Thursday, April 7, 2011

Only One Absolute in Pregnancy

There's only one absolute in pregnancy and that is that the baby is going to come out eventually.
gift from above
image courtesy of stockxchng

So, when we think about getting pregnant, we think of certain things immediately. Missed periods. Nausea. Strange cravings. Big bellies. Did you know that none of these are absolutes?

The missed period

Okay, so this really is an absolute in a way--no one has a 'period' while they are pregnant, in that they aren't shedding the uterine wall lining in preparation to begin the ovulation cycle again. However, many women experience vaginal bleeding that can mimic a period for a month or even the entire duration of pregnancy. So, some women don't know they're pregnant right away, because they think that their cycle is continuing. This is especially problematic for women who have never had a stable cycle.

"Morning Sickness"

It seems like most people know by now that morning sickness has nothing to do with the time of day for many women. The reason that some women only experience it first thing in the morning (and why 'remedies' include eating something carbohydrate-bearing before you get out of bed) is that it's often tied to blood sugar.

Many women never experience morning sickness.

So, this is, again, not an absolute sign of pregnancy or lack thereof. While some women are tortured with morning sickness their entire pregnancy, for most women, it vanishes somewhere between weeks 10-14, after the placenta starts picking up in week 10. Sometimes morning sickness just translates as a reduced or increased appetite (depending on the mom-t0-be).

Personally, I didn't have it until my second trimester with my first, had it horribly with my lost baby, none with my second daughter and this pregnancy has been a low level nausea for about 80% of my day on average.

Strange Cravings

If you say you want pickles and ice cream, someone will likely joke that you must be pregnant. However, aversions are possibly more common than cravings! Again, this is a symptom that some women just don't get (or don't notice if they do, especially if they're used to having weird taste). And not all cravings are of foods you wouldn't normally want--common food cravings include fruit or meat and have all sorts of old wives' tales surrounding them (usually about gender).

For the record, my pregnancy cravings have gone as follows: fruit like crazy with my first girl and meat and veggies with my second girl. This pregnancy has been all about the meat, potatoes and cereal. I could really go for Steak Monterrey right now with a baked potato and Frosted Flakes for dessert. But I could probably fill a journal with things that gross me out.

Big Bellies

This one is rather hard to escape. When people talk about women 'not showing' through their whole pregnancy or being able to hide it, they immediately assume that the woman must have been fat. Which is totally untrue. I have a friend who is very thin and it took her almost to 30 weeks before she 'popped' enough for it to be visible past her shirt. We all could see her adorable bump before, of course, because we knew what we were looking at--but to a stranger, she didn't really look very pregnant.

Of course, having some extra pounds on can obscure a developing baby bump. I once had two horrible women debate whether I was pregnant or just fat right in front of me at the grocery store when I was 8 months pregnant and feeling beautifully pregnant. After that, I got a "Baby" patch and safety pinned it to whatever shirt I was wearing. I can't tell you how much that still hurts my feelings.

However, some women, for some reason, just redistribute the weight in a way that they think they're putting on a little weight and it doesn't show in that distinctive basketball shape. A heavier woman is more likely to have this happen, but it certainly doesn't only happen to women with curves.

A Positive Pregnancy Test

False positives on pregnancy tests are very rare and happen mostly with +/- tests. Surprisingly, Dollar Store tests are often more reliable and can tell you pretty early if you're pregnant. However, false negatives happen far more often. That's right, you can get a negative pregnancy test and still be pregnant. Usually, it comes from testing too soon (because you ovulated later than you realized or you were just too excited to wait), but for some women, rarely, they just never get a positive pregnancy test.

I have a friend who never had a positive pregnancy test in her entire pregnancy. If you look it up, it happens enough that it's a 'thing', but there don't seem to be any statistics on this phenomenon. It's not a sign that you're going to miscarry, either. For some reason, some women just don't seem to pass hCG into their urine.

Now, reading all that, it might sound like there's just no way to prove you're not pregnant, but really, to have all of these happen at the same time is so unlikely as to be virtually impossible. A blood test can usually confirm pregnancy where urine tests can't and the vast majority of women will stop bleeding, get tired, moody, sore and nauseous. Still, other than the baby eventually coming out (which can take up to 45 weeks, by the way--though 42 is much more normal in a first time mom and 41 or less in moms who've had more than one), nothing is certain in pregnancy.

And yes, there was one woman, once, who, for some reason, carried a fetus for 46 years. However, she still went into labor--she was just frightened out of the hospital and her ectopic baby never came out--probably because it was never in the uterus to be expelled. Had she stayed, her baby would have been taken by cesarean. No one can know if the baby was even alive at that point, but it was a very strange occurrence. And the baby did come out, after her body finally decided it was tired of the charade and she got sick. Since this is the entry for oddities, it would be incomplete without mentioning her.

Oh, and just for the mention...

Nine Months

Pregnancy is considered to begin before you're actually pregnant, for the formula that people use to calculate the due date. I originally wrote "modern" due date, but it's not. It's actually several hundred years old and created by a botanist. However, it's because the menstrual cycle is much easier to track than ovulation. Ovulation can vary by a week easily, so unless you're charting your fertility, you might not be ovulating when you think you are.

So, you are pregnant for two weeks before you get pregnant. Women who chart their cycles would do better, when reporting their LMP (last menstrual period) to simply go back two weeks from their ovulation date and list that date as their LMP. So, the EDD is 38 weeks from ovulation/conception, basically.

Still, "nine months" is 36 weeks, since pregnancy is charted by lunar months, not calendar. Since we are supposed to be pregnant for 40 weeks (give or take 2-4 weeks), that is actually ten months. "Nine months" really comes from the calendar, more than an accurate measure of months. The number of months pregnant you are is divided by four weeks--not what month it is, so it's more accurate to say that pregnancy lasts ten months, but you're typically only aware of it for nine of those months anyway.

So there you have it. There's only one absolute in pregnancy and that is that the baby will come out. Unless you're that one lady in Morocco.