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Pregnancy FAQ

Ask Aisha!

Being pregnant can raise many questions, especially if it's your first time being pregnant. Read on for FetoLife founder Aisha's answers to your pressing pregnancy questions.

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How hard is it to get pregnant?

Your ability to get pregnant, also known as fertility, can depend on a variety of factors. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how hard it is to get pregnant. While each woman's fertility is affected by common factors like her ovulation or age, different components may impact each woman differently.

It's important to understand that ovulation plays a significant part in getting pregnant. Ovulation means that a mature egg is released into your fallopian tubes. Here, this egg can be fertilized by sperm for about 12 – 24 hours after it is released. This fertilization may result in a pregnancy.

Sperm can live inside of your reproductive tract for up to five days. So, having unprotected sex in the five days leading up to your day of ovulation and the day of ovulation itself may boost your chance of conceiving a baby. Although, it is possible to get pregnant at any point during your menstrual cycle.

You can also monitor when you are ovulating in order to improve your chances of getting pregnant. For example, you can keep a calendar of your cycle to be more aware of when you will be ovulating. In an average menstrual cycle, a woman ovulates 14 days before her period starts. It is also common for ovulation to occur four days before or after the middle of her cycle. For many women, the day of ovulation is not consistent every month, so monitoring your cycle can help you become aware of when it occurs.

As ovulation is an important part of getting pregnant, it may be more difficult for you to become pregnant if you have a hormonal disorder that affects ovulation. These can include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism.

Age is another factor that can influence your ability to get pregnant. Women are born with all their eggs and the number of these decreases with age. Although, the amount you have may be different from other women your age. At puberty, a woman has about 300,000 – 500,000 eggs, and by age 37, this decreases to about 25,000 eggs. For couples in their 20s and early 30s who are not affected by issues that impede fertility, about 1 in 4 women will become pregnant per menstrual cycle. By age 40, this decreases to about 1 in 10 women. So, while it's still possible to get pregnant as you get older, it may be more difficult.

Regardless of whether you have factors that may make it more difficult to become pregnant, there are things that you can do to help maximize your chances. These include having sex regularly and close to the time that you are ovulating. It is also beneficial to maintain a healthy weight for your body because being underweight or overweight can affect your risk of developing an ovulation disorder. You should also limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and refrain from smoking if you are trying to get pregnant. It is important to remember that you are not the only person affecting your ability to get pregnant - it also depends on your partner.

There are many components that impact each woman's ability to become pregnant, some of which are beyond your control. If you are having difficulty conceiving a child, you can speak to your care provider to discuss your options.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/how-to-get-pregnant/art-20047611
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/female-fertility/art-20045887
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/female-fertility/art-20045887

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/having-a-baby-after-age-35-how-aging-affects-fertility-and-pregnancy

How soon after unprotected sex can a pregnancy be detected?

An at-home pregnancy test can usually detect pregnancy around ten days following conception. These tests are made to recognize the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), in your urine. When a fertilized egg attaches to your uterus' lining, the placenta starts to form and then produces HCG. HCG is usually detectable around ten days following conception and increases quickly in the first weeks of pregnancy.

It's important to note that every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Your ovulation date can vary from month to month, especially if you have irregular periods. The embryo may implant in your uterus at varying times. So, it may take longer than ten days for an at-home pregnancy test to detect pregnancy.

You are most likely to get a more accurate reading from an at-home pregnancy test at least one day after the first day of your missed period. It's essential that you closely read and follow the instructions for whichever pregnancy test you use to make sure that the result is as accurate as possible.

If your test is negative, but you still suspect that you are pregnant, consider waiting at least a few days and then taking another test.

If you suspect you are pregnant and want to confirm it with your care provider, you may be able to get a blood test. A quantitative blood test can detect pregnancy earlier than a urine test, around 6 – 8 days after you ovulate.

Sources:

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9703-your-guide-to-pregnancy-tests
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/home-pregnancy-tests/art-20047940

US Dept of Health & Human Services – Office on Women's Health:
https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-get-pregnant/knowing-if-you-are-pregnant/#3

What are the early symptoms of pregnancy?

There are various symptoms you may experience at the beginning of pregnancy, in the first trimester. Everyone is different, though, and you may experience any variety of these symptoms.

One of the most common symptoms at the early stages of pregnancy is missing a period. Missing a period results from your body producing hormones that stop ovulation and stop you shedding the lining of your uterus once you conceive a baby. Although, just because you miss your period, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're pregnant. There are many reasons why your period may be late or missing.

