All posts by Ally

About Ally

Lotus Blossom Birth is dedicated to serving the needs of families in the Dallas/Fort Worth area through education and birth services. Check us out!!

First Trimester: Introduction

So, you’ve found out you are expecting recently? Let us be one of the first to congratulate you on your new addition. Whether you took a urine test or a blood test, you have hCG in your system and a little one on the way. We’d like to take the month of March to tell you everything you might need to know about the first trimester, the first 13 weeks of your pregnancy.

We will cover the first steps to choosing a provider and a place of birth, how to calculate your due date, what to do or not do for you and your baby’s health, and the common complaints of pregnancy and what you can do to help alleviate the discomfort.

Welcome to pregnancy! We hope that everything goes smoothly for you, but we’ll warn you, every baby likes to have some kind of bump in the road to be able to have their own unique pregnancy or birth story. We have yet to meet a woman who had everything happen exactly the way the textbooks describe. So settle in, enjoy your new glow, and join us each day as we explore the ins and outs of the first trimester.

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Initial Pregnancy: Blood Test

If some of the initial signs and symptoms are present, and you’ve taken a urine test from the pharmacy, it could be time to get a blood test with a provider. Not all providers want to see you for this blood test, in fact, some providers won’t even make your first appointment until you are twelve weeks’ gestation, as long as you are not having any complications.

We like to offer it as an option. Some women would prefer to have a second, often more accurate, pregnancy test performed to give them peace of mind. Women who have a history of pregnancy loss may choose to have their blood tested a couple times to make sure the pregnancy is progressing normally. We certainly don’t require it, you’ll find that midwives don’t require much of anything, but we’d like you to know it’s available if you’d like it.

The blood test is performed by regular venipuncture and is fairly simple and straight-forward. Possible risks are the same as any venipuncture, bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness at the draw site, infection due to an open wound, or an allergy to something used in the process, such as gloves or a tourniquet. The blood is tested by a lab for hCG, the same hormone that the urine test is sensitive to, however, a blood test will give both qualitative and quantitative results. This means that it gives a positive or negative, but that answer is followed up with exactly how much hCG the test was able to detect in your system. This information is useful when trying to narrow down a conception date, identifying multiples, diagnosing problems, or tracking the health of a pregnancy. hCG should double in the body every couple days so if a miscarriage is suspected, the hCG can be drawn twice, a few days apart, and the number tracked as to how much it’s increasing.

So, if you are searching for a provider willing to perform a pregnancy blood test, look no farther. Give us a call and we’ll come to you.

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Initial Pregnancy: False Negative

The flipside of the coin from our last post (Initial Pregnancy: False Positive) is a false negative. Receiving a false negative is much less common and can only be attributed to a couple factors.

The most obvious reason for a false negative is that the test was taken too early. hCG starts to build up in your system but not in high enough quantities to be read on a pregnancy test until just a few days before your missed period. Since women ovulate differently, it could be that you just need to wait a few days and take another test.

Following the instructions to use the most concentrated, early morning urine is important here too, because diluted urine just won’t have the same concentration of hCG. Again, if you think you are pregnant, wait and take your test in the morning. Having an accurate test is well worth waiting another twelve hours.

Possibly, the test is a dud. This happens in all things, one or two tests off the production line just weren’t made the same as the others and the sensitivity is off. Our advice is the same as above, retest in a few days, using a different brand or at least a different lot number from your original test.

Less common reasons for a false negative could be an ectopic pregnancy that just isn’t creating enough hCG, or a threatened or spontaneous miscarriage.

If you are convinced you are pregnant, but you can’t get a positive home test, reach out to us. We can look over your situation and have you come in for a blood test. It has a better accuracy rate, and we’ll be discussing in more in detail tomorrow.

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Initial Pregnancy: False Positive

We hear this question all the time. “I just took an at-home pregnancy test and it shows that I’m pregnant! Is there any chance it could be wrong?” This question comes from women on both sides of the fence, those hoping that the test could be inaccurate, and those hoping so badly to get pregnant that they don’t believe the evidence before them.

Because of this, we have developed a checklist of questions to make sure that the positive you are seeing is a true positive pregnancy…

Are you absolutely sure you took the test according to the package directions and did not leave it too long before checking?

