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What are the early signs of pregnancy to look out for?
The body does amazing things to keep us alive every day. But what’s possibly even more amazing are the changes that happen as soon as it begins to create a future little human. From conception, a woman’s body is busier than ever as the cells are dividing rapidly in the growing embryo.
If you’ve been specifically trying to conceive, you’re likely to be noticing every little thing going on with your body, trying to pick up on things that may signal a potential pregnancy. It’s not always as clear-cut to pick early signs of pregnancy, as many of these are very similar to what women may also experience with PMS.
When will I start having pregnancy symptoms?
It’s arguable at what point you’ll be able to feel symptoms. Some people claim they experience symptoms from when the fertilised egg implants in the uterus lining. This process is called implantation and happens around 10-14 days after the conception. Some women do report implantation cramping or implantation spotting (a very light bleeding) at this stage. However, this isn’t something every woman will experience, and is often mistaken for a normal part of the menstrual cycle.
Other early signs of pregnancy in the first weeks after conception include:
- a missed period – probably the most reliable sign
- feeling sick or vomiting – this is often known as ‘morning sickness’ however, many women will attest to the fact that it can occur at any time of the day or night
- feeling tired or exhausted – again, this is due to all the biological changes underway
- changes in your breasts – some women report pain, tenderness or that their breasts are larger
- urinating more often – more frequent trips to the toilet are caused by changing hormone levels
- changes in your taste or smell – you might be put off foods you usually like, or craving things you usually wouldn’t. Some women report noticing a metallic or sour taste in their mouth.
These symptoms will vary from person to person and it’s important to point out that some women never experience early pregnancy symptoms.
Okay, I am noticing potential early signs of pregnancy. What do I do now?
You could head out and get yourself a home pregnancy test kit. These are widely available at pharmacies and supermarkets. A home test kit looks for a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) which is made in the placenta and found in a pregnant woman’s blood and urine. Levels of hCG are generally high enough to detect by 10 days after conception. However, you may get a more reliable result if you wait a week after your period was due.
It’s important to read the instructions on the test kit carefully, even if you have used one before. Different brands have different instructions, and it’s important to follow these closely to be sure your result is as accurate as possible.
Some tests have a digital display which can show you an estimate of how many weeks pregnant you are. This is based on how much hCG is present in the urine, as hCG levels rise every week until around week 10-12 of pregnancy.
What is the best early pregnancy test?
There isn’t any good evidence to recommend the use of one brand over another at this point. What we do know is that home pregnancy tests are up to 97% accurate provided the instructions are followed closely.
If you've had a positive result on a home pregnancy test it’s time to book in with a GP to have the result confirmed.
Likewise, if you get a negative result, but continue to experience signs of pregnancy − like a missed period − it’s worth going to see your doctor.
How to confirm a pregnancy test result
Your GP will be able to confirm a result by a simple and accurate blood test, which will be sent away to a lab. A blood test is a much more accurate early pregnancy test than a home test. The results will also provide your level of hCG, which your doctor will use to confirm how many weeks pregnant you are. You can estimate your due date from this information, but a ‘dating scan’ will provide a more accurate picture from foetal measurements.
Your GP can then help you to arrange antenatal care for the remainder of your pregnancy. There are some different care pathways that you will need to consider for your pregnancy – for example, whether you will choose to go through the public or private system. The good news is that in Australia, both systems offer great care for mothers and their new babies.
Read more about all things pregnancy-related in our pregnancy and birth health guide.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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