Other common symptoms also result from hormonal changes. These can include tender or sore breasts and tiredness due to increased levels of progesterone. Nausea, also known as morning 'sickness', is another symptom that women can experience around four weeks after becoming pregnant. Morning sickness doesn't necessarily happen only in the morning, and it may or may not be accompanied by vomiting. If you become, you may also feel the need to urinate more frequently. When you become pregnant, the volume of blood in your body increases and this extra fluid is expelled from your bladder.

There are many other symptoms that you can experience at the beginning of pregnancy. These can include mood changes, food cravings or food aversions, cramping, and constipation.

Another symptom that can happen at the early stages of pregnancy is spotting or light bleeding, also known as implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding commonly occurs around 10 – 14 days after conception. It is not unlike a light period and is a sign of your embryo implanting in your uterine lining.

This list includes some of the most common symptoms. It is certainly possible that you may experience other changes in your body that are not included here. These symptoms can still be perfectly typical for women to encounter at the start of their pregnancy.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/symptoms-of-pregnancy/art-20043853

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant

What should you do when you find out that you're pregnant?

While every pregnancy is different, there are steps that everyone should try to take when they find out they're pregnant to keep themselves and their baby healthy.

We recommend that you make an appointment with your care provider as soon as possible. Meeting with your care provider will allow you to start receiving prenatal care and pregnancy education to help you throughout your pregnancy.

Your care provider will likely conduct a physical exam and ask you a series of questions, including about preexisting conditions. These are to determine your overall health and any potential risks that you may face during your pregnancy.

They should also help figure out your due date and schedule regular appointments. You will likely have an appointment every four weeks for the first 32 weeks of your pregnancy and then more frequently following that as you get closer to giving birth. Although, depending on your situation, you may need to have more or less frequent appointments.

If you have any questions for your provider, make sure to ask them. It's best to be as informed as possible.

Since the food you eat is your baby's nutritional source, it's beneficial to follow a healthy diet during your pregnancy if you aren't already doing so. Since eating healthy means different things to different people, you should ask your care provider if you are unsure of what you should be looking for in your diet. While there may be specific nutrients your own body needs, in general, you should try to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and healthy fats. Let your care provider know if you follow a specific diet, like vegetarianism. They may recommend supplements to make sure you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you need.

Even if you eat healthily, it's possible to miss out on all the nutrients you and your baby need during the pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can provide these additional nutrients that will help your baby to grow and develop. They can be an important way to get nutrients like sufficient folic acid and iron in your body. For example, prenatal vitamins with folic acid can prevent potential problems with the baby's brain and spinal cord, and prenatal vitamins with iron help develop the placenta and fetus. You can ask your care provider to recommend prenatal vitamins or choose one yourself. You should refrain from taking more than necessary as excess amounts can be potentially harmful to your baby.

If you smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or take illicit drugs, you should stop when you find out that you're pregnant. These substances can have severe impacts on your baby. Among other issues, consuming alcohol can harm your baby's heart and other organs and cause issues with it receiving enough oxygen. Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy can also cause various problems for your baby before and after birth, including issues with the placenta, premature birth, and asthma.

Taking these steps once you find out you're pregnant can help you make sure you and your baby are as healthy as possible and that you are fully equipped throughout your pregnancy.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/basics/first-trimester/hlv-20049471
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20047208
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20046955
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20045082
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/smoking-and-pregnancy/art-20047021
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352901#:~:text=There's%20no%20known%20safe%20amount,You're%20pregnant

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/5181-pregnancy-prenatal-care
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/-/scassets/files/org/obgyn/healthy-pregnancy-guide-20.ashx

How rare is it to be pregnant and have your period?

It would be rare to have a period while pregnant because of the hormones your body begins to produce when you become pregnant. These hormones cause you to stop ovulating and stop you shedding the lining of your uterus.

In your menstrual cycle, you go through ovulation, meaning your ovaries release an egg. Following the ovulation phase, you go through the luteal phase. In this phase, the egg then moves to your uterus via the fallopian tubes. If you don't become pregnant during your cycle, you then shed your uterine lining, which is your period. If you become pregnant, you won't shed the lining of your uterus and therefore won't have your period.

There are several common causes why you may experience bleeding during your pregnancy, though. In fact, about 15 – 25% of women experience bleeding in the first trimester. One reason for bleeding could be implantation bleeding, which may occur when the fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining. It usually happens around 10 – 14 days after conception. Implantation bleeding is not unlike a light period and is a common occurrence.

Other causes of bleeding in the first trimester may include ectopic pregnancy, infection, a miscarriage, molar pregnancy, or cervical issues.

