By Meagan Francis
Am I? Or Am I Not?
Pregnant? Or not? You’re nauseous, fatigued and plagued by strange dreams. Or maybe you are experiencing strange cravings or food aversions. Your period might be late, spotty or seem completely absent. So you must be pregnant, right?
Not necessarily. Here’s a guide to some of the most common pregnancy symptoms -- and what else they could mean.
Late period A late or otherwise abnormal period is often the first -- and sometimes, the only -- pregnancy symptom women notice. But a missing period can signal many things besides pregnancy, including stress, abnormal hormone levels, too much exercise or unusual weight loss or gain.
Nausea Mild to severe nausea and vomiting are hallmarks of the first trimester of pregnancy. However, stress, food poisoning or illness can also cause stomach upset.
Fatigue A developing baby and placenta re-routes much of your body’s energy to your uterus -- so a feeling of tiredness, especially in the first trimester, is common. But fatigue can also signal illness, anemia, a nutritional deficiency or depression. Some women also experience fatigue in the days right before their period starts.
Sore breasts Early pregnancy is often marked by swollen, tender or tingling breasts, but hormonal shifts due to PMS or a change in birth control pill, breast tissue injury (possibly caused by strenuous activity without a supportive bra), breast cysts or breast disease can also cause unusual breast changes.
Food cravings or aversions Many women find themselves hankering for a certain treat, while avoiding other foods like the plague, during pregnancy. But impending menstruation, poor diet, stress or depression can also cause yearnings for unusual foods and aversion to others.
Frequent urination Hormone levels in the early weeks of pregnancy can make you feel “the call of nature” far more often than usual. But an abnormally frequent need to urinate can also be caused by diabetes, consumption of diuretics like caffeine or alcohol or a urinary tract infection.
Bloating and gas Intestinal gas and bloating caused by hormonal fluctuations can be a sign of pregnancy. But it can also be caused by excessive salt intake, imminent menstruation or consumption of gas-causing foods.
Vaginal discharge Increased hormone levels can lead to increased vaginal discharge, but excessive or unusual discharge can also be caused by a vaginal infections. Also, discharge often changes at different times in your cycle -- as long as it’s not accompanied by itching, burning or a strong smell, it’s probably normal.
The bottom line? All the above symptoms could mean you are pregnant -- or they could mean a host of other things. “There are many symptoms that can seem like pregnancy -- nausea, cramps, headaches, etc. -- but mother’s intuition, coupled with a positive pregnancy test, is the best way to tell for sure,” says Geradine Simkins, CNM.
Performing a home pregnancy test once your period is already late will give the best results; testing too soon can lead to a false reading. If you get a negative test and want to try again, wait two days so that your HCG levels (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone found only in pregnant women) have a chance to increase. A blood test given by your health care provider is the most accurate way to test for pregnancy.
If you aren’t pregnant but pregnancy-like symptoms persist, be sure to consult with your health care provider to rule out a hormonal imbalance or other health problem.
© Meagan Francis; first appeared at ePregnancy.com
Meagan Francis is the mother of three wonderful sons. Read more about Meagan.