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Early Pregnancy: Common Frequently Asked Questions

We hear many of the same questions over and over regarding the early stages of pregnancy.  For that reason, we've compiled some answers that should help you understand these issues.

- Question: Is it possible for a woman to still have her period when she's pregnant?  Answer:  Not in the sense of a "normal" period. She might have a bit of unusual bleeding while pregnant, and some women think this is her period, since it often comes around the same time she would otherwise get her period.  However, this bleeding should not be enough to fill tampons or pads during a period of a few days.  If it is enough, this probably indicates you're not pregnant.

- Question: What if I do have a heavy period, and yet have all the signs of being pregnant?  Answer: Then you should see a physician to find out what's happening.  Such a case might b caused by infection, an imbalance in hormones, even a miscarriage. Only a doctor can diagnose is for sure.

- Question: What if I start bleeding after I've had a positive test for pregnancy?  Answer:  It's not unusual for women to experience some bleeding or spotting during early pregnancy; about 25 to 30 percent do.  As long as this is a light bleeding, don't be overly concerned about it, as you will likely have a normal pregnancy and healthy child.  However, around 50 percent of those who experience this light bleeding will then have heavier bleeding. 

This could ultimately lead to miscarriage.  If you notice that the bleeding is getting heavier, and you're also experiencing painful cramping or back pain, you should call your doctor immediately.  If, on the other hand, you experience only slight spotting, and it then goes away, just be sure to tell your physician at your next appointment, so they know what's going on during your pregnancy.

- Question: What if, during my pregnancy, I experience some cramping?  Answer:  It's not uncommon for women to experiencing light cramping early during pregnancy.  This resembles light menstrual cramps, and is usually a result of changes taking place in the uterus. Don't let light cramping worry you over-much, but as with everything, share it with your health care provider the next time you see him / her.

- Question:  I missed my period but had a negative pregnancy test. Does this indicate I'm not pregnant?  Answer:  The negative test could indicate one of several things: You might not be pregnant, might have taken the test too soon, or you might have simply took it wrong (since these tests vary in sensitivity).  If a test sits for too much time, the results you get will not be reliable.  Be sure to follow the instructions contained with the kit.

 -Question:  Is it possible to determine the exact date of conception with certainty?  Answer:  Determining the date of conception is sometimes a difficult task.  The assumption that most make is that if she has a consistent menstrual cycle, then the women should be ovulating on a specific time of month (Ovulation refers to the time when an egg is available, and therefore the time when conception can happen).  The fallacy with this thinking is that few women ovulate on the same exact day of every month. 

Add to that the fact that sperm are known to live inside the body for three, four, even five days following sexual intercourse, and you see how difficult it can to determine an exact conception date.  In order to figure out a baby's gestational age and figure out when the baby was likely conceived, a doctor will typically use the first day of your last period, in conjunction with ultrasound measurements.  However, at best, these offer a pretty good estimate of the date.  The truth is there is no test or instrument that can provide you 100 percent accuracy in figuring out a date of conception. 

Although it's not commonly known, even an ultrasound can be off up to a week during early pregnancy, and off by two weeks further into the pregnancy. And neither are due dates very accurate for figuring out the date of conception.  In fact, about 95 percent of women give birth on a day other than their due date. 

Any woman who needs to know a date of conception in order to determine a child's paternity, especially if she had intercourse with two different males within ten days of one another, should request that a paternity test be conducted.  She can have this done either during the pregnancy or after the child's birth (although in most cases, if feasible, after birth is preferable).  This paternity test is the only accurate way of determining who the father is.

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