It's important to remember that bleeding during pregnancy is not uncommon. It does not necessarily mean there is an issue with your pregnancy, but it may also be a sign of a problem. If you are concerned, it's best to speak with your care provider.

Sources:

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/bleeding-during-pregnancy

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/bleeding-during-pregnancy/basics/causes/sym-20050636
https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/bleeding-during-pregnancy/basics/definition/sym-20050636#:~:text=Bleeding%20in%20the%20first%20trimester,vaginal%20bleeding%20during%20pregnancy%20seriously
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/implantation-bleeding/faq-20058257
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186#:~:text=The%20menstrual%20cycle%2C%20which%20is,begins%2C%20long%20cycles%20are%20common

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10132-normal-menstruation

Where can I get a DNA test done while I'm pregnant?

If you are interested in getting prenatal genetic tests done, you should speak with your care provider. They should offer specific tests to you at various stages in your pregnancy, as tests are conducted at different times. Depending on what type of care provider you have, they may perform the tests themselves. Or, they may have to refer you to a care provider that can help you.

There are different types of prenatal genetic tests. One of these types is prenatal genetic screening tests. Prenatal genetic screening tests give you the likelihood that your child will have a particular congenital disorder. Congenital disorders include genetic disorders such as aneuploidy, which is when the baby has missing or extra chromosomes. Screening tests do not provide a definite answer about whether your baby will have a congenital disorder.

Some screening tests are done in the first trimester, while others are done in the second trimester. Screening tests in the first semester are generally performed during your 10th and 13th week of pregnancy. They are conducted with a blood sample from the pregnant woman and an ultrasound. During the ultrasound, your care provider will look for an increased risk of Down syndrome and other conditions.

In the second trimester, you can get blood tests and an ultrasound done again. These blood tests check for chromosomal conditions, including Down syndrome and neural tube defects. You can also receive an ultrasound exam to look for major physical problems, including in the baby's brain and spine.

Another type of prenatal testing is prenatal diagnostic tests. These tests can inform you whether your baby has a particular disorder. These types of tests are done in two ways. The first way is through amniocentesis. Amniotic fluid and cells are taken from your uterus with a thin needle. Amniocentesis is generally done between your 15th and 20th week of pregnancy.

The other way prenatal diagnostic tests are done is through chorionic villus sampling (CVS). With CVS, a sample of cells is taken from the placenta. CVS tests are generally done between your 10th and 13th week of pregnancy.

There are also other types of prenatal genetic testing, including combined first and second trimester screening and cell-free DNA testing.

It is entirely your decision whether you want to have prenatal genetic screening or diagnostic tests done on you and your baby. There are aspects to consider on both sides. For example, some people may want to be aware of any congenital disorders your baby may have ahead of time. Others may not be interested in knowing. If you want to get prenatal genetic tests done, make sure to speak with your care provider.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-testing/art-20045177

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/prenatal-genetic-screening-tests#:~:text=Prenatal%20genetic%20screening%20tests%20of,%2C%20heart%2C%20and%20facial%20features
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/prenatal-genetic-diagnostic-tests

When to announce pregnancy?

Your pregnancy is your own experience. You should be able to announce it whenever you decide that you are ready. Many women choose to announce their pregnancy after 12 weeks, though. This is because most miscarriages, or early pregnancy losses, happen within the first trimester.

Many women are not aware they are pregnant early on and do not realize they have a miscarriage. So, there is no exact number for how many early pregnancy losses occur. Although, estimates of known pregnancy miscarriages in the first trimester range from 10 – 20 percent.

While this makes early pregnancy loss somewhat common, it can still be a difficult experience. The risk of miscarrying declines the further into pregnancy you get. For example, approximately 1 percent of miscarriages that happen occur after the 20th week. For this reason, many women decide to wait until after the first trimester to announce their pregnancy when the risk of miscarriage is lower.

Regardless of this, you may still want to announce your pregnancy when you find out or before your second trimester begins. Some women may want their friends and family's support throughout their whole pregnancy or if they experience an early pregnancy loss.

Another thing to consider is if you are experiencing severe early pregnancy symptoms, such as extreme morning sickness. People around you may notice that something is different. It may be in your best interest to inform your friends, family, or even your employer to get the support you need.

If you don't want to tell everyone but are finding it hard to keep a secret, remember: you don't have to tell everyone at the same time. You can pick one, two, or a few select people with whom to share your pregnancy news. But ultimately, it is your decision about when and how you want to announce your pregnancy.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/symptoms-causes/syc-20354298#:~:text=Most%20miscarriages%20occur%20before%20the,Vaginal%20spotting%20or%20bleeding

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/early-pregnancy-loss

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9688-miscarriage

When should I go to the hospital once labor starts?

