The following is a discussion of the general signs and symptoms of pregnancy, and of the current methods of diagnosis using inexpensive over-the-counter tests.
Changes in the body due to pregnancy
Many changes occur in the woman's body as a result of pregnancy, the most notable of which is the cessation of the menstrual cycle. Thus, a missed period can serve as a preliminary indicator of pregnancy for women with regular cycles; however, for women with irregular ones, it may not be as reliable. The all too familiar indicators of pregnancy, nausea and vomiting (hyperemesis), are also very important changes. Hyperemesis, which is a result of the hormonal changes in the body, begins around the 6th week of pregnancy and lasts until anywhere from the 12th to the 18th week. In most cases, hyperemesis goes away without treatment, but in rare cases when the symptoms are extreme and occur along with weight loss and dehydration, hospitalization may be required for reintroduction of bodily fluids. Other symptoms, such as changes in the breasts or skin pigmentation, may appear but they may not be that apparent in the early stages of pregnancy. Other early symptoms are fatigue and frequent urination. Although these are not the most representative indications of pregnancy, when they do occur, further testing is advised for a timely diagnosis.
How is pregnancy diagnosed?
Due to the advancement of medical technology and diagnostic tools, a woman can easily and accurately perform a pregnancy test. Only a few drops of urine are needed for most over-the-counter pregnancy tests. The sensitivity of the tests is so good that a pregnancy can be detected as early as the 4th (2 weeks after fertilization). However, it must be kept in mind that these tests only give a "yes" or "no" answer and tell us nothing about the state or condition of the pregnancy. For example, a pregnancy outside the uterus (extrauterine pregnancy), a miscarriage, or a hydatidiform mole can give false-positive results. Therefore, it is very important that a follow-up checkup be made with an obstetrician/gynecologist to confirm the normalcy of the pregnancy. Ultrasound is a very powerful and effective diagnostic tool in today's ob/gyn clinics and offers us a better look into the womb. A pregnancy can also be confirmed with a pelvic ultrasound after only 5-6 weeks and the embryonic sac can be observed after 4-5 weeks with a vaginal ultrasound. Other diagnostic tools, such as the level of HCG hormone level in the blood, can tell us much about the growth of the fetus in the womb, as well.