Pregnancy occurs when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, grows inside a woman’s uterus (womb), and develops into a baby. In humans, this process takes about 264 days from the date of fertilization of the egg, but the obstetrician will date the pregnancy from the first day of the last menstrual period (280 days 40 weeks).
The doctor will use certain terms when discussing pregnancy. Some of the following definitions are useful:
- Intra-uterine pregnancy: A normal pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus (womb) and an embryo grows.
- Embryo: The term used for the developing fertilized egg during the first 9 weeks of pregnancy.
- Fetus: The term used for the developing embryo after 9 weeks of gestation.
- Beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (also called beta-hCG): This hormone is secreted by the placenta and can be measured to determine the presence and progression of the pregnancy. Urine or blood can be tested for its presence, and it is the hormone involved in the performance of a home pregnancy test. A positive result means a woman is pregnant; however, this test result can stay positive for several weeks after delivering a baby or following a spontaneous miscarriage.
- Trimester: The duration of an individual pregnancy is divided into three periods called trimesters(approximately three months in duration). Each trimester is characterized by specific events and developmental markers. For instance, the first trimester includes the differentiation of the different organ systems.
- Estimated date of delivery (EDD): The delivery date is estimated by counting forward 280 days from the first day of the woman’s last period. It is also called the estimated date of confinement (EDC).
Early symptoms of pregnancy
Some symptoms of pregnancy are especially noticeable early on, including:
- a missed period
- feeling exhausted
- urinating more than normal
- sensitive, swollen breasts
If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor, especially if you’ve recently had unprotected sex.
If you think you are pregnant, you may want to test yourself at home with a home pregnancy test. You can buy test kits at a drug store without a prescription. Home use kits measure a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in your urine. However, these tests are qualitative, and the results are either positive or negative for pregnancy. The hormone hCG may be detected in urine about 2 weeks after conception(when the egg is fertilized by sperm). With the home test kit, you place a drop of your urine on a prepared chemical strip. It usually takes 1 or 2 minutes for the strip to indicate the result.
The most sensitive test of pregnancy is best performed by a laboratory using a sample of your blood. These tests not only detect human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) but also can indicate the amount (quantitative tests) of the hormone, which doubles every 2-3 days during the first several weeks of pregnancy. These more sensitive tests can tell you approximately how long you have been pregnant and even detect specific problems with the pregnancy.
Initially, many women prefer the privacy, convenience, and quick results from home test kits. Home pregnancy tests are not as accurate as blood tests done by your laboratory. They also cannot determine if your pregnancy is developing as expected.
What’s next if the results are POSITIVE?
Your next steps depend on two things: whether you’re pregnant and whether or not you planned to get pregnant.
If your test results are positive and you’ve been planning to have a baby, take another test (or two) to make sure you’re pregnant. Then, see your doctor before you reach the 8-week mark. You can ask them about prenatal care options or specialists who can help guide you through your pregnancy. Ask your doctor about any changes you need to make to your lifestyle, medications, or diet to keep yourself and your baby healthy for the next nine months.
If your test results are positive but you didn’t plan to get pregnant, ask your doctor about available options.
A false positive can occur for several reasons:
- chemical pregnancy, in which your pregnancy ends shortly after the egg attaches to your uterine lining
- ectopic pregnancy
- ovarian conditions, such as cysts
What’s next if the results are NEGATIVE?
If your test results are negative, but you want to have a baby, keep trying to get pregnant. Also, make sure that you begin taking folic acid supplements if you haven’t already. You won’t always get pregnant from sexual intercourse depending on your menstrual cycle, so use an ovulation calculator or track your cycle on a calendar to decide when the best times are for you to get pregnant.
If you’ve tried to become pregnant multiple times, consider getting a fertility test or asking your partner to get a fertility test. It can reveal whether either of you might have fertility issues that are affecting your ability to get pregnant. If you’re infertile, consider other options for becoming pregnant, such as artificial insemination.
If your test results are negative and you didn’t plan to get pregnant, take a second test to make sure the results are accurate. If you took the test because you were concerned that you might have gotten pregnant after unprotected sex, make sure to use any birth control necessary to prevent any future pregnancy scares.
If your results are negative but you’re still experiencing pregnancy symptoms, such as a missed period, see your doctor find out if another condition is causing your symptoms. Symptoms such as exhaustion, nausea, and vomiting are common to other conditions. Heavy exercise or excessive stress can cause missed periods as well.
A false negative can happen for several reasons, including:
- If you are using certain medications, such as tranquillizers or anticonvulsants.
- If you take the test when your urine is diluted from food and liquid intake. Take the test in the morning when your urine is least diluted.
- If you take the test too early after a missed period. Taking the test a few days to a week after your missed period will usually give you the most accurate results.
- If you didn’t wait long enough after taking the test. If you’re using an HPT, follow the instructions to make sure you give the test enough time to give you the results.
Tests You Need During Pregnancy
“Taking good care of yourself during pregnancy is the most important way to have a healthy baby,”
Your first prenatal visit will include blood tests to determine your blood type; your iron level to see if you’re anaemic; your blood glucose level (blood sugar level) to check for diabetes; and your Blood Group Rh factor (if your blood is Rh negative, and the fathers is Rh positive, the fetus may inherit the father’s Rh-positive blood, which could cause your body to make antibodies that would hurt your unborn child). You will also be tested for HIV, hepatitis B, and syphilis, as well as whether you’re immune to rubella (German measles), since coming down with this illness while pregnant, especially in the first three months, can cause birth defects. You may also need to check your thyroid hormone levels.
Altogether these tests are called ANTI NATAL SCREENING or ANC. Book Your ANC Profile at ₹1049.00
A Pap smear: if one has not been performed recently, will be done to test for early cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, while a urine specimen will be taken to check for urinary tract infections. A blood pressure check will also screen for high blood pressure, which can interfere with the blood supply to the placenta.
The next set of prenatal tests will be performed between weeks 8-18 of the pregnancy and will include an ultrasound screening, which can help determine your due date more accurately, and also look for abnormalities in the fetus. During this time, your doctor will also take other blood tests (known as a triple marker screening or a quad screening) that will measure blood levels of alpha-fetoprotein, estriol, hCG (beta human chorionic gonadotropin), and inhibin, which can indicate whether the fetus is at risk for abnormalities such as Down syndrome or spina bifida. A newer blood test, PAPPA (pregnancy-associated plasma protein A), conducted during weeks 10-14 of the pregnancy and used in conjunction with an ultrasound screening, is a good choice for women who are at risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality.
Between weeks 24-28, you will be screened again for diabetes (some women develop pregnancy-related diabetes, known as gestational diabetes, which usually clears up after the baby is born), and patients who are Rh negative will be checked for Rh antibodies (which can be treated through a series of injections).
At the end of the pregnancy, between weeks 32-36, you may be retested for syphilis and gonorrhoea, as well as for group B strep (GBS), a type of bacterium that can cause meningitis or blood infections in newborn infants; if you test positive for GBS, you will be given antibiotics during labour and delivery to minimize the risk of transmitting the bacterium to your infant.
Though these are all routine tests, there may be other prenatal tests that your obstetrician will recommend, depending on your pregnancy course & previous medical history. These are;
- Double or Dual Marker
- Quad Marker
- Anti HCV
- Hb Electrophoresis
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