Am I pregnant?


How do I know I am pregnant ? This article explores the early signs and symptoms you may have if you are pregnant and common feelings in early pregnancy.

Some women will be asking this question after months of hoping and planning to be pregnant… others will be asking it with their hearts in their mouths, suspecting an unplanned pregnancy… others will be shocked and surprised that it could happen so quickly…

But every woman will feel some trepidation at the thought of a possible new life growing inside them, which will change their lives in so many ways.

How do I know I am pregnant?

The first sign is usually that your period is late. For some women they feel different immediately – they may feel tired, or their breasts feel tingly and swollen.

Some women have an erratic menstrual cycle, or pay no attention to it, so they can be a few weeks or months pregnant before they realise (this is hard to believe for those of us who go through the first few months vomiting every few hours!).

What are the signs and symptoms of pregnancy?

Early pregnancy

  • Breasts – you may have sore breasts which are tingling, sensitive, feeling tense or enlarged
  • Late menstrual period – your period may be late (but this can be unreliable if you have recently taken hormonal contraceptives or suffered some form of stress)
  • Sickness – this varies greatly from woman to woman, from occasional vague nausea to chronic vomiting. The term morning sickness is a bit misleading – some women feel sick in the afternoons or evenings, and some poor souls are sick all day!
    • To get relief from the symptoms of pregnancy morning sickness, try Morning Sicknessself hypnosis
  • Bladder – a lot of women quickly notice they are going to the toilet more frequently (which can be rather annoying at night!)
  • Feeling tired – you may be feeling inexplicably tired and feel the need to go to bed early, or even take an afternoon nap.
  • Taste buds – many women report that their taste buds change – foods or drinks that they liked previously now taste “funny” or metallic or downright horrible! Some common examples are coffee, alcohol and cigarettes.

After 12 – 16 weeks of pregnancy

  • Waistline! – you will notice that your clothes feel tighter and your waist thickens (possibly time to put your jeans away for a while).

16 – 20 weeks pregnant

  • Foetal movements – you will feel your baby kick for the first time. Initially it will feel like a butterfly fluttering, but you will soon recognise the growing strength of these movements.

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Am I pregnant

Your pregnancy can be confirmed by a simple test that can be purchased at your local pharmacy or supermarket.

These tests have absorbent sticks that test your urine.  You can either hold the tester under your flow of urine whilst you’re on the toilet, or collect some urine in a container and dip the stick into that.

The tester will detect human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), a hormone of pregnancy, in your urine if you are pregnant.

Most pregnancy testers can be used from the day that your period is due. Some tests, however, can detect a pregnancy from 4 days before your period is due.

A negative test does not always mean you are not pregnant – you may just have conducted the test too early, before there was enough hCG showing in your urine. If your period does not arrive in a few days, repeat the test – for this reason tests are often purchased as packs of two.

A positive test, however, is 99% accurate (however, be aware that a false positive could be caused by a recent miscarriage or fertility drugs).

If you would like some help with doing a pregnancy test then you can go to your GP’s surgery or visit your local midwife clinic (there may be charges for this to be done).

Pregnancy tests can also be done at your local NZ Family Planning Clinic, at a reduced rate – see the website link below.

How pregnant am I?

The answer to this question lies in the date of the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). It is used for calculating your pregnancy dates, as it is the only sure date you have – because women ovulate and conceive at different times in their menstrual cycle. The average woman, however, ovulates 14 days before her next period is due.

Midwives and doctors will use your LMP date and the average length of your cycle (usually 28 days) to ascertain your Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD). They will add 9 months and 7 days to your LMP date and then adjust your due date according to the length of your cycle, if it is particularly long or short.

For example, if your LMP was 3rd January and your average menstrual cycle is 35 days then this would be the calculation:

Add 9 months and 7 days (10th October), plus a further 7 days to take your long menstrual cycle into account – your EDD is 17th October.  (The 7 days is your cycle length – 35 days – less the average women’s cycle of 28 days).

Technically, for the first two weeks of your pregnancy you are not actually pregnant! When you are ‘4 weeks pregnant’ by your LMP date, it is only 2 weeks since conception.

Many women are uncertain of the date of their last menstrual period – an early scan will confirm the length of your pregnancy so far, but after 16 weeks this becomes less reliable, as babies start to grow at different rates.

How might I feel about being pregnant?

Well there’s an individual answer to this for every pregnancy – no feeling is ‘abnormal’.

You may feel elated, like hugging yourself and shouting out from the roof tops.

It would be equally normal to feel paralysed with fear and wonder how on earth you are going to cope.

Surprise and shock may sum it up for you. Complete denial is not uncommon….

Your reaction to your pregnancy – or to a negative pregnancy test – is your unique response. There is no right or wrong way to respond to this and you may even be surprised by your own reaction!

If you need support that you don’t feel you can get from your partner / family / friends remember there are agencies which will give advice and help you to work through your options, for example the Family Planning Association of New Zealand (see website link below).

And how might he feel?

Well just like women, men have feelings too – and not always the ones we want them to have!

He may be over the moon – or cautious – or terrified – or angry.

He may not talk openly about how he is feeling and may need a bit of time and space to adjust to this overwhelming sense of responsibility…

And he may take the majority of the pregnancy to feel an attachment to the baby – whereas you may feel it the instant you see the little blue line on the pregnancy tester!

Allow time and space for each of you; other friends who have kids already can be a great source of support and amusement as can talking to someone who is not emotionally involved, such as a health professional or counsellor.

What can I do?

  • Prior to pregnancy and for the first 12 weeks it is advisable to take 800mcg folic acid daily. Research has shown that this reduces the chance of your baby developing neural tube defects. If you have a family history of spina bifida, or any other neural tube defect, talk to your GP about taking a higher dose of folic acid at this time (5 grams).
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking.
  • Ensure you have a balanced diet to ensure your health and that of your baby – see our article on Nutrition in Pregnancy co-written by a midwife and nutritionist.
  • Give yourself and your partner time to adjust to this life-changing news – and accept that throughout your pregnancy you will have ups and downs and inevitable moments of regret for the freedom you will lose, particularly if this is your first child.
  • Relax, enjoy and look after yourselves!

For more detailed advice on preparing for pregnancy visit our article on Preconception Care.

Useful Websites and Articles

Early signs of pregnancy 

Find out what the early signs of pregnancy are and how these might help you know if you are pregnant.

Choosing an LMC
We give advice to help you choose the right Lead Maternity Carer for your pregnancy.

Pregnancy: the three trimesters
This article describes how you may feel through the different stages of your pregnancy and the baby’s stages of development.

Paula Skelton

Paula Skelton is a qualified NZ nurse and midwife, a midwifery & childbirth educator and the mum of three lovely girls.

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