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Scene from a typical Indian movie: A demure lady is enjoying dinner with the rest of the family. Suddenly, she cups her mouth and rushes to the bathroom where she empties the contents of her stomach.
All the faces around her explode into big grins. The family doctor is immediately summoned. He checks the lady's pulse and pronounces, "Mubarak ho, tum maa banne waali ho (Congratulations! You are going to be a mother)."
Don't you wish it were that simple in real life! Unfortunately, no doctor in the world can tell if you are pregnant by merely checking your pulse. But you might be able to recognise one of these five early signs of pregnancy.
A missed period
This might be one of the first signs of pregnancy you actually notice. If you have regular cycles you may be able to detect that you are pregnant when you miss your period. This is one of the most reliable signs of being pregnant.
Scientific basis: A period occurs when the body stops producing progesterone (a hormone that plays a special role in the female menstrual cycle and in pregnancy) temporarily. This causes the uterus to shed its lining. When you become pregnant your body starts producing a lot of progesterone to sustain the baby. There is no progesterone withdrawal and no period. Period.
Abdominal bloating and breast tenderness
If your periods are not very regular it might be a little tough to notice a missed period. Abdominal bloating is another sign to look out for. Dr Anjali Rajurkar, an obstetrician from Mumbai, offers this tip, "If you have been trying to get pregnant and your jeans suddenly feel snug check if you are exhibiting other signs of pregnancy".
Further, you might notice that your breasts have suddenly turned sore and sensitive.
Scientific basis: Both abdominal bloating and breast tenderness result from the high levels of hormones your body starts producing when you become pregnant.
Fatigue and sleepiness
You just woke up and had a cup of coffee. But you can't wait to go back to bed again. You feel tired all the time.
Well, most pregnant women experience a high degree of fatigue and sleepiness in their first trimester.
Scientific basis: No one knows for sure why this happens. But experts believe that the high levels of progesterone in your body might be responsible for this feeling of exhaustion.
Nausea and vomiting
Finally! And you thought we would never mention it.
For some women nausea is one of the first symptoms of pregnancy. They start feeling unusually queasy and certain odours become very repulsive. Though the nausea and vomiting you experience in the first trimester of pregnancy is called morning sickness, it could occur at any time of the day. It is often triggered by meals.
But if you do not have any nausea during the first trimester, do not panic. You might be one of the lucky few who escapes this ordeal entirely.
Scientific basis: Again, blame it on your hormones. Experts believe that high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin, a hormone vital for the sustenance of pregnancy, causes morning sickness.
Some women experience a small amount of vaginal bleeding when they become pregnant. When the fetus implants itself on the wall of the uterus this can happen. The bleeding is extremely light and might last a couple of days. In any case, if you spot vaginal bleeding, contact your obstetrician to rule out other causes.
Should you take a test?
The five signs detailed above are physical signs or symptoms. It is important to remember that some women might not experience many of the early symptoms of pregnancy, except for the missed period. You need not wait to experience all these symptoms before you take a pregnancy test. If you have been trying to conceive and you feel a couple of the above symptoms you could try taking a pregnancy test.
A word of caution: Over eagerness to get pregnant might make you take the tests too often leading to frequent disappointments if they turn out negative. It is natural to be curious but try and wait for a few signs before you turn to the test.
The pregnancy test
A home pregnancy test is one of the easier ways to test if you are pregnant. These kits are available over the counter at most medical stores. The directions are clear and easy to follow. The test takes two minutes and is pretty reliable too. All it requires is a drop of urine.
If your test is positive it might be a good idea to repeat the test with your nearest lab and then schedule an appointment with your obstetrician.
If it is negative, remember that the test is not highly sensitive and might become positive only a week after the missed period. So if you have not had a missed period perform the test after you do.
Tomorrow: All about the home pregnancy test
-- The author has an MBBS from KEM Hospital, Mumbai, with a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin.
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