Testing for pregnancy
Woman are obsessed with wanting to know exactly when and whether we have conceived or not – without having to wait for the traditional sign of a missed period.

When sperm meets egg in the Fallopian tube, it’s not a chance meeting – the woman’s body has been meticulously preened for this special moment. And while some women struggle to conceive, others – who may only be having random sex, or are using “reliable” contraceptives – are caught off guard and
find out they are pregnant!

Some women can conceive five minutes after having sex when sperm explode through an open cervix and swim competitively to find the egg waiting in the Fallopian tube. When conditions for conception are perfect, sperm can reach the cervix an incredible 90 seconds after ejaculation.

Although doctors usually calculate the due date of a baby according to the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, conception actually happens at least two weeks before this date. This is when ovulation occurs. A woman can only conceive when her body is fertile.

On the other hand, pinpointing the exact date when a pregnancy began can be tricky.

Testing for a pregnancy

As far as we know, it was the Egyptians who were first to test for a pregnancy “at the earliest stages,” records Colen Rohan in his book, Lost Discoveries – A Forgotten Science Of The Ancient World. It was also claimed that they could even determine the sex of the baby.

“The method they used was to take a woman’s urine and soak bags containing wheat and barley into it. They found that if the subject was pregnant, the urine would accelerate the growth of the wheat if the child was to be a boy, or the barley if the child was a girl.

” It was not until 1926 that a urine pregnancy test became available, and it took another seven years before the acceleration of the wheat and barley story was confirmed by laboratory tests.

The giveaway chemical that is used to test for a pregnancy today is the human chorionic gonadotropin hormone or hCG. This hormone is found in a woman’s urine from eight days after conception until three
days after the birth of her baby.

At first this hormone is made in the ovaries, but after seven to 10 weeks of pregnancy, the placenta takes over this job. The purpose of hCG is to help maintain the pregnancy. It is also found in the blood which means that blood tests can also be done to confirm a pregnancy.

Advantages of home pregnancy test kits:

  • They are relatively inexpensive (some brands provide two kits in a box) and are available at all pharmacies.
  • They are accurate, providing that implantation has taken place i.e. it takes 10 days for the fertilised egg to travel through the Fallopian tube and reach the womb, and then more time is needed for implantation. This means that there may be insufficient levels of hCG secreted in the urine to confirm a positive pregnancy test.
  • This test can be done in private.
  • It’s best to do the test with the first urine specimen first thing in the morning for
    accurate results.
  • A negative test can be repeated a few days later without having to consult a doctor – unless the uncertainty is too stressful and the woman would prefer to have a blood test done.
  • The crème-de-la-crème of pregnancy tests is so accurate, not only do they give a double confirmation, the results are digital and can even tell you in weeks (up to three) how far the pregnancy is.
  • The pregnancy test with the colour change tip can be used four days before a period is due and claims to be 99 percent accurate if used from the day that your period is due.

Disadvantages of home pregnancy test kits:

  • There may be a false negative if the test is done too early.
  • For women who have been pregnant before, there are definite telltale signs of pregnancy that you may recognise even before testing is done:
  • Your breasts will feel fuller and a bit more tender (sensitive).
  • Smells and tastes do funny things in your mouth – usually resulting in excess salivation and feeling nauseous.
  • You may feel exceptionally physically and mentally exhausted and emotionally unstable and nervy.
  • If you could see your cervix it would be swollen and slightly bluish – in medical terms this is called Chadwick’s Sign.

Preparing for pregnancy

While it’s pretty much just a case of out with the birth control, it’s also a good idea to get yourself in tip top condition – as much as possible – before you house your first baby

Check me out, doc

Schedule a full body check-up with your doctor to ensure that all reproductive systems are a go. It would also be beneficial for your partner to get a going-over as well. Generally, your doctor will check on your weight, blood pressure, test for STDS and do an all-over physical as well as sussing out your medication needs – if you’re asthmatic or diabetic and so on.

Aside from your GP, it’s also a good idea to visit the gynae to check for polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids and cysts etc.

Cut down on caffeine

No, you don’t have to completely give up on your precious caffeine kick. But it is a good idea to cut down at least, from say your four cups a day to one or two. Stick to the recommended 200mg (two cups) per day and you’re fine.

Remember, 200mg applies to tea and cooldrinks too, as they also contain caffeine.

No more drinking and smoking

When you decide to start trying for a baby, it’s a great idea to cut out alchol as soon as possible. Alcohol has been linked with messing with your menstrual cycle and possibly interfering with ovulation, making it challenging for a fertilised egg to implant in the uterus.

Smoking too, is a culprit in infertility. It can lower your partner’s sperm count, and is known to “age” your eggs, making conception and implantation more difficult than it has to be.

Get moving

You don’t have to be at marathon-running level to successfully fall pregnant. But, moderate exercise can promote fertility – and stand you in good stead for the physicality of pregnancy, labour and birth.

Don’t break the bank

Fact: Babies cost money. One of the absolute best ways you can prep for baby days is by saving now. It will add up in the end. Just put away a little now and then and you’ll be surprised at what a windfall it will be when you need it most.

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