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Having a Baby: What Happens When You're Pregnant

Having a Baby:
What Happens When You're Pregnant

What is pregnancy?
What happens during pregnancy?
How can I avoid getting pregnant?
What should I do if I find out I am pregnant?
What if I don't want to be pregnant?
What are the symptoms of pregnancy?
How will I know if I'm pregnant?
How accurate are pregnancy tests?

What is pregnancy?
Pregnancy is the nine-month process during which an entire human being develops from a single cell. back to top

What happens during pregnancy?
Pregnancy starts with conception. That's when the egg cell is fertilized by a single sperm cell. The resulting single cell contains the DNA blueprint (the genetic material) for the development of the baby-to-be. back to top

How can I avoid getting pregnant?
Most women from about age 13 to age 52 can get pregnant after sexual intercourse. These are called the reproductive years. If you're sexually active, and you don't want to get pregnant, you have to use a reliable form of birth control. It's a good idea to talk with your health professional about what kind of birth control to use.

You may have heard rumors that if you have sex at certain times or in certain positions, you can keep from getting pregnant. None of these rumors are true! Any girl or woman who has sexual intercourse—even once—can become pregnant. back to top

What should I do if I find out I am pregnant?
If you have some of the symptoms and you think you're pregnant, you should see your health professional. If you are pregnant, you'll have some big decisions to make. You must decide if you want to keep the pregnancy and become a parent, keep the pregnancy and give the child up for adoption, or end the pregnancy by having an abortion.

When you visit your health professional, you can talk to someone about all the options for dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. back to top

What if I don't want to be pregnant?
Many girls have not planned for a pregnancy and don't want one. If that's the case, it's important to know if you're pregnant as early as possible so that you can have an abortion. Abortions are much easier and safer if they're done before the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions performed later in pregnancy are much more difficult.

Abortion is legal in all the states, but each state sets limits as to how late in a pregnancy you can have one. Usually it's no later than 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Some states also require the consent of your parents. back to top

What are the symptoms of pregnancy?
The most common symptom of pregnancy is a missed period. Any time you have sexual intercourse (even if it's only once) and you miss a period, you have to consider the possibility that you might be pregnant.

But if your periods don't come regularly every month, you may not know when your next period will occur. There are many other possible reasons for missing a period. For example, if you are young, you might miss a period because your periods aren't regular yet. Also, some forms of birth control (such as Depo-Provera) can cause you to miss a period.

You can't be sure that you're pregnant just because you missed a period. Here are some other signs and symptoms of pregnancy:

  • sore breasts
  • feeling sick to your stomach
  • unusual tiredness
  • light-headedness and nausea
Not everyone who's pregnant has these symptoms. Even if you don't have these symptoms, you could still be pregnant. back to top

How will I know if I'm pregnant?
The most reliable way to find out if you are pregnant is to use a pregnancy test.

You can buy a pregnancy test kit at the drugstore or get tested at your health professional's office. When you're pregnant, your body produces a special hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). All pregnancy tests measure HCG. If your health professional does your pregnancy test, it will be a blood pregnancy test, which will measure the amount of HCG in your blood. The pregnancy tests you buy at the drugstore are urine pregnancy tests, which measure the amount of HCG in your pee.

If you take a blood pregnancy test at your health professional's office and it comes out positive, you are pregnant. Urine pregnancy tests are a little less reliable. back to top

How accurate are pregnancy tests?
Blood pregnancy tests are extremely accurate.

Urine pregnancy tests are less reliable. All the tests that you can buy in the drugstore fall into this category. They are less sensitive, which means that a larger amount of HCG must be present in your pee before the urine pregnancy test can detect it. Urine pregnancy tests can tell that someone is pregnant as early as the day that she would have gotten her period. If you get a positive result on a urine pregnancy test, it's very likely that you are pregnant. A negative result on one of these tests is not as reliable. That's because you could have taken the test too soon, especially if your periods are irregular. You may be pregnant, but the amount of HCG in your pee may be too small for the test to detect.

If you still think you might be pregnant, or if you don't get your period within the following week, see your health professional right away. back to top

Last Modified Date: 4/4/2001
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