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There are some ways women can detect pregnancy even before they can use a pregnancy test. First of all, let's consider late periods and what a late period really is.

A late period is not a reliable sign that a woman is pregnant. The length of a woman's menstrual period is calculated from the first day of bleeding during one period to the first day of bleeding in the next. Those events aren't always 28 days apart.

Just after girls have their first periods, their bodies are usually busy developing in multiple ways. They may be about to have or be in the middle of their growth spurt. They are developing breasts and uterine tissue. They may be very physically active. 

As a result of all this activity, a teenage girl's period may take longer than 30 days. This is also true of women in their late teens and early 20's who are very active physically, or who are on strictly limited diets. Periods may come every 30, 31, or even 35 days until a woman is about 20. Then they start coming about every 28 days, for most women. They may not come exactly every 28 days, however.

As a woman approaches menopause, her periods usually start getting longer again. They may arrive every 35 days, like they did when she was a teenager. Then they disappear. Using an IUD or extended-release birth control also alters the length of a woman's menstrual period. For these reasons, being late isn't necessarily a sign of being pregnant.

However, a doctor isn't likely to offer a pregnancy test until a woman is "late." The reason for this is that pregnancy tests tend to be really inaccurate during the first month of pregnancy. A woman's body produces a hormone to thicken the lining of the uterus to give the implanted fertilized egg a place to grow. During the very first few days of pregnancy levels of this hormone, human gonadotrophic hormone (hCG), are very low, maybe as low as 3 to 5 mIU/ml. Very few tests can pick up less than 10 mIU/ml. Levels of hCG double every 72 to 96 hours, so what can't be detected in one test possibly can be detected just three to four days later. However, the most sensitive blood test can't pick up pregnancy before about four days after conception and the most sensitive urine test can't detect pregnancy until about day number eleven. Doctors don't want to guess whether you're pregnant so they really prefer to wait until the fifth week when they can use ultrasound.

But you want to know sooner.

There are some general indications even without medical tests. Here is what to consider:

  • You only get pregnant after ovulation, which occurs roughly in the middle of your period. It takes a day or closer to two for sperm to travel to the opening of the ovary to meet the newly released egg. The egg is only viable for a day or a little more. If you didn't have sexual intercourse or artificial insemination just before ovulation, chances are you aren't pregnant.
  • Implantation bleeding is a sign of pregnancy, but because it takes six or seven days after implantation for the bleeding to be noticed, it's easy to mistake an early period for implantation bleeding. However, the flow with implantation is darker than menstrual blood because it has to travel farther to leave the body. It's less than your regular menstrual flow, and it tends to occur at about the same time you develop swollen breasts and morning sickness.

It's hard to defect pregnancy right away. It's easy to get mistaken results. However, women know their bodies better tha anyone else, and these signs can confirm what a woman "just knows." It's important to get to a doctor, however, if any of these signs are accompanied by intense abdominal pain, which can be an early sign of a problem pregnancy.

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