We ask this question because each test has its’ own guidelines to follow when testing. Almost all tests suggest using your first morning urine, and reading the test within 7-10 minutes after testing. If the test is left too long, lines can appear from the urine evaporating and look like a positive marker.

Have you eaten beets, carrots, saffron, anything urine-colored recently?

This is the same idea to the evaporation lines. Food-dyed urine can appear as a positive marker line in the test box, although it will not turn blue or pink.

Have you recently had a miscarriage?

We hate to think this, but if a woman is insistent that she can’t be pregnant, that is one of our most useful questions. After a miscarriage, it can take some time for your body’s hormones to revert to normal. This means that a pregnancy test could be reading your hCG from the last pregnancy.

Are you taking any medications?

There are several prescriptive medications that can trigger a false positive on a pregnancy test. Fertility medications are among the highest culprits, followed by diuretics and anti-anxiety meds. We can help you sort through your medications and determine if one might be causing a false positive, or you can do your research. Just know it’s a possibility.

How are you feeling otherwise?

With this question, we’d like to know if you are experiencing any other signs and symptoms of pregnancy or if there may be an illness or disease that is providing the positive. Urinary tract or kidney infections, PCOS, and ovarian cancer can also trigger a false positive.

With those questions, it’s helpful to determine whether a positive is most likely a true positive. This is why we call a pregnancy test a probable sign of pregnancy. They are not foolproof and nothing is 100% positive until we hear that little heartbeat or see the little peanut floating around. Pregnancy tests will also show positive for a chemical (extremely early pregnancy that never implanted) or an ectopic pregnancy (a fertilized egg that attached inside the fallopian tubes). Neither of these pregnancies will lead to a healthy baby, but they are still considered pregnancies nonetheless. To rule these out, Doppler or ultrasound technology must be used.

So, depending on how you answered the questions, congratulations. Your positive is most likely a true positive and we’d love to hear from you.

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Initial Pregnancy: A Line and a Half

Reading a pregnancy test can be a nerve-wracking experience. You know the insert says to add the urine and then let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then come back and check it. But how many women can just walk away instead of watching the urine creep across the window and trying to determine if a second line is popping up to match the control line? And then, sometimes, a woman is left with a full, dark control line, and this skinny little partial line next to it. There’s nothing in the insert about that!

That skinny little partial line, no matter how light or faint, is a positive. This might be some of the best advice we were given from a doctor ever, but a line is a line is a line. It doesn’t have to match the control line, it just has to be present in some form or fashion. It may be early and the test is only able to detect traces of hCG, or it may be a test that malfunctioned slightly, but either way, any line in the test window is a positive pregnancy test.

You still need to wait the recommended time and check it again. Some tests have streaking that you can misread for a line if you check right away, or some really do need some time to show up. And don’t forget either, because there is a true window, and if you wait hours and then go back and check the test, it could read a line where there wasn’t one before as the urine dried up. But really, who forgets that they were taking a pregnancy test and goes back hours later to check it? Pregnant women, that’s who!

This post is meant to reassure you, so that you can know with certainty that any partial line is a line. Hope the information helps you as much as it helped us. And if you have a second line, faint or not, we’d love to hear from you.

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Initial Pregnancy: The Best Brands of Pregnancy Tests

So, basically, the title of the blog is deceptive. There is no better brand of over-the-counter urine pregnancy test. They all test for hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in the urine, a hormone that is only produced in the body during pregnancy. Some brands may test a day sooner than another, according to the packaging, but we have found that the cheapest generic brand is just as sensitive as the expensive name brand.

The first major difference in urine pregnancy tests is in the testing method. If this matters significantly to you, then choose the brand that you feel is the most user friendly. Some tests come with a little pipette for collecting the urine from a cup and dropping it onto the tester, while others have a stick that you place directly into the stream of urine. The pipette method means that you will need to supply your own clean cup for catching the urine, but the stick method often comes with a little bot of overspray onto your hand. Pardon our sense of humor, but we just had to use this meme here. Either collection method is effective.

