulation. That time is considered your most fertile time when there's potential for sperm to fertilize an egg if you had intercourse. If they do meet and the egg becomes fertilized, it is considered conception.
Would you begin feeling pregnancy symptoms then? Not exactly. The fertilized egg, now a ball of developing cells, still needs to travel down to your uterus and implant itself in the uterine wall, releasing the hormone hCG (what is detected in pregnancy tests) as it completes implantation. That can take up to 6-10 days after conception. At that point in your cycle, you would be very close to expecting your next period.
For most women trying to have their first baby, the first noticeable sign then of a pregnancy would be the missed period. Others who are more in tune with their bodies or who have already experienced a pregnancy would notice other symptoms, like fatigue, a few days sooner, suspecting pregnancy before the missed period.
When Would Pregnancy Begin?
Is My Period Late or Am I Pregnant?
If it's been 5 weeks (or about 35 days) since your last period and you had intercourse three weeks ago, you might be wondering if you are pregnant or just experiencing pre-menstrual symptoms.
Signs of early pregnancy and pre-menstrual symptoms are very similar:
- Mood swings
- Breast tenderness
Here are some early pregnancy symptoms that are different from signs of PMS:
- Menstrual bleeding is heavier than pregnancy-related spotting.
- Fatigue from PMS usually goes away, for the most part, once the bleeding starts.
- Nausea is a common pregnancy symptom, but not so much with PMS.
- Food cravings or aversions are more intense with pregnancy.
- Cramps can be intense before menstruation but are milder in the early stages of pregnancy.
How Much Are Pregnancy Tests?
Buying a multitude of pregnancy tests can get expensive, especially if you are testing too early. There are tests at the dollar stores for (you guessed it) a dollar, or you could buy one test at a superstore or grocery store for $3-$4. Some tests come in packs of twos or threes and can range from $10-$15.
Pregnancy tests can also be found online. Testing strips can be as little as $0.32 each and are usually sold in bulk.
Clinics may give pregnancy tests for free. Health care professionals may also give blood tests, which should be covered by insurance.
Pregnancy Symptoms Before Missed Period
As stated above, some women can sense that they're pregnant before a missed period due to some early symptoms, usually 1-2 weeks following the missed period (or 5-6 weeks gestational age.) Those symptoms are usually pregnancy fatigue, constipation, increase in breast size and sensitivity, and frequent urination.
Some symptoms can actually be signs of an upcoming period, though. Many women experience breast changes before a period, along with some bloating of the stomach. On their own, they may not be signs of pregnancy but instead signs of impending menstruation.
Another very early sign of pregnancy may be implantation bleeding, which some may confuse with an early period. Implantation bleeding can occur when the fertilized egg burrows into the lining of the uterus, a week or so before the next expected period. It's usually light spotting and does not last long. Fewer than half of all pregnant women experience implantation bleeding.
If you are experiencing some of these early signs of pregnancy, it would be wise to wait until you miss your period to begin taking pregnancy tests. It will give your hCG levels a chance to build up in your system to be detected by the tests. Despite how early some pregnancy tests say they will detect pregnancy, it's best to wait so that you are not wasting money taking multiple tests.
First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
Symptoms of Pregnancy
Home Pregnancy Test Accuracy
If used correctly and at the right time, home pregnancy tests are fairly accurate at detecting pregnancy. Used correctly means that you read the directions and follow them. Each test has slightly different directions, so if using different brands, it's important to read the directions. Also, using the test at the right time makes a difference in 'accuracy'. Women who test too early (and even sometimes too late) will get inaccurate results.
The absolute best time to take any pregnancy test is a few days after a missed period. This is when the hormone hCG, the pregnancy hormone produced by the growing balls of cells if there is indeed a pregnancy, is most easily detected by home pregnancy tests. Too soon before that and you may get a false negative as your body has not produced enough hCG.
Some tests do claim that they can get you early results, meaning results before your next expected period. If you truly read their statements, however, you'll find that the early results are only possible for a small percentage of women, not every woman. It's most likely a marketing ploy to encourage you to take more tests and hence spend more money.
I have had three different experiences with home pregnancy tests. With my first pregnancy, I saw a positive result on the day of my expected period. With my second pregnancy, I didn't get a positive result until almost my sixth week of pregnancy (two weeks after the expected period). With my third, I was able to test two days before my expected period and get a positive result.
Bottom line, testing with a home pregnancy test is different for every woman and every pregnancy. If you can wait until your next expected period, do so and save your money. If you can't wait, contact your health care provider and ask when it would be possible to have a blood test.
Faint Line on Pregnancy Test
Did you see two lines on the pregnancy test, but one of them was faint? Guess what? That's a positive result. It's possible that your levels of hCG aren't strong enough yet to produce a stronger colored line. If you're concerned about it, take a second test in a few days or ask for a blood test to determine pregnancy.
I'm Pregnant. Now What?
If you get a positive result on the test(s), you're pregnant! Your next step is to contact your healthcare provider and set up your first prenatal appointment. It's so important to make sure that you and your baby get the best possible care during this pregnancy.
It's also important that you start taking prenatal vitamins to ensure that you and the baby will get the proper nutrients needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy. The most important vitamin to have right now is called folic acid, which is a B vitamin that helps to prevent neural tubal defects (i.e. brain and spinal cord defects) in the early development of the baby.
For most normal-weight pregnant women, the right amount of calories about 1,800 calories per day during the first trimester, about 2,200 calories per day during the second trimester, and about 2,400 calories per day during the third trimester.
Make sure those extra calories are from healthy sources or you could gain too much weight during pregnancy.
Find out that you're not pregnant? Sometimes a pregnancy scare can be stressful, especially if you are not planning on having children anytime soon.
If this is the case, it would be wise for you to refrain from having unprotected sex, use protection, and find out about birth control options. Simple birth control options like the Pill or patch can be used on a monthly basis. Other methods of birth control like the shot Depo Provera or an IUD have longer lasting effects and are better for those who wish not to get pregnant for a long time or ever. Speak with a healthcare professional who can help you decide what is right for you.
How Do I Know if I Am Pregnant?
The only way to know for sure if you are pregnant would be to get a positive pregnancy test, whether it be a home pregnancy test or a blood test. Symptoms may show up prior to taking a test, but they could be a sign of impending menstruation, so it's best to wait and see if you miss your period.
Best of luck to you!
Dr. Mark Trolice
- The article has been modified since this review was written.
Questions & Answers
I had unprotected sex last month and my period came late and only lasted 3 days, which is not usual as my period lasts 4 or 5 days. So this month is February and my period is 11 days late. My breast is tender and I'm feeling tired. Also, I took 6 pregnancy tests on separate occasions including 2 from yesterday but they are all negative. I'm just looking for answers or if anyone has had similar experiences. Could I be pregnant?
I had unprotected sex a day before my period, till now I haven't had my period its been around 2 weeks. And I've been having cramps for a whole week. Can it be that my period is late or am I pregnant?