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Am I Pregnant?
Written by Paul

The symptoms of early pregnancy will vary from woman to woman. Some will not feel any of the symptoms listed below, while others can experience all of them. Many women will experience symptoms within days of conception. Others can take weeks before any symptoms surface. Experiencing one or several of the symptoms listed below does not necessarily mean a woman is pregnant. The early pregnancy symptoms listed below will generally surface after implantation (the fertilized egg burrowing into the endometrial lining, which occurs approximately 8 to 10 days after ovulation). There are three stages of pregnancy, called trimesters. Initial conception to the fourteenth week of pregnancy makes up the first trimester. The symptoms listed below usually drop in severity after the first trimester.

Breasts: Pregnancy causes the breasts (and nipples) to feel very tender. It is possible for them to become swollen and even increase in size. In many cases, the veins of the breast will become much more visible. Nipples have also been known to darken in color. These symptoms are caused by an increased amount of human chorionic gonadotropin (or HCG). HCG is a hormone produced during pregnancy.

Nausea/Vomiting: Nausea/vomiting can occur during the second week of pregnancy. A number of women experience this symptom in the morning (the well known "morning sickness"). But, it is possible to experience this symptom throughout the day, not just in the morning. It is not known what directly causes nausea/vomiting. One theory puts the blame on the hormone progesterone, which is the most dominant hormone found during pregnancy. Progesterone is known to effect smooth muscle tissue, which also includes the stomach. Another theory puts the blame on elevated levels of steroid hormones and HCG.

Dizziness: An inactive pregnant woman runs the risk of feeling dizzy or even fainting. The developing uterus has been known to compress the major arteries in a woman's legs. This results in a drop in blood pressure that can cause a woman to become very light headed (or in extreme cases, collapse).

Lethargy: Because the body goes through some serious hormonal changes during pregnancy, it is quite possible to feel run down. The body temperature increases during pregnancy due to higher amounts of progesterone, which can also have an impact on a woman's energy levels.

Body Temperature: Body temperature is increased during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Higher levels of progesterone can cause an increase in body temperature. The changing metabolic rates, cardiac rates, and blood flow found during pregnancy have also been attributed to an increase in body temperature.

Frequent Urination: The uterus will swell and enlarge to make room for the growing fetus during pregnancy. The expanding uterus puts pressure on the bladder, which brings about feelings for the need to urinate frequently. This symptom is most commonly experienced within 1 or 2 weeks after the conception has occurred.

Increase of Saliva: Women have been known to experience an increase of saliva. It is not known what causes this, but this symptom usually disappears at the end of the first trimester.

Eating Patterns: An increase in appetite can be caused by pregnancy. The metabolic rates of the body are changing. This, coupled together with the need for the woman's body to support another, causes an increase in eating. The body will also begin to crave healthy, nutrient-rich foods. These eating patterns can last well into the pregnancy.

Taste/Smell: Being turned away by certain junk/fattening foods is another sign of pregnancy. The body wants to gather as many nutrients as possible in anticipation of the developing baby. This can lead to an avoidance of a woman's favorite unhealthy snacks. On a side note, some women have reported an increase of smell during their pregnancy. Others have reported a strange, metallic present in their mouths. To date, there is no explanation for these phenomena.

Heartburn: As the uterus swells and grows, it pushes upwards. This can cause some discomfort. Increasing levels of HCG can slow down digestion. When the stomach does not empty as fast, the body compensates by making more acid. This increase in stomach acid can cause heartburn.

Constipation: The hormones involved in pregnancy will slow down normal bowel functions to increase vitamin and nutrient absorption. This is one of the longer lasting symptoms of pregnancy and typically gets worse as the pregnancy progresses.

Mood Swings: An abundance of hormones has been known to cause violent mood swings. A combination of hormones and with having to deal with other symptoms of pregnancy makes the woman very sensitive and very subject to mood swings. Mood swings are also associated with a woman's menstrual period.

Vaginal Discharge: Light bleeding (also called spotting) can occur during pregnancy. The spotting is most commonly seen during the same time when the woman would be experiencing her menstrual period. Many women mistake spotting for a light menstrual period. Spotting can be caused from implantation.

Delay of Menstruation: The most common and well known symptom of a pregnancy is a missed menstrual period. When a woman is experiencing her menstrual period, she is actually shedding the lining of the uterus. There is no need for this when the woman is pregnant because the uterus is busy supporting the developing fetus.

Skin: The changing levels of hormones during pregnancy can cause a variety of skin conditions. The most common are outbreaks of pimples. Other women have reported a drying of the skin, which can also include chapped lips.

At Home Pregnancy Tests
At home pregnancy tests measure the level of HCG in your urine. The appearance of HCG soon after conception and its' sudden rise in concentration make it an excellent marker for the early detection of pregnancy. Not all pregnancy tests are of the same strength. Some have been developed to be much more sensitive to the amount of HCG present in urine.

Concentrations of HCG are reported in milliInternational Units (mIU). The most sensitive pregnancy tests can, at the very least, detect around 20 mIU/ml HCG. The average (and less expensive) pregnancy tests looks for levels anywhere from 40 to 100 mIU/ml HCG. With the most sensitive variety, a woman can detect a pregnancy 6 to 8 days after conception (even before she misses her menstrual period). If instructions are followed to the letter, home pregnancy tests are quite accurate (97% and up). Human error accounts for almost all of the error associated with home pregnancy tests.

Doctors can perform a blood test to determine the presence of HCG in the blood. The blood tests are very sensitive. It can tell a woman if she is pregnant within 6 to 8 days after conception. A blood test is not as prone to human error because the test is being administered by trained professionals. If a positive test result is obtained from a home pregnancy test, then it is generally recommended to make an appointment with a doctor for confirmation and counseling.
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