When you attend prenatal appointments with your care provider, take some time to discuss when you should come to the hospital to deliver your baby once labor begins.

Labor is characterized by regular contractions that increase in frequency, length, and intensity. When contractions begin, you should try to time how long these last and how much time there is between them to inform your care provider.

There are several stages to labor, and the first stage is split into two parts: early labor and active labor. In early labor, you will begin to experience contractions. These contractions allow your cervix to dilate and efface, meaning to open, soften, and shorten. Early labor allows your baby to move into the birth canal.

As early labor is different for every woman, there is no definite answer to how long it will last. Although, it can range from hours to days. Early labor also tends to be longer with your first pregnancy.

We recommend calling your care provider during early labor to inform them about your contractions' duration, length, and strength. They should give you information about when you should come to the hospital.

Additionally, if your water breaks, you should call your care provider. Having your water break means you experience a large amount of fluid coming out or a constant leak of fluid. Your water can break in early or active labor. We recommend that you discuss when you should come to the hospital ahead of time with your care provider. This way, you are as prepared as possible when the moment arrives.

Sources:

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9676-labor--delivery

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/stages-of-labor/art-20046545

What can I do to feel more confident during labor in order to influence my pain?

Understandably, labor pain is something many women are nervous about before giving birth. However, there are steps you can take before labor begins to boost your confidence.

Labor pain is caused by several things happening at once in your body. These include uterine muscle contractions, cervix pressure, the baby's pressure on your bladder or bowels, and the birth canal and vagina stretching. Every woman's pain during labor is different. Your labor pain may not even be the same in each pregnancy you have.

A great way to build your confidence before labor begins is to educate yourself and plan your birthing process. Think about what type of birth you want. Do you want a hospital birth, an at-home birth, a water birth, or something else?

Also, consider what type of environment will be the most soothing for you when the birthing process begins. Some women may want to have music playing that calms them down. Maybe you have a comfortable pillow you want to have with you while giving birth.

Another aspect you want to consider is who you want to be in the room with you and supporting you throughout the birthing process. You could choose your baby's father, your partner, or friends and family. People who can support and encourage you throughout the process may be the best choice. You can share your ideas about how you want your birthing process to go with them, so that they can help you best when the time comes.

There are also a variety of techniques that may help you cope with birthing pain. Although they likely will not eliminate the pain, they may help you deal with it. These include breathing exercises, hypnosis, and hydrotherapy or water immersion. Going into labor, your awareness of techniques to cope with pain may boost your confidence.

Despite all your planning, labor may come at an unexpected time or place. Labor may not line up with all the circumstances you have prepared for. Remember that if something changes according to your plan - it's okay. You can lean on the support of those with you. If you have educated yourself about different pain management techniques, rely on your knowledge and try to adapt to whatever situation arises.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/labor-pain/art-20044845

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15586-labor-without-medication-coping-skills
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4450-pregnancy-epidurals--pain-relief-options-during-delivery#:~:text=Regional%20anesthesia%20(also%20called%20epidural,a%20cesarean%20section%20becomes%20necessary

When can you take a bath after giving birth?

Bathing can be a great way to relax and ease stress following the birth of your baby. We recommend that you ask your care provider for instructions regarding bathing. They may suggest that you wait a few days after giving birth. You may have a particular circumstance that means you should not take a bath immediately after your delivery.

Bathing can be beneficial for your body's recovery process. For example, it can help if your vagina has torn during birth or if your care provider has performed an episiotomy. An episiotomy is when the vagina is cut to make it easier for the baby to come out. Bathing can also soothe hemorrhoid pain that may arise after birth.

If you do not want to bathe but have hemorrhoid or vaginal pain, you could consider sitting in a shallow bath. The water should be deep enough to cover your vagina or buttocks.

Importantly, if you do want to take a bath, bathe in plain water. Bubble baths, bath oils, and other additions like this may add a risk of infection to your wounds.

If you have given birth via C-section, you should ask your care provider for specific bathing instructions and follow these instructions carefully. You may have to wait at least a week because your incision needs to begin healing.

Sources:

NHS:
https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/after-the-birth/your-body/

Baby Center:
https://www.babycenter.com/baby/postpartum-health/when-can-i-take-a-bath-or-a-hot-tub-again-after-delivery_1156145

Northwestern Medicine General Obstetrics and Gynecology:
https://nfwh.nm.org/postpartum-instructions.html

March of Dimes:
https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/your-body-after-baby-the-first-6-weeks.aspx

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/postpartum-care/art-20047233

Pre-pregnancy

How hard is it to get pregnant?

