If you’re feeling tired and irritable or having some cramping and you are late for your period, you might be asking yourself this question. Only a pregnancy test can tell you for sure if you are pregnant or not, but keep reading to find out more about the potential signs you may be pregnant plus learn more about the chances that you might be pregnant.
On this page you will find information about:
- The most common pregnancy symptom
- Early pregnancy symptoms
- Pregnancy testing
- Unexpected pregnancy
The most common pregnancy symptom: A missed period
The number one sign of pregnancy is a missed period. Missing your period shows that your hormones may have been realigned by pregnancy. This is because when fertilization occurs, it triggers a relay of hormones that cause you to miss your period in order to maintain a pregnancy. Here is how is it happens:
When a sperm penetrates the egg, the cells surrounding the resulting early embryo release human chorionic gonadotrophin, or HCG, “the pregnancy hormone” (this is what a pregnancy test detects). HCG then signals the corpus luteum in the ovaries to continue to release progesterone. Progesterone in turn maintains the uterine lining so that the embryo can implant in the uterus and the pregnancy can continue. Without the presence of the embryo releasing HCG, the corpus luteum (a cluster of cells produced in the ovaries during ovulation) would disintegrate and cause your progesterone level to plummet. With hormone levels so low, the uterine lining then sheds giving you your period. This is why a missed period is the surest sign of early pregnancy. Other symptoms do not usually set in until about six weeks into pregnancy, which can be about two weeks after a missed period.
Pregnancy, though, is not the only cause of changes in a woman’s cycle. Other factors can also cause a missed period such as stress, travel, and changes in weigh or diet. But if you are sexually active and want to know if it could be pregnancy that caused you to miss your period, taking a pregnancy test is the fastest and surest way to know. You can get confidential, judgement-free pregnancy testing at no cost to you at Abria.
Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Besides a missed period, pregnancy can cause many other symptoms. Below is a list of additional pregnancy symptoms.
Implantation bleeding: Somewhere between 6 and 12 days after conception, the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. When this happens, some women get light bleeding, though, according to a survey by the American Pregnancy Society, only 3 percent of women actually experience this symptom. Because it can occur very close to the time of a normal period, it’s easy to mistake it for the start of your period.
Cramping: As the uterus stretches to accommodate the embryo some women experience cramping in the lower abdomen and pelvis.
Cramping can also occur later in pregnancy as the uterus stretches and expands.
Nausea: “Morning sickness” or nausea is one of the most common symptoms of pregnancy. The hormonal changes that occur in a woman’s body at the beginning of pregnancy cause some women to feel nauseated in the morning or at the smell of certain foods. This symptom normally doesn’t occur until 6 to 8 weeks into the pregnancy and ends for most women at about 12 weeks into the pregnancy.
Breast changes: The hormonal changes of pregnancy can also cause a woman’s breasts to swell, feel full, or become tender to the touch. The area around the nipple, which is called the areola, may also get darker.
Increased vaginal discharge: Pregnancy also causes the lining of the vagina to thicken, increasing vaginal discharge. It’s normal to have milky white or clear vaginal secretions both during ovulation and pregnancy, but discharge that smells bad or is associated with burning sensation, can be a sign of infection.
Fatigue: Progesterone is a relaxing hormone level and it rises rapidly during early pregnancy. These higher level of progesterone can cause women to feel extra tired.
Mood Swings: The swing in hormones induced by pregnancy can be reflected in a woman’s mood. If you find yourself annoyed for no reason or especially irritable, pregnancy could be the culprit.
Headaches: Some women get headaches early in pregnancy due to swift hormonal changes in her body. If the headaches are severe or become migraines, this could be a sign of that something besides pregnancy is going on.
Lower Backaches: Many women also report lower backaches during pregnancy.
The symptoms of early pregnancy can vary from woman to woman. A survey by the American Pregnancy Association reported a variety of first symtoms among women:
- 29% of women surveyed reported a missed period as their first pregnancy symptom
- 25% indicated that nausea was the first sign of pregnancy
- 17% reported that a change in their breasts was the initial symptom of pregnancy
If you think you might be pregnant, your first step is to take a lab quality pregnancy test and speak with a medical professional. Click here to schedule.
Was the timing, right? Understanding Symptoms
Except for a missed period, pregnancy and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms can be remarkably similar, but there are two ways to figure out which circumstance might be causing your symptoms. First, typical pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, fatigue and mood swings do not set in until after a missed period, often not until at least 6 weeks into the pregnancy. The second way to judge the chances that your symptoms are related to pregnancy is by checking when in your cycle you had sex. While being sexually active means pregnancy is a possibility, there are really only about 6 days a month that a woman can get pregnant, depending upon a woman’s cycle.
