Q:I think I might be pregnant—what is the best way to confirm this?
A:By far the most accurate way to confirm a pregnancy is to perform a home pregnancy test. If used correctly, these are extremely accurate. Your health care provider can offer pregnancy testing if confirmation is required. This may be the case if, for example, you test too early and get a false negative result  and then lose faith in the home test. Besides a home pregnancy test, pregnancy can also be confirmed with a blood test, although this is usually only done if there are possible problems such as irregular bleeding. Occasionally, ultrasound scans are used to confirm a pregnancy, particularly if there is a question about the dates, although an embryo cannot be seen on a scan until at least four weeks after conception.

Q:I feel pregnant—how early can I do a test?
A:Pregnancy tests determine if you are pregnant by detecting a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) in your urine. This pregnancy hormone is released when the fertilized egg is implanted in the lining of the womb and it rises significantly in the early stages of pregnancy. Most pregnancy tests can now detect hCG as early as the day you are due to have your period. If you have irregular cycles, use your longest recent cycle to determine when you should test.

Q:My period is late but the pregnancy test was negative. Could I be pregnant?
A:If your test was negative and you still think you may be pregnant, wait for three days and perform another test; there may not have been enough hCG in your urine when the first test was done. If you have had two or three negative tests and still feel you may be pregnant, or your period has not arrived, ask your health care provider for advice since there may be a number of medical reasons apart from pregnancy to explain why your period has not arrived.

Q:Are home pregnancy tests reliable?
A:If you follow the instructions carefully, home pregnancy tests are around 97–99 percent accurate. When you are doing a home pregnancy test, use the first urine sample of the day and to not drink too much fluid the night before. This is to prevent the sample from becoming too diluted, which could make it difficult to measure the levels of hCG.

Certain fertility medications can interfere with the results of a pregnancy test, so if you have been undergoing any fertility treatment and think this may apply to you, ask your doctor or fertility clinic for information and advice.

Doing a pregnancy test too early in pregnancy can produce a false negative result, which means that the test says negative but you are really pregnant. If you think this may be the case, repeat the test in three days' time.

Q:I'm on the pill but my doctor has confirmed I'm pregnant. How can this have happened?
A:An oral contraceptive is around 92–99.7 percent effective, depending on the brand and how reliably it is taken. Although figures indicate that approximately 8 out of 100 women do become pregnant in the first year of using oral contraception, other studies indicate that when it is taken properly this figure falls to less than 1 out of 100.

Ideally, oral contraception should be taken at the same time each day, although some types can be taken up to 12 hours late. If you forget to take even one pill, you increase your chances of getting pregnant. If two or more pills from the same package are missed, this can dramatically increase the risk of pregnancy if no other contraception is being used.

Certain drugs, such as antibiotics, some herbal remedies, and other medicines, can interfere with the reliability oral contraception. Also, sickness and diarrhea can reduce it's effectiveness. Talk to your doctor, who will be able to help and advise you about what your options are next.

Q:My girlfriend has told me she's pregnant—how can I be sure it's mine?
A:Unfortunately, the only way to be sure that you are the father of her baby is to take a DNA test, which can be carried out after the baby is born. To do this, you will need the consent of the mother, since samples of DNA will need to be obtained from the child (and possibly from the mother too). DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is found in our body cells and is responsible for our genetic makeup and hence our characteristics. DNA is identified in a blood sample or from a scraping of cells inside the cheek. Samples from the child and partner need to be obtained in the same way.

Q:I drank and smoked quite a lot before I realized I was pregnant. Will this affect the baby?
A:As you are probably aware, it is not advisable to drink and smoke during pregnancy. There are, however, many women in your position who did not realize they were pregnant and continued to smoke and drink. The important thing is to stop drinking and smoking now and take the best possible care of yourself and your baby. As some young women “binge drink,” it is important for women of child-bearing age to be aware that alcohol does cross the placenta and is a toxic substance to the baby. Most women, once they realize they are pregnant, stop drinking immediately and this is the best course of action for you to take.

