Am I Pregnant?
Wondering if you are pregnant can provoke many emotions. When a woman has been trying to get pregnant, she may feel anxious suspense and excitement . If a woman suspects she is pregnant and doesn't want to be, or feels ambivalent, she may still feel these emotions and also distress.
Missing a menstrual period is often, but not always, a clear sign of pregnancy. Women with irregular cycles may not suspect anything at all, especially in the absence of other symptoms. When breasts are also sore or a woman feels unusually tired or a bit queasy, suspicion can increase and women commonly start reviewing their recent sexual activity, periods and other possible symptoms before running to the store and buying a pregnancy test. Of course not everyone reacts this way, but many do; sharing suspicions with a confidante and forming hypotheses. The problem is that many symptoms of early pregnancy are unreliable indicators; tender breasts, fatigue, moodiness and an upset tummy are also common features of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Knowing for Sure
When a woman becomes pregnant, the developing embryo produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), commonly referred to as the "pregnancy hormone". HCG is the basis for both blood and urine pregnancy tests. Home pregnancy tests, such as the ones found in many drug stores, are designed to detect hCG in a woman's urine. The results of urine pregnancy tests are quite reliable by the time a woman with regular menstrual cycles has missed her period, as long as the test is followed according to the manufacturer's instructions. MedLine Plus explains that urine pregnancy tests will not detect pregnancy if hCG levels are below 25-50mIU/mL, as they often are very early in pregnancy. If you are sexually active, have missed your period and have gotten a negative result on a home pregnancy test, it is a good idea to let your doctor or midwife know as soon as possible. You may be advised to wait a few more days and perform another home pregnancy test, or you may be asked to come in for a visit. A blood test for hCG can be drawn in your doctor's office and is likely to give you a reliable result sooner than a home pregnancy test will. Once several weeks have passed since a missed menstrual period, an ultrasound can also detect pregnancy, however most doctors will perform urine and/or blood tests first.
The Bottom Line
Physical symptoms experienced very early in pregnancy may provide clues for some women that they are pregnant, but a much more reliable way to determine pregnancy is to test for hCG with a urine or blood test. If you suspect you may be pregnant, don't delay finding out for sure. According to womenshealth.gov, babies of women who do not receive prenatal care are experience many times the risk of low birthweight and death than babies of mothers who get regular prenatal care. Starting care as soon as possible is best for mom and baby.
MedLine Plus: Pregnancy Test http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003432.htm
Womenshealth.gov: Prenatal Care http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/prenatal-care.cfm#b