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Diagnosing Early Pregnancy

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Pregnancy related image Photo: Getty Images

Pregnancy can occur if you have had sexual intercourse. Around 85 percent of couples who have unprotected sex get pregnant within a year. There is a very small chance of getting pregnant while using contraception. For example, the contraceptive pill is known to be less effective if the woman taking it is also taking antibiotics.

If you are trying to start a family or suspect you may be pregnant, the symptoms of early pregnancy are:

• A missed period

• A cramping sensation in the uterus around the time you would have had your period (although this could also mean your period is about to start)

• Tiredness even after a good night’s sleep

• Irritability, crying for no reason

• Heightened sense of smell -- Some food and drink odors may become repellent, when before you didn’t mind (for instance, the smell of fried food)

• Nausea and/or vomiting, commonly known as morning sickness, although it can occur at any time of the day or night

• Increase in breast size

• Breast tenderness

• Strange metallic taste in the mouth

• Cravings for certain foods or odd food combinations

Not everyone gets all the symptoms, some may only have one or two, and some symptoms could be attributable to illnesses.

After fertilization, the developing embryo releases a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to prevent the mother from having a period. Later, the production of HCG is taken over by the placenta.

In most cases, a simple urine test can detect pregnancy. These are available from supermarkets, chemists and online pharmacies. Your doctor can also do a test if you request this. Pregnancy tests are usually accurate from the first day of your missed period. Some brands can detect HCG five days earlier and some very sensitive tests have been known to detect pregnancy even earlier than that.

If you are having IVF treatment you may get a false positive result as the hormone HCG is used in the IVF process. Some weight loss programs also use HCG and could give a false pregnancy result.

If you are having assisted reproduction technology (ART), then your fertility specialist will normally give you a blood test two weeks after your embryos have been implanted to see if they have "taken". Blood tests are more sensitive than urine tests and can detect pregnancy from two weeks. This type of blood test is only done for women who are going through ART, unless you have had several negative pregnancy tests and still suspect you may be pregnant.

If you have a positive result, please see your doctor to begin your pre-natal care.


New discoveries on the biology and detection of human chorionic gonadotropin, Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology. Web. 23 August 2011. http://www.rbej.com/content/7/1/8

The Process of In Vitro Fertilization, Suite 101. Web. 23 August 2011. http://www.suite101.com/content/the-process-of-in-vitro-fertilization-a216105

Infertility, NHS Direct Wales. Web. 23rd August 2011. http://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/encyclopaedia/i/article/infertility

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting. She is a mother of five who practised drug-free home birth, delayed cord clamping, full term breast feeding, natural immunity, co-sleeping, home schooling and flexi schooling and is an advocate of raising children on organic food.

Reviewed on August 23, 2011
by Maryann Gromisch
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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