Learning that you're pregnant can be very exciting, but it can be daunting too. If you think you may be expecting, it's a good idea to get it confirmed as early as you can, so you can get the help and advice needed to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible.
Could I be pregnant?
If you think you might be pregnant, you can do a pregnancy test usually from the first day of your missed period. If you don’t know when your next period is due, you can have the test 21 days after you last had unprotected sex. You can buy pregnancy tests from pharmacies. They are very accurate, easy to use and give quick results. Read the instructions carefully before doing the test, as these can vary from one pregnancy testing kit to another.
Signs & symptoms of pregnancy
If you have a regular menstrual cycle, missing a period is usually the first and most reliable sign of pregnancy. However, some women may still experience a small bleed around the time that their period should occur. In early pregnancy, the levels of certain hormones in your body change significantly, and this can provide various 'clues' that may point to you being pregnant.
Your breasts may feel tender or uncomfortable, and sometimes even the slightest touch can cause discomfort. This is a normal feature of pregnancy, and it's nothing to worry about. In the early stages, your breasts may also start to swell, and this might continue throughout your pregnancy, as the breasts prepare for feeding your baby.
This is another common symptom of early pregnancy. Women commonly experience tiredness and lack of energy for the first 12 weeks, and you may experience more tiredness towards the end of your pregnancy as well.
Nausea and vomiting
This can occur in the early stages, though not usually until around the sixth week of pregnancy. Although it's often referred to as 'morning sickness', it's not unusual to feel sick or be sick any time during the day or night. If you're vomiting a lot and can’t keep anything down, contact your Doctor as soon as possible, as there’s a risk you may become dehydrated.
Needing to urinate more often
Early on, one of the hormones produced in pregnancy encourages your kidneys to make more urine, so you may find yourself needing to 'go' a little more often than usual. Pregnant women are often more susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs), so if you're finding it painful passing water or have a fever as well as needing to go more often, see your Doctor as soon as possible.
This can also happen early on in pregnancy as hormones slow down the bowels. To counteract this, eat plenty of food high in fibre such as fruits, vegetables and wholemeal bread. Also drink lots of fluids, especially water. If you're having this problem, your Doctor can advise you on whether medicines may help. If you're considering using any over-the-counter constipation medicines, make sure you check with your pharmacist first, as some aren't suitable to use when you're pregnant.
Unusual food cravings and being slightly more irritable are common in early pregnancy too, although they're not such reliable indicators as the other symptoms mentioned here.
Remember, every woman's pregnancy is different, and you may have any combination of the symptoms above – or possibly none of them.
What do I do now?
One thing you should do as soon as you find out you’re pregnant is see your Doctor or midwife, so you can start your antenatal (pregnancy) care.
Preparing for a healthy pregnancy
Your Doctor or midwife will provide your antenatal care during pregnancy, and between them they will be able to do a number of things for you:
- If you take medicines, advise which medicines you can continue to take during pregnancy, and which you need to stop
- Advise on healthy eating, including which food to avoid during pregnancy
- Advise on healthy lifestyle, such as exercise
- Advise which vitamins and minerals are important to take to help keep your baby healthy during pregnancy and beyond
- Discuss your options for care during pregnancy, labour and birth
- Offer you ultrasound scans and antenatal screening tests
- If necessary, refer you to a specialist for advice about certain health conditions in pregnancy
Bleeding during pregnancy
If you're pregnant (or think you may be) and experience any bleeding, have a chat with your midwife or Doctor as soon as possible. Bleeding in early pregnancy is common, and can be completely normal, but in some cases it can indicate a problem that needs treatment, so it's important to get some professional advice. Call an ambulance if the bleeding is very heavy or if you have severe tummy (abdominal) pain.
- If you're pregnant, see your Doctor or midwife as early as possible to work out a plan for your pregnancy
- Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant
- If you're unsure about your options after finding out you're pregnant, talk things over with your Doctor or local pregnancy advice service