Pregnancy is a time of great physical and emotional change for those who experience it. Whether you recently started menstruating or are beginning your third trimester, it is important to understand the ins and outs of the journey.
How do people get pregnant?
The most common way is via unprotected vaginal intercourse, when an ejaculated sperm enters the vagina. The sperm then travels up through the cervix, into the uterus, and fertilizes an egg. Although it’s less likely, people can also become pregnant through any kind of sexual act in which semen makes contact with the vulva.
Alternative insemination is another way for a person to become pregnant. During alternative insemination, sperm, which can come from a partner or donor, are inserted into a vagina with a syringe or other device.
Someone with fertility challenges can also become pregnant via vitro fertilization. In this procedure, eggs are removed from the body and combined with sperm. Then, one or more of the fertilized eggs are implanted into the uterus.
When does pregnancy begin?
In order for a person to become pregnant, they have to release an egg from their ovary (ovulation). Then, the egg and sperm must join to form a single cell (fertilization). Finally, pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to their uterus (implantation).
Menstruation is when the lining of the uterus flows out through the vagina. Usually, menstruation occurs each month, lasting from 3 to 7 days.
Ovulation occurs when the egg enters the fallopian tube and begins moving toward the uterus. This happens about two weeks before a person’s next period.
Several hundred sperm move up through the uterus and into the fallopian tubes after vaginal intercourse or alternative insemination. If a sperm fertilizes an egg, it’s called fertilization.
As the fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube, it divides into numerous cells, creating a ball. Pregnancy begins if this ball attaches to the uterus’s lining. This is called implantation.
Until the end of week four, it’s possible for the developing ball of cells to split. If it splits into two, identical twins can develop. At ovulation, it’s also possible for two eggs to be released. If both eggs become fertilized by sperm and implant in the uterus, fraternal twins can develop.
How can I plan my pregnancy?
Researching fertility and knowing when your fertile days are will help you plan your pregnancy. The first step is figuring out when you will ovulate. Knowing this will let you identify the fertile days that come before ovulation. Then you can begin tracking your fertility.
One way to do so is to chart your menstrual cycle. However, if you have an irregular menstrual cycle, predicting ovulation can be difficult. Other methods of determining your fertile days include tracking your temperature and charting the consistency of your cervical mucus.
Of course, growing aware of your fertility pattern is only one step in determining whether or not you want to become pregnant. Emotion readiness, financial status, and your health are also issues to think about when considering pregnancy.
How can I avoid pregnancy?
Birth control is the best way for a sexually active people to avoid pregnancy. If you've already had sex without birth control, and are within a 120 hour (5 day) window, you can take emergency contraception, colloquially known as the "morning-after pill," to prevent pregnancy.
How do I know if I’m pregnant?
There are a few symptoms to look out for that might indicate pregnancy. They include the following:
- Nausea or vomiting for seemingly no reason, especially in the morning
- Peeing more frequently
- Sensitive or painful breasts
- Abdominal cramping
- Missing period or having an atypically super light period
Many of these (aside from the last one) are also indicators of an upcoming period, and thus are often ignored. The only way to know for sure if you are pregnant is by taking a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests test your urine for the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which is only found in the body of a pregnant person. There are many places to buy a home pregnancy test, such as a pharmacy, grocery store, or health clinic. They cost about $15. To note: There is no minimum age for purchasing a pregnancy test.
If you have recently engaged in unprotected sex and think you might be pregnant, we recommend taking a pregnancy test. The most accurate results are nearest to the date of your expected period, and most effective once you have already missed your period, at which point they are accurate 99 out of 100 times. If you receive a positive result, it is important to visit a health care provider to confirm your results.
Fun fact: Pregnant and craving pickles? People who crave pickles are really craving salt and may be sodium deficient. So go ahead, and drink the pickle juice, too!
Creating another human being is quite a journey. Stay informed, and find an obstetrician you trust!