Early signs of pregnancy.
The only way to know for sure how many weeks pregnant you are is to visit your health care provider, who can provide proper prenatal care for you and your baby. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, early and regular prenatal care is important in promoting a healthy pregnancy. Below are basic week-by-week developments that you can trace as your pregnancy progresses.
A women’s health care professional can most accurately date your pregnancy by administering a blood pregnancy test. The test measures human chorionic gonadotropin, called hCG, levels in the blood. HCG is a hormone produced by the body during pregnancy, and the values of hCG in the blood change during the course of pregnancy, with particularly high levels during the first trimester (approximately week one through 13 of pregnancy).
Because all women experience pregnancy differently, assessing how many weeks pregnant you are on your own is not an exact science. There are certain markers, however, which may help estimate an answer.
You should know that week one of a 40-week pregnancy is actually the week of your last period before you become pregnant. Ovulation – the dropping of an egg from the ovary into the uterus – occurs around day 14 of the average menstrual cycle, so conception is likely to occur during the third week of your cycle. After conception, your body will undergo changes you may notice and which can help you to estimate how many weeks pregnant you are.
Common early signs of pregnancy include the absence of menstruation (called amenorrhea), tender and/or swollen breasts, food craving and aversions, frequent urination and morning sickness. Amenorrhea generally occurs during the fourth of fifth week of pregnancy, and tender breasts, frequent urination and morning sickness become common as early as two weeks after conception (about week five of pregnancy). During week five, the hCG in your body will also reach levels detectible by a urine test.
The early signs of pregnancy may continue throughout your first trimester, in addition to fatigue, indigestion, bloating, constipation, headaches, mood swings, a darkening of the area around the nipples, and visible veins, particularly on the breasts and abdomen – all signaling that you may be in week five to eight of your pregnancy. These signs can continue during weeks nine to 13 and be joined by faintness, dizziness, increased appetite and an enlarged abdomen.
If morning sickness has come and gone, you have most likely passed 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy. The second trimester occurs from week 14 through 27. During this time you will notice that the increase in thin and milky vaginal discharge you may have experienced during the first trimester continues to increase, as it will throughout the course of your pregnancy. Your uterus will also begin to expand noticeably during these weeks, and there may be accompanied pain in the abdomen. You will undergo weight gain and may also experience shortness of breath, back pain, skin changes (such as stretch marks), as well as tingling sensations in your hands and itching on your stomach, palms and the soles of your feet. If you are feeling fetal movement, you are probably more than 18 weeks pregnant.
Your third trimester stretches from week 28 to the end of your pregnancy, often around week 40. If you are experiencing hemorrhoids, difficulty sleeping, the return of tender breasts, as well as swelling of the ankles, fingers and face, you may be in the final phase.