Your ability to get pregnant, also known as fertility, can depend on a variety of factors. In short, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how hard it is to get pregnant. While each woman's fertility is affected by common factors like her ovulation or age, different components may impact each woman differently.

It's important to understand that ovulation plays a significant part in getting pregnant. Ovulation means that a mature egg is released into your fallopian tubes. Here, this egg can be fertilized by sperm for about 12 – 24 hours after it is released. This fertilization may result in a pregnancy.

Sperm can live inside of your reproductive tract for up to five days. So, having unprotected sex in the five days leading up to your day of ovulation and the day of ovulation itself may boost your chance of conceiving a baby. Although, it is possible to get pregnant at any point during your menstrual cycle.

You can also monitor when you are ovulating in order to improve your chances of getting pregnant. For example, you can keep a calendar of your cycle to be more aware of when you will be ovulating. In an average menstrual cycle, a woman ovulates 14 days before her period starts. It is also common for ovulation to occur four days before or after the middle of her cycle. For many women, the day of ovulation is not consistent every month, so monitoring your cycle can help you become aware of when it occurs.

As ovulation is an important part of getting pregnant, it may be more difficult for you to become pregnant if you have a hormonal disorder that affects ovulation. These can include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hyperthyroidism, or hypothyroidism.

Age is another factor that can influence your ability to get pregnant. Women are born with all their eggs and the number of these decreases with age. Although, the amount you have may be different from other women your age. At puberty, a woman has about 300,000 – 500,000 eggs, and by age 37, this decreases to about 25,000 eggs. For couples in their 20s and early 30s who are not affected by issues that impede fertility, about 1 in 4 women will become pregnant per menstrual cycle. By age 40, this decreases to about 1 in 10 women. So, while it's still possible to get pregnant as you get older, it may be more difficult.

Regardless of whether you have factors that may make it more difficult to become pregnant, there are things that you can do to help maximize your chances. These include having sex regularly and close to the time that you are ovulating. It is also beneficial to maintain a healthy weight for your body because being underweight or overweight can affect your risk of developing an ovulation disorder. You should also limit your consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and refrain from smoking if you are trying to get pregnant. It is important to remember that you are not the only person affecting your ability to get pregnant - it also depends on your partner.

There are many components that impact each woman's ability to become pregnant, some of which are beyond your control. If you are having difficulty conceiving a child, you can speak to your care provider to discuss your options.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/how-to-get-pregnant/art-20047611
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/female-fertility/art-20045887
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/female-fertility/art-20045887

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/having-a-baby-after-age-35-how-aging-affects-fertility-and-pregnancy

How soon after unprotected sex can a pregnancy be detected?

An at-home pregnancy test can usually detect pregnancy around ten days following conception. These tests are made to recognize the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), in your urine. When a fertilized egg attaches to your uterus' lining, the placenta starts to form and then produces HCG. HCG is usually detectable around ten days following conception and increases quickly in the first weeks of pregnancy.

It's important to note that every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Your ovulation date can vary from month to month, especially if you have irregular periods. The embryo may implant in your uterus at varying times. So, it may take longer than ten days for an at-home pregnancy test to detect pregnancy.

You are most likely to get a more accurate reading from an at-home pregnancy test at least one day after the first day of your missed period. It's essential that you closely read and follow the instructions for whichever pregnancy test you use to make sure that the result is as accurate as possible.

If your test is negative, but you still suspect that you are pregnant, consider waiting at least a few days and then taking another test.

If you suspect you are pregnant and want to confirm it with your care provider, you may be able to get a blood test. A quantitative blood test can detect pregnancy earlier than a urine test, around 6 – 8 days after you ovulate.

Sources:

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9703-your-guide-to-pregnancy-tests
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/home-pregnancy-tests/art-20047940

US Dept of Health & Human Services – Office on Women's Health:
https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/you-get-pregnant/knowing-if-you-are-pregnant/#3

What are the early symptoms of pregnancy?

There are various symptoms you may experience at the beginning of pregnancy, in the first trimester. Everyone is different, though, and you may experience any variety of these symptoms.

One of the most common symptoms at the early stages of pregnancy is missing a period. Missing a period results from your body producing hormones that stop ovulation and stop you shedding the lining of your uterus once you conceive a baby. Although, just because you miss your period, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're pregnant. There are many reasons why your period may be late or missing.

Other common symptoms also result from hormonal changes. These can include tender or sore breasts and tiredness due to increased levels of progesterone. Nausea, also known as morning 'sickness', is another symptom that women can experience around four weeks after becoming pregnant. Morning sickness doesn't necessarily happen only in the morning, and it may or may not be accompanied by vomiting. If you become, you may also feel the need to urinate more frequently. When you become pregnant, the volume of blood in your body increases and this extra fluid is expelled from your bladder.