The test display is the second major difference between brands of pregnancy tests. Some tests have the control line, which always turns solid, and then a test line, which will display only if the test is positive. Others form a minus symbol (-) when negative and a plus symbol (+) when positive. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Ally once used one of these tests and all she got as a result was a capital “L.” There are newer, even more expensive tests on the market with an LCD display that reads either “pregnant” or “not pregnant.” You will need to decide how comfortable you are with reading your tests results when deciding which test to purchase.

All that being said, the results from each brand of test will be similar, so long as the test is performed within three days of a missed period. In every brand, there will potentially be a test that just doesn’t work, a reject of the production line that somehow made it onto the shelf. So, if you think you are pregnant, and the first test doesn’t show positive, wait a day or two, try a different brand (or the same brand with a different lot number), and make sure to use your first morning pee because it tends to be the most concentrated.

If you find out you are pregnant, give us a call. We’d be happy to talk with you about your journey and get to know you better. Unlike pregnancy tests, all providers are not the same and you will want to find someone that meets you exactly where you are.

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Initial Pregnancy: Dizziness

Dizziness, or light-headedness, is an often overlooked sign that you could be expecting. This can occur at any point during the day, but more frequently it happens when you change positions from sitting to standing, when you have prolonged times of standing, or while taking a hot shower. Combined with another one or two of the early signs of pregnancy that we have talked about this month, it is a good indicator that it’s time to take a pregnancy test.

Dizziness happens during early pregnancy for two common reasons. The first is that hormone progesterone. It helps to relax everything in the body and when it works its’ magic on blood vessels, it can cause enough of a drop in blood pressure to make you feel light-headed, dizzy, or faint. The second culprit is low blood sugar. If you are especially lucky to have a difficult time eating or holding down any food during early pregnancy, it is possible for your blood sugar to drop low enough to cause dizziness, light-headedness, and even some mental confusion.

These symptoms will be discussed again in a blog post in March and we will talk about the prevention of dizziness and ways to combat it once it begins. If you are currently pregnant and experiencing this, feel free to reach out to us and we will gladly share what we know with you.

If the lyrics “You spin me right round, baby, right round…” are swirling in your head, or you have been having episodes of light-headedness, it’s time to see your provider and make sure that a pregnancy test is one of the first things they perform.

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Initial Pregnancy: Quickening

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t happen at the very beginning of a pregnancy, but for some new mothers, this is one of the first signs they notice when they are expecting. Quickening is one of those fancy words we learned in midwifery school, but it really just means feeling those first flutters in your belly as your baby wiggles around. For some women, this can happen as early as 10 weeks, and some women don’t feel any movement until week 16. The exact time that you will be able to feel your baby’s movements depend on a lot of factors, such as where the placenta is located and how many other children you have that you have to pay attention to. Seriously, we felt each baby a little later than the previous ones because we were too busy to notice.

We’ve heard it before, that women have felt their baby super early, and someone in their life responds with “it’s probably just gas.” Well, you’ve felt gas before, and if this is a new sensation to you, then you’re right, you’re feeling little tiny rolls and punches from the human in your womb. By 18 weeks, most women are feeling movement daily, even if it’s just hiccups, and by 20 weeks, most women can not only feel, but see the movements from the outside of their belly.

So, if you are far enough along that one of your first signs of pregnancy is alien movement inside you, it’s time to see your provider, that way you can listen to a heartbeat as well.

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Initial Pregnancy: Headaches

Unfortunately, headaches are a common part of most every pregnancy at some time or another. In your first trimester, they are most often caused by surging hormones or increased blood volume. And they are no fun, but they are a good sign that your body is doing the work that it is supposed to.

Did you know that you can often determine the source of your headache by the location of the pain? You probably all know that migraines are characterized by an all-over throbbing ache, possible visual disturbances, and even nausea and vomiting, but did you know that hormonal headaches, tension headaches, and others have their own location? Tension headaches are normally in a ring around the head, as if you were wearing a tight crown. Sinus headaches are more toward the front, starting with the cheekbones and working their way up the temples. Hormone and increased blood volume headaches tend to be at the back of the head or base of the skull and are characterized by a dull ache.

Headaches are not typically something to be concerned about, but you should call your provider if you get little to no relief from medication