With the advent of ultrasound and specific pregnancy testing (blood and urine), the diagnosis of pregnancy today is pretty much a "no-brainer." But in the good old days, doctors used a combination of judgment and diagnostic tools that today might seem prehistoric.
Nevertheless, there is a certain charm in the way pregnancy was diagnosed before the advent of modern aids. Let's take a stroll down memory lane. For those of you old enough, this will be a sentimental journey. And for younger moms, consider how far medical advances have come and count your blessings!
Although the science of obstetrics has made for a better pregnancy, the beauty of the art of medicine has been somewhat lost. Today we can clinically pinpoint ovulation and conception. We can use ultrasound to take pictures of the baby and can track rising hCG levels almost before the period is late. But it wasn't too long ago that women couldn't get an official diagnosis until mid-pregnancy. In the early stages of pregnancy, obstetricians and their patients relied upon these three main signs and symptoms to diagnose pregnancy:
A woman suspects she is pregnant based upon the following perceptions:
- Lack of menstruation: Other things can cause this, but pregnancy and menopause top the list of possibilities.
- Breast changes: Breasts are tender early on; later the nipples become darkened and enlarged. Later still, there is colostrum discharge (a precursor to milk).
- Chadwick's sign: This old-fashioned term refers to a bluish discoloration of the vaginal tissue, caused by venous congestion in the area.
- Abdominal striae: Or, what you may know as stretch marks.
- Increased pigmentation: The linea nigra, or black line, runs up the center of the woman's abdomen and usually fades after pregnancy.
- Increase in urination: Usually due to the pressure of the growing uterus on the bladder.
- Quickening: An elegant and old-fashioned term associated with the thrilling perception of movement between 16 and 20 weeks.