If a mother continues to drink heavily, the alcohol can adversely affect the developing fetus, especially between weeks 4 and 10 of pregnancy, and serious complications, such as fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, can develop. If one of these conditions develops, it can result in physical, behavioral, and learning disabilities that can have lifelong implications for the baby. Drinking in pregnancy also increases the risk of miscarriage and premature labor.

The harmful chemicals in smoke can restrict the baby's growth and cause dependency on nicotine even within the womb so give it up now.

Q:I don't have any pregnancy symptoms yet—when will they start?
A:Not everybody feels the full range of symptoms as soon as they become pregnant, and it is not uncommon for some women to experience none at all. There are many factors that influence the range and intensity of pregnancy symptoms, such as your age, working environment, your state of health, diet, previous pregnancies, smoking, and how your body reacts to pregnancy hormones.

Nausea and vomiting are among the most common symptoms that women report, usually in the first three months and starting at around six weeks. These tend to improve by 12 weeks, but for some women can continue throughout the pregnancy.

Another early pregnancy symptom is breast tenderness, which is caused by changes in the levels of hormones that help to get your breasts ready for breast-feeding. The breasts may enlarge and become tender and heavier.

These early symptoms may resolve around the middle of the pregnancy. A lack of symptoms is not indicative of how healthy your pregnancy is—you may just be one of the lucky few who sail through with no annoying side effects!

Q:My partner doesn't seem as enthusiastic as me about the pregnancy—should I be worried?
A:Men and women can react to the news of a pregnancy in different ways and for many men, coming to terms with a pregnancy can take far longer. It's worth remembering that during the early stages of pregnancy men can find it hard to relate to the pregnancy since they have yet to see their baby on ultrasound or the changes in your body. On the other hand, you may be very aware that your body is undergoing many physical and emotional changes.

It's likely that your partner simply needs more time to adjust to the news. He may be concerned about the changes to your lifestyle and the financial implications of having a baby. Talking openly to each other can help to ease anxieties for you both.

First signs of pregnancy

The most obvious initial sign that you are pregnant is a missed period. Other common early pregnancy symptoms include feeling extremely tired and bloated, having increasingly tender breasts, experiencing an increased need to urinate, and finding that you have a greater or lesser sex drive, although all of these symptoms can occur premenstrually. Some women also experience spotting around the time their period was due, which may be confused with a lighter period, that occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the wall of the uterus. There may also be a metallic taste in the mouth, nausea, or vomiting—described as morning sickness, although this can occur at any time of day. Some women don't experience any symptoms.

Breast tenderness is a common symptom in early pregnancy.

You may feel very tired in the early stages of pregnancy due to the effects of your hormones and changes to your metabolism.

A surprise pregnancy Dealing with an unexpected event

If your pregnancy was unplanned, you may have to work through feelings of shock and anxiety before coming to terms with this life-changing event.

  • Be open with your partner about your feelings and reassure him that this is as much of a shock for you.

  • Rather than feel anxious about your lifestyle, make positive changes right away: adopt a healthy diet, stop smoking and drinking, and take folic acid .

  • You may feel overwhelmed, but rather than despair, just allow yourself time to adjust physically, mentally, and emotionally.


You may have missed a period or even feel different, but the best way to confirm you are pregnant is to do a test

Myths and misconceptions Is it true that…

Q:Doing a headstand after sex helps you conceive?
A:There may be some truth in this! You don't have to do headstands after sex, but there are ways you can help your partner's sperm on its way up to the egg. Don't rush off to the gym right after sex—stay in bed and let gravity do some of the work.

Q:Eating yams makes you more likely to have twins?
A:This is debatable. It seems that certain cultures have more twins than others, and also eat a lot of yams. Although there is no scientific proof, some yams contain a substance similar to estrogen which may help some women in these cultures have more twins.

Q:Acupuncture boosts your chance of IVF success?
A:This is still under debate. In a recent study, researchers said acupuncture increased success rates by almost 50 percent in women having IVF treatment. The theory is that acupuncture can affect the autonomic nervous system, making the lining of the uterus more receptive to receiving an embryo. But the scientists admit they don't know for certain why the complementary therapy helped, and more studies are planned.
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