In order for a woman to get pregnant, two things need to happen. First, she needs to ovulate and, second, a sperm needs to reach and penetrate the egg before it dies. Ovulation normally takes place one time during a cycle and normally only one egg is released. Once an egg has been released from the ovaries (ovulation), it only lives 12 to 4 hours. That doesn’t give the sperm much time to fertilize the egg, but sperm can normally live in the woman’s reproductive track for up to 5 days. This means that a woman’s fertile window is ordinarily 6 days a month—the day of ovulation and the five days leading up to it. If you had sex outside of this window, the chances of getting pregnant are very low.
Now you might be wondering when you ovulate. Ovulation usually occurs 14 days before the start of a woman’s period. For a woman with a 28-day cycle (28 days from the start of one period to the start of the next), this means that ovulation would occur on day 14. For a woman with a 35-day cycle, this would mean she likely ovulated on day 21. Basically, the fertile time of your cycle is the middle part, although this “middle” is closer to the beginning for women with shorter cycles and closer to the end for women with longer cycles. If you had sex outside your approximate fertile time, your chances of being pregnant are low. If you had sex within your fertile time, your chances of being pregnant are higher.
It is very important to note that this simple numeric formula doesn’t work for every woman. Most women don’t have perfectly consistent cycles and some may have health issues or hormonal imbalances that cause their cycles not to follow regular patterns of ovulation and menstruation. Nevertheless, it is still possible to know approximately when you are ovulating by watching for the symptoms. By learning the signs of fertility and charting them, every woman can know when she is more likely and less likely to get pregnant.
If you had intercourse within your fertile time, or don’t know whether you did or not, taking a pregnancy test is the easiest and fastest way to determine if your symptoms are from pregnancy.
More information about fetal development can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health website.
Take a Pregnancy Test
Pregnancy testing measures the level of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in your body. This hormone is always present in the female body but rises during pregnancy as it is being released by the cells containing the embryo. Although how fast HCG gets released varies form woman to woman, it always rises dramatically even within days of conception, making it an easy way to detect pregnancy. This hormone is detectable in both the blood and the urine. A urine test is the most common form of pregnancy testing.
While taking a pregnancy test is easy, waiting for the results can be very stressful, especially if you fear an unexpected pregnancy. At Abria we understand and are here to walk with you during this stressful time. Our pregnancy testing can accurately detect pregnancy as soon as 7 to 9 days after conception, which is usually even before a missed period. Abria’s pregnancy testing is also confidential and offered at no cost to you. If you have a pregnancy testing appointment, we also offer the opportunity to discuss your sexual health concerns and all of your pregnancy options with a registered nurse.
If you are pregnant
If you test positive, you can receive a follow-up ultrasound. While a pregnancy test can tell you if you are pregnant, only an ultrasound can tell you if the pregnancy is in the uterus, if it is likely to continue and how far along it is. If you are considering abortion this is important information. Approximately one in four pregnancies end naturally in miscarriage, so if you do not want to continue the pregnancy an abortion may not be necessary. Also, knowing exactly how far along you are will let you know what your options and approximate cost would be to terminate the pregnancy. You also want to make sure the pregnancy is in the uterus because an ectopic pregnancy (when the pregnancy occurs outside the uterus) is a life-threatening condition that requires medical care. At your appointment, you can also talk to a nurse about all of your pregnancy options.
Finding out about the viability and stage of your pregnancy is your best first step before making any decision about your pregnancy. To schedule an appointment at Abria, click HERE.
No matter where you’re at in life—married with children, single, a student, or just starting a new relationship or carrier—suddenly finding out you’re pregnant can be shocking. As with any life-changing news, the best thing to do is to take some time to process it before making any final decisions.
First of all, know that you are not alone and that you do have options. Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unexpected pregnancies, so if you are experiencing an unexpected pregnancy, you are not alone.
Next, seeking medical care and advice is also recommended. To know what all your options are, you will want to know exactly how far along you are, if the pregnancy is viable, if it is in the uterus, and if you have an STI. This will give you a good picture of your situation, your health, your body, and your options. Understanding your situation well and looking at all your options with a clear, calm mind will help you move forward with confidence.
At Abria we offer the services to equip to make a confident decision and give you the space you need to make your decision. Make an appointment for pregnancy testing and an ultrasound today.
No Cost You
We are a non-profit clinic. All of our services are at no cost to you. We know that facing an unexpected pregnancy is difficult, so our priority is making sure that women have access to the care and support they need.
Your appointment is completely confidential. Because we offer our services at no cost to you, we do not bill to insurance companies, making your appointment completely confidential. Minnesota law also allows minors (under age 18) to receive our services without parental consent or notification. While we encourage teens to be open with their parents, all appointments are completely confidential.
We are here for you. If you are facing an unexpected pregnancy, we are your best first step for getting the services and information you need before making any decision about your pregnancy. To schedule an appointment for pregnancy testing or to talk with someone at Abria, click HERE.