Sunday, February 2, 2014

There's a Bun in My Oven! -maybe -I think... I don't know... am I??

So it seems like all women at one point or another ask that question... "Am I pregnant?" They want to know how early they can tell, what early symptoms may give it away - even when it's too early to take a pregnancy test. I know I did!

Unfortunately, (or fortunately I suppose), every woman is different and has different experiences during pregnancy. And while there are some symptoms you may experience early in your pregnancy, the only way to know for sure if you are pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. Don't bother with any of those online quizzes that claim to tell you if you're pregnant just by answering 10 simple questions. They can be fun to take though. If you think you may be pregnant, I'd suggest buying a EPT (early pregnancy test), and while you're waiting for that little blue line (or smiley face or plus sign or a "Pregnant" reading), take a couple of these quizzes and see if any of them were right. Help pass the time - it's like the longest 5 minutes of your life.

Well, here are some of the early pregnancy symptoms you may experience. There is no guarantee you will experience any of them - some women seem to get them all, and some don't get any.

"A missed period accounted for 32% of the first reported signs of pregnancy. Nausea was the second most popular first sign accounting for 26% of the reports with tender or changing breasts at 16% and fatigue at 9% rounding off the top four." (American Pregnancy Association) 

  • Nausea/Vomiting
    • This symptom usually shows up 2-8 weeks after conception (which would be when you are between 4 and 10 weeks pregnant, since the standard is to begin counting from the first day of your LMP - Last Menstrual Period - even though you are not even pregnant at that time. The first 2 weeks of your pregnancy, you haven't even conceived yet. Most women conceive around day 14, so then don't experience any symptoms for another 2 weeks).
    • Morning sickness is probably the most troublesome, common, and annoying symptom of early pregnancy. It can strike at any time of day - not just the morning. Your experience with it can range from mild queasiness to debilitating vomiting (if you experience it at all). If it makes you feel better, even celebrities and members of royalty experience it. Duchess Kate Middleton had severe morning sickness - though she actually suffered from "hyperemesis gravidarum, a rare disorder that triggers severe vomiting during pregnancy [...] most common during the first 12 weeks [...] But the new research suggests that when the condition occurs during the second trimester, it can lead to serious complications in later pregnancy that need close monitoring [such as pre-eclampsia]." (Daily Mail)
    • I will most likely write an entire post about this symptom as it is one of the main ones most women experience, but researchers have found that women who experience morning sickness are less likely to have a miscarriage or stillbirth and less likely to deliver before 37 weeks' gestation. (Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal) "All nine studies that have explored this relationship in about 20,000 pregnancies showed that women who experienced the condition were significantly less likely to miscarry." (NY Times)
  • Fatigue
    • You can feel tired or experience fatigue as early as the week after conception 
  • Spotting/Cramping
    • Spotting can occur around your 4th week of pregnancy, this is usually due to the egg implanting on the wall of your uterus - and it is therefore called implantation bleeding. 
    • Women sometimes mistake spotting or implantation bleeding for their period. (Which makes me wonder what these women's periods are like. They must have it lucky to regularly have periods that are so light as to be described as "spotting.")
  • Breast Tenderness/Breast Changes
    • Many women say that their breasts feeling "weird" is what clued them in to the fact that they were pregnant. (Not me, in case you were wondering. I did not experience many of these early pregnancy symptoms).
    • Your breasts may feel tingly, tender, fuller, or sore as early as 1-2 weeks after conception (3rd or 4th week into pregnancy). The areolas may enlarge and darken a little - due to increased blood circulation and a growth of pigmented cells - and this could be a permanent change. Montgomery's tubercles, or little bumps, may appear on the areolas. These bumps "secrete lubricant and anti-infection substances that protect the nipples and areolas during breast-feeding." (Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy)
  • Mood Swings
    • "Your emotions can range from exhilaration to exhaustion, delight to depression." (Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy) These mood swings can be due to physical stresses your baby is placing on your growing body, hormonal changes, changes in your metabolism, or just fatigue.
  • Frequent Urination
    • Can start around 6 to 8 weeks after conception and is most likely due to hormonal changes.
  • Constipation
    • Hormones - go figure - can cause constipation. More specifically, the hormone progesterone causes food to pass more slowly through your intestines.
  • Headaches
    • Changes in hormone levels can cause headaches. 
  • Back Pain
    •  Some women begin to experience mild back ache early in pregnancy... this can be a symptom that you have for the duration of your pregnancy.
  • Dizziness/Fainting
    • Could be due to "dilating blood vessels, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar." (WebMD)
  • Food Aversions/Cravings
    • Everyone has probably heard that pregnant women crave pickles and ice cream, but this seems to be a bit of an exaggeration, as I do not personally know anyone with that particular craving, nor have I read anything about that being a typical craving during pregnancy. But you may find that early in pregnancy you crave particular foods or have aversions to others. The food aversions may be attributed to the morning sickness - some foods for some women will just not stay down.
    • I still don't think I've really experienced any food aversions or cravings. Yes, there was a period of time when all I wanted was steak, but I've had moments like that when I wasn't pregnant (and not just in regards to steak - but with any food. Sometimes I just really want something. Usually cause I haven't had it in a while). 
    • A missed period is the most obvious, and the main reason women take an EPT. Some women claim to have "phantom periods" and it is possible to continue to bleed during pregnancy, though it is usually lighter and shorter than a normal period. I have not as of yet found any concrete research or articles on "phantom periods" - I've only seen it discussed in forums. 
Note that most of these symptoms can be attributed to other things, including an impending period. 