There are many other symptoms that you can experience at the beginning of pregnancy. These can include mood changes, food cravings or food aversions, cramping, and constipation.

Another symptom that can happen at the early stages of pregnancy is spotting or light bleeding, also known as implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding commonly occurs around 10 – 14 days after conception. It is not unlike a light period and is a sign of your embryo implanting in your uterine lining.

This list includes some of the most common symptoms. It is certainly possible that you may experience other changes in your body that are not included here. These symptoms can still be perfectly typical for women to encounter at the start of their pregnancy.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/getting-pregnant/in-depth/symptoms-of-pregnancy/art-20043853

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant

Pregnancy

What should you do when you find out that you're pregnant?

While every pregnancy is different, there are steps that everyone should try to take when they find out they're pregnant to keep themselves and their baby healthy.

We recommend that you make an appointment with your care provider as soon as possible. Meeting with your care provider will allow you to start receiving prenatal care and pregnancy education to help you throughout your pregnancy.

Your care provider will likely conduct a physical exam and ask you a series of questions, including about preexisting conditions. These are to determine your overall health and any potential risks that you may face during your pregnancy.

They should also help figure out your due date and schedule regular appointments. You will likely have an appointment every four weeks for the first 32 weeks of your pregnancy and then more frequently following that as you get closer to giving birth. Although, depending on your situation, you may need to have more or less frequent appointments.

If you have any questions for your provider, make sure to ask them. It's best to be as informed as possible.

Since the food you eat is your baby's nutritional source, it's beneficial to follow a healthy diet during your pregnancy if you aren't already doing so. Since eating healthy means different things to different people, you should ask your care provider if you are unsure of what you should be looking for in your diet. While there may be specific nutrients your own body needs, in general, you should try to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and healthy fats. Let your care provider know if you follow a specific diet, like vegetarianism. They may recommend supplements to make sure you and your baby are getting all the nutrients you need.

Even if you eat healthily, it's possible to miss out on all the nutrients you and your baby need during the pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins can provide these additional nutrients that will help your baby to grow and develop. They can be an important way to get nutrients like sufficient folic acid and iron in your body. For example, prenatal vitamins with folic acid can prevent potential problems with the baby's brain and spinal cord, and prenatal vitamins with iron help develop the placenta and fetus. You can ask your care provider to recommend prenatal vitamins or choose one yourself. You should refrain from taking more than necessary as excess amounts can be potentially harmful to your baby.

If you smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or take illicit drugs, you should stop when you find out that you're pregnant. These substances can have severe impacts on your baby. Among other issues, consuming alcohol can harm your baby's heart and other organs and cause issues with it receiving enough oxygen. Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy can also cause various problems for your baby before and after birth, including issues with the placenta, premature birth, and asthma.

Taking these steps once you find out you're pregnant can help you make sure you and your baby are as healthy as possible and that you are fully equipped throughout your pregnancy.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/basics/first-trimester/hlv-20049471
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy/art-20047208
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20046955
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/pregnancy-nutrition/art-20045082
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/smoking-and-pregnancy/art-20047021
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fetal-alcohol-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20352901#:~:text=There's%20no%20known%20safe%20amount,You're%20pregnant

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/5181-pregnancy-prenatal-care
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/-/scassets/files/org/obgyn/healthy-pregnancy-guide-20.ashx

How rare is it to be pregnant and have your period?

It would be rare to have a period while pregnant because of the hormones your body begins to produce when you become pregnant. These hormones cause you to stop ovulating and stop you shedding the lining of your uterus.

In your menstrual cycle, you go through ovulation, meaning your ovaries release an egg. Following the ovulation phase, you go through the luteal phase. In this phase, the egg then moves to your uterus via the fallopian tubes. If you don't become pregnant during your cycle, you then shed your uterine lining, which is your period. If you become pregnant, you won't shed the lining of your uterus and therefore won't have your period.

There are several common causes why you may experience bleeding during your pregnancy, though. In fact, about 15 – 25% of women experience bleeding in the first trimester. One reason for bleeding could be implantation bleeding, which may occur when the fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining. It usually happens around 10 – 14 days after conception. Implantation bleeding is not unlike a light period and is a common occurrence.

Other causes of bleeding in the first trimester may include ectopic pregnancy, infection, a miscarriage, molar pregnancy, or cervical issues.

It's important to remember that bleeding during pregnancy is not uncommon. It does not necessarily mean there is an issue with your pregnancy, but it may also be a sign of a problem. If you are concerned, it's best to speak with your care provider.

Sources:

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/bleeding-during-pregnancy

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/bleeding-during-pregnancy/basics/causes/sym-20050636
https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/bleeding-during-pregnancy/basics/definition/sym-20050636#:~:text=Bleeding%20in%20the%20first%20trimester,vaginal%20bleeding%20during%20pregnancy%20seriously
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-answers/implantation-bleeding/faq-20058257
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/menstrual-cycle/art-20047186#:~:text=The%20menstrual%20cycle%2C%20which%20is,begins%2C%20long%20cycles%20are%20common

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10132-normal-menstruation

Where can I get a DNA test done while I'm pregnant?

If you are interested in getting prenatal genetic tests done, you should speak with your care provider. They should offer specific tests to you at various stages in your pregnancy, as tests are conducted at different times. Depending on what type of care provider you have, they may perform the tests themselves. Or, they may have to refer you to a care provider that can help you.

There are different types of prenatal genetic tests. One of these types is prenatal genetic screening tests. Prenatal genetic screening tests give you the likelihood that your child will have a particular congenital disorder. Congenital disorders include genetic disorders such as aneuploidy, which is when the baby has missing or extra chromosomes. Screening tests do not provide a definite answer about whether your baby will have a congenital disorder.

Some screening tests are done in the first trimester, while others are done in the second trimester. Screening tests in the first semester are generally performed during your 10th and 13th week of pregnancy. They are conducted with a blood sample from the pregnant woman and an ultrasound. During the ultrasound, your care provider will look for an increased risk of Down syndrome and other conditions.

In the second trimester, you can get blood tests and an ultrasound done again. These blood tests check for chromosomal conditions, including Down syndrome and neural tube defects. You can also receive an ultrasound exam to look for major physical problems, including in the baby's brain and spine.

Another type of prenatal testing is prenatal diagnostic tests. These tests can inform you whether your baby has a particular disorder. These types of tests are done in two ways. The first way is through amniocentesis. Amniotic fluid and cells are taken from your uterus with a thin needle. Amniocentesis is generally done between your 15th and 20th week of pregnancy.

The other way prenatal diagnostic tests are done is through chorionic villus sampling (CVS). With CVS, a sample of cells is taken from the placenta. CVS tests are generally done between your 10th and 13th week of pregnancy.

There are also other types of prenatal genetic testing, including combined first and second trimester screening and cell-free DNA testing.

It is entirely your decision whether you want to have prenatal genetic screening or diagnostic tests done on you and your baby. There are aspects to consider on both sides. For example, some people may want to be aware of any congenital disorders your baby may have ahead of time. Others may not be interested in knowing. If you want to get prenatal genetic tests done, make sure to speak with your care provider.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-testing/art-20045177

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/prenatal-genetic-screening-tests#:~:text=Prenatal%20genetic%20screening%20tests%20of,%2C%20heart%2C%20and%20facial%20features
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/prenatal-genetic-diagnostic-tests

When to announce pregnancy?

Your pregnancy is your own experience. You should be able to announce it whenever you decide that you are ready. Many women choose to announce their pregnancy after 12 weeks, though. This is because most miscarriages, or early pregnancy losses, happen within the first trimester.

Many women are not aware they are pregnant early on and do not realize they have a miscarriage. So, there is no exact number for how many early pregnancy losses occur. Although, estimates of known pregnancy miscarriages in the first trimester range from 10 – 20 percent.

While this makes early pregnancy loss somewhat common, it can still be a difficult experience. The risk of miscarrying declines the further into pregnancy you get. For example, approximately 1 percent of miscarriages that happen occur after the 20th week. For this reason, many women decide to wait until after the first trimester to announce their pregnancy when the risk of miscarriage is lower.

Regardless of this, you may still want to announce your pregnancy when you find out or before your second trimester begins. Some women may want their friends and family's support throughout their whole pregnancy or if they experience an early pregnancy loss.

Another thing to consider is if you are experiencing severe early pregnancy symptoms, such as extreme morning sickness. People around you may notice that something is different. It may be in your best interest to inform your friends, family, or even your employer to get the support you need.

If you don't want to tell everyone but are finding it hard to keep a secret, remember: you don't have to tell everyone at the same time. You can pick one, two, or a few select people with whom to share your pregnancy news. But ultimately, it is your decision about when and how you want to announce your pregnancy.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/symptoms-causes/syc-20354298#:~:text=Most%20miscarriages%20occur%20before%20the,Vaginal%20spotting%20or%20bleeding

ACOG:
https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/early-pregnancy-loss

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9688-miscarriage

Birth

When should I go to the hospital once labor starts?

When you attend prenatal appointments with your care provider, take some time to discuss when you should come to the hospital to deliver your baby once labor begins.

Labor is characterized by regular contractions that increase in frequency, length, and intensity. When contractions begin, you should try to time how long these last and how much time there is between them to inform your care provider.

There are several stages to labor, and the first stage is split into two parts: early labor and active labor. In early labor, you will begin to experience contractions. These contractions allow your cervix to dilate and efface, meaning to open, soften, and shorten. Early labor allows your baby to move into the birth canal.

As early labor is different for every woman, there is no definite answer to how long it will last. Although, it can range from hours to days. Early labor also tends to be longer with your first pregnancy.

We recommend calling your care provider during early labor to inform them about your contractions' duration, length, and strength. They should give you information about when you should come to the hospital.

Additionally, if your water breaks, you should call your care provider. Having your water break means you experience a large amount of fluid coming out or a constant leak of fluid. Your water can break in early or active labor. We recommend that you discuss when you should come to the hospital ahead of time with your care provider. This way, you are as prepared as possible when the moment arrives.

Sources:

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9676-labor--delivery

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/stages-of-labor/art-20046545

What can I do to feel more confident during labor in order to influence my pain?

Understandably, labor pain is something many women are nervous about before giving birth. However, there are steps you can take before labor begins to boost your confidence.

Labor pain is caused by several things happening at once in your body. These include uterine muscle contractions, cervix pressure, the baby's pressure on your bladder or bowels, and the birth canal and vagina stretching. Every woman's pain during labor is different. Your labor pain may not even be the same in each pregnancy you have.

A great way to build your confidence before labor begins is to educate yourself and plan your birthing process. Think about what type of birth you want. Do you want a hospital birth, an at-home birth, a water birth, or something else?

Also, consider what type of environment will be the most soothing for you when the birthing process begins. Some women may want to have music playing that calms them down. Maybe you have a comfortable pillow you want to have with you while giving birth.

Another aspect you want to consider is who you want to be in the room with you and supporting you throughout the birthing process. You could choose your baby's father, your partner, or friends and family. People who can support and encourage you throughout the process may be the best choice. You can share your ideas about how you want your birthing process to go with them, so that they can help you best when the time comes.

There are also a variety of techniques that may help you cope with birthing pain. Although they likely will not eliminate the pain, they may help you deal with it. These include breathing exercises, hypnosis, and hydrotherapy or water immersion. Going into labor, your awareness of techniques to cope with pain may boost your confidence.

Despite all your planning, labor may come at an unexpected time or place. Labor may not line up with all the circumstances you have prepared for. Remember that if something changes according to your plan - it's okay. You can lean on the support of those with you. If you have educated yourself about different pain management techniques, rely on your knowledge and try to adapt to whatever situation arises.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/labor-pain/art-20044845

Cleveland Clinic:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15586-labor-without-medication-coping-skills
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4450-pregnancy-epidurals--pain-relief-options-during-delivery#:~:text=Regional%20anesthesia%20(also%20called%20epidural,a%20cesarean%20section%20becomes%20necessary

When can you take a bath after giving birth?

Bathing can be a great way to relax and ease stress following the birth of your baby. We recommend that you ask your care provider for instructions regarding bathing. They may suggest that you wait a few days after giving birth. You may have a particular circumstance that means you should not take a bath immediately after your delivery.

Bathing can be beneficial for your body's recovery process. For example, it can help if your vagina has torn during birth or if your care provider has performed an episiotomy. An episiotomy is when the vagina is cut to make it easier for the baby to come out. Bathing can also soothe hemorrhoid pain that may arise after birth.

If you do not want to bathe but have hemorrhoid or vaginal pain, you could consider sitting in a shallow bath. The water should be deep enough to cover your vagina or buttocks.

Importantly, if you do want to take a bath, bathe in plain water. Bubble baths, bath oils, and other additions like this may add a risk of infection to your wounds.

If you have given birth via C-section, you should ask your care provider for specific bathing instructions and follow these instructions carefully. You may have to wait at least a week because your incision needs to begin healing.

Sources:

NHS:
https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/after-the-birth/your-body/

Baby Center:
https://www.babycenter.com/baby/postpartum-health/when-can-i-take-a-bath-or-a-hot-tub-again-after-delivery_1156145

Northwestern Medicine General Obstetrics and Gynecology:
https://nfwh.nm.org/postpartum-instructions.html

March of Dimes:
https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/your-body-after-baby-the-first-6-weeks.aspx

Mayo Clinic:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/postpartum-care/art-20047233