West Valley Medical Center - November 05, 2015

Don't let the title of this post fool you. It's not as obvious as you may think. Sure, there are pregnancy tests. But those can be confusing: Is that a double line or single line? And why does it say yes and no?

Why Some Moms Miss Out on Prenatal Care
71.5% of women get first trimester prenatal care in Idaho. Good news, but that means that 30% do not. What gives? Many women are so busy that they may not even know they missed [their period]. And symptoms of early pregnancy may be absent or subtle and blamed on other causes. - Jessica Fu, MD, OB/GYN

Source: National Women's Law Center

Jessica Fu, MD, an OB/GYN at West Valley Medical Center, sheds more light on how to tell if you're pregnant, the value of pregnancy tests, and why early prenatal care is so important.

Q: How soon can you expect signs of pregnancy without having to take a home pregnancy test?

Dr. Fu: Some women may begin to have symptoms as early as five weeks, but most experience them by eight weeks.

Q. What's the difference between the pee-on-a-stick home method and what you do in the office?

Dr. Fu: In the office, we can check for pregnancy with a urine sample or a blood sample. They both detect the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). A blood sample is more sensitive and can detect pregnancy earlier than urine tests.

The result is an actual quantity that we can use to judge a trend, or perhaps guess how far along she might be.

Q: How reliable are those home pregnancy tests?

Dr. Fu: It's really variable depending on the type and brand, because they have different levels of sensitivity.

Some brands may have higher sensitivity, so they can detect the pregnancy hormone hCG when there is just a little bit of it. Another test may not detect it for another week or more.

If there's a question, I recommend taking a pregnancy test again in one week. The hormone should increase to a point where you're going to hit the threshold for most pregnancy tests.

Q: What's your advice for women trying to get pregnant who may have trouble seeing early signs, such as those with irregular periods?

Dr. Fu: I recommend keeping track of your periods, irregular or not. Watch out for common symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, fatigue, breast tenderness, and having to pee more frequently.

When in doubt, take a pregnancy test. When in disbelief, take another one in a week or so. If you have a positive test, make an appointment with your obstetrician to confirm the pregnancy and initiate prenatal care.

Um... Are you pregnant? Step 1: take a home pregnancy test. Step 2: no matter what it says, take another. Step 3: Is it positive, or still not sure? See your doctor.

Q: When should you go to the doctor to find out for sure?

Dr. Fu: We generally like to see patients by the time they're in their sixth or seventh week of pregnancy. Women who have had complications or multiple miscarriages may want to see their doctor earlier.

But frequently, women may not know how far along they are, so we may need to do an ultrasound to determine that. That way, we not only get a measurement of the embryo, but by seven weeks if that is the correct date we should also be able to detect heart activity.

Q: Why is it so risky to find out later that you're pregnant?

Dr. Fu: Early prenatal care allows for more patient education and opportunities to prevent or treat complications early on. We're better able to help patients have healthy pregnancies, and uncomplicated labor and deliveries.

In addition, screening tests for conditions, such as Down syndrome, Edwards syndrome, and open neural tube defects are performed in the first half of pregnancy.

Another risk of finding out later is the possibility of exposure to potentially harmful substances, such as alcohol.

The Bottom Line, Ladies

“Whether your goal is to get pregnant or prevent pregnancy, I would recommend a visit with your healthcare provider just for education, because a lot of women will come in and say, I didn't know about that option,” says Dr. Fu.

“It's just about getting information and empowering yourself with information to help you stay healthy and have a healthy baby,” she adds.

If you're still unsure whether you're pregnant, schedule an appointment with an OB/GYN at West Valley Medical Center like now.

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