Back before I was pregnant, when my husband and I were just TTC (trying to conceive) I did what I'm sure most women do - and I googled all of this. I typed in "Am I pregnant?" I read a bunch of forums - none of which really helped me. A lot of women just claimed that they "knew." They had "a feeling." I groaned in frustration because that's not something concrete, that's not easy to explain... I had no idea if I was feeling that symptom. 

Well, my experience with early pregnancy symptoms and finding out I was pregnant wasn't all that momentous. I didn't experience very many symptoms. I felt "weird." I was a little tired, but I had just started a new job only a couple weeks before and it was very exhausting (I was a "teacher" at a YMCA childcare site - and over the summer the frequently 9 or more hour days consisted of field trips, numerous planned activities, clubs, and watching up to 28 crazy kids between the ages of 5 and 12). My breasts didn't really feel different, I didn't have any morning sickness (yet!) though there were maybe 2 days that I felt a little uneasy/queasy... My period was about a week "late," but that wasn't unusual. I didn't have a completely regular exactly 28-day cycle. I was frequently up to 6 or 7 days "late" or "early," so when I was almost a week "late" I didn't think much of it. Also, my husband had just left for a month-long training in preparation for his upcoming deployment, so I attributed it and many of my other "symptoms" to stress. I'd been late before due to stress from him being gone.

However, after a few days of feeling tired and blah and just "not good"... I just had a feeling. I hate to be yet another one of those women that just says "I knew" - and I can't say that I definitively "knew" but I did have a strong inkling. I didn't completely trust it - there had been times when I thought I was (back when my husband and I were actively TTC - we weren't at this time) and kept telling myself and convincing myself that I was because I was feeling certain "symptoms." When, really, I was just hoping and willing myself to be pregnant. Anyway, I had this "feeling" and immediately went to my cabinet for the EPTs I had there. The box was empty though... so I went to CVS to get more. I was on my phone while in the store too - looking up online which EPTs were the most reliable and couldn't find anything definitive. (They're really mostly the same. Don't waste your money on a digital one - they aren't any more reliable than the standard kind. "Digital pregnancy tests are usually not able to detect pregnancy as early as many traditional pregnancy tests. [They] may be just as accurate as a traditional pregnancy test further into the pregnancy." (Yahoo! Voices) Though, once you get a positive EPT, getting a digital one can be a cute way to tell your partner or just confirm it to yourself).

To be blunt... I peed on the stick... and the next few minutes felt like the longest of my life, though now I can't even tell you what I did during that time. I may have just sat there looking away from the counter where I'd set the EPT... twiddling my thumbs... trying not to just "watch the pot boil." I know I was freaking out a little bit, since my husband was gone and just that morning had started a week-long stint without any communication (on a training mission). So I knew that if it was positive I wasn't going to be able to talk to him to tell him for 7 days. (LONGEST 7 days of my life, btw!!)

Well, obviously, I was pregnant. I had a minor panicked moment - not exactly ideal timing seeing as my husband was going to deploy a few months later and wasn't even there for me to tell (I couldn't even call him! ahh!!!) and went and looked for the books I'd bought months before when my husband and I were actively trying. (Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and What to Expect When You're Expecting). I read a bunch, bought some little bitty baby booties and pulled a little bib and a book out from where I hid them months before, just waiting for this moment. The bib had a little turtle and said "worth the wait" and the book was Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad! - both gifts for my husband. A few days later I frantically began messaging a coworker of my husband's who was not on the same mission, asking if he knew when exactly they'd be back in contact. I assured him it wasn't an emergency... just to make sure (if he could) that my husband got in contact with me as soon as he was able. Of course, he figured out why I needed to talk to my husband so bad but was gracious enough not to blow the surprise. haha.

Well, once I was finally able to talk to my husband and told him the news, he didn't believe me. And that probably had something to do with the fact that I'd jokingly tried to convince him that I was a couple times before. He would take one look at my face and know I was kidding him. I know, I'm a terrible, terrible person. Well he didn't fully believe me until I sent him pictures of a positive pregnancy test and the referral form from my primary doctor to an OB-GYN that showed notes from the doctor saying "positive ept." Silly man. lol.

Well... that's my story. And the giant list of possible early pregnancy symptoms. Hopefully you learned something, or were at least mildly entertained (or both!).
Thanks for reading! 

Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy
WebMD: Pregnancy Symptoms
American Pregnancy Association: Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Obstetrics & Gynecology Journal: Epidemiology of Vomiting in Early Pregnancy
Daily Mail: "Severe morning sickness in early pregnancy 'puts Kate and other expectant mothers at more risk of pre-eclampsia'"
The New York Times: What Could Be Good About Morning Sickness?
Yahoo! Voices: Are Digital Pregnancy Tests Better Than Traditional Pregnancy Tests?

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