Pregnancy Testing Then and Now
Probable Evidence of Pregnancy
This category comprises what your doctor will notice:
- Enlargement of the abdomen: This is presumably due to increase in size of the uterus. The uterus can usually be felt through the abdomen after 12 weeks. This sign will be obvious earlier in the abdomens that have been stretched out before with a previous pregnancy. Into the second trimester, an actual measurement called the fundal height can be recorded each visit.
- Changes in the size, shape, and consistency of the uterus: “Hegar’s Sign” is when the uterus becomes so soft, usually at six weeks, that it is felt separately from the firmer cervix. Softening of the cervix usually occurs at about the same time, called “Goodell’s Sign.” The increase in size, as described above, is part of the total package change.
- Braxton Hicks’ Contractions: The irregular and unorganized contractions of the uterus.
- Ballottement: A mid-pregnancy sign in which the fetus can be pushed from your abdomen and felt to bounce back, tapping your doctor’s examining finger in the vagina. Obstetricians never use this technique anymore to diagnose pregnancy.
Positive Signs of Pregnancy
This category includes laboratory and other empirical evidence scientifically shown to indicate a pregnancy.
- Identification of the fetal heartbeat separately and distinctly from that of the mother. Hearing the heartbeat can be distinguished from the mother’s by simply taking her pulse while listening to the fetal heart. An examiner hearing blood swishing through the umbilical cord, (the “funic” or umbilical cord “soufflé”) is as meaningful as hearing the actual fetal heart, because it’s the fetal heart’s beating that causes the umbilical cord to pulsate. On the other hand, blood passing through the dilated uterine blood vessels, the “uterine soufflé,” is associated with the maternal pulse, driven by your own heart.
- Perception of fetal movement by the examiner; and
- Recognition of the fetus by X-ray or ultrasound.
Of course, modern diagnostic techniques make a lot of the “presumptive” and “probable” signs and symptoms obsolete and quaint. Yet I get many questions every day in which a woman cites this symptom or that and then asks, “Can I be pregnant?” It is for these hopefuls that I answered the question, “What are the signs of pregnancy?” Depending on which of three groups you identify with, your answer will be “Maybe,” “Probably,” or “Definitely.”
Until you visit your doctor.
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