12:35 03 June 2009
The most well known sign of pregnancy is a missed period that's due but doesn't arrive. But you may have other symptoms too, and they may start before you miss your period. This article also appears on www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/having_a_baby
Other signs of pregnancy include:
Some women experience something similar to a very light period, or 'spotting' (small dots of blood in your knickers), when they are pregnant. It can feel as if you have not actually missed your period.
So, you've done the fun bit, now it's time to find out if you're having a baby.
You can buy a pregnancy test to use at home, and can use it two to three weeks after you think you might have conceived, or on the first day of your missed period. Any sooner than this means you may not get a reliable result.
The tests work by detecting the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in your urine. A chemical in the plastic stick changes colour when it comes into contact with hCG, so the usual way of testing is simply to wee on the end of the stick and watch for a change of colour in the little window. Some tests show up as a coloured line.
Pregnancy tests are very accurate as long as you use them properly. It's possible to have a 'false negative' " that is, the test says you aren't pregnant, when you are. If your period still doesn't arrive, then do the test again or check with your doctor.
It's also possible for a first pregnancy test to show positive, but a later one doesn't. Or, the test shows positive but you then go on to have a period. Your period may be heavier than you're used to, and this can mean your pregnancy has been lost. This is a very early miscarriage, probably as way of protecting the body from hanging on to a damaged embryo. It won't mean you can't conceive again.
You can buy pregnancy tests online, in the supermarket or at your local chemist. Some doctors, family planning clinics, and young people's services such as the Brook Centres offer free tests. Some pharmacies, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service clinics and Marie Stopes International clinics offer testing for a fee. See Related links below for links to these services.
The length of your pregnancy is dated from the first day of your last period " even though you actually conceive two weeks or so after this date (depending on the usual length of your cycle).
Check your due date and what's happening within your body week by week with our Pregnancy calendar. You only need to know the first day of your last period and it'll give you a due date. Your baby is likely to be born two weeks either side of this date.
Q. Does the doctor need to confirm my pregnancy?
A. Not usually. If you've done a home pregnancy test and the result is positive, you just need to inform your doctor. He or she is unlikely to feel you need any further test " though if you are very unsure of your dates, your doctor may suggest you have a 'dating' scan.
This is an ultrasound scan done in early pregnancy to gauge the size of your uterus and the embryo, and from there, to work out how far pregnant you are. But if you are healthy, and not experiencing problems, you may feel don't need to know, unless you want to of course. This scan can sometimes be done internally. An estimate of your dates can be made later, as you (and your baby) become bigger.
Most women see their family doctor to arrange for their antenatal care, but if you prefer, you can book directly with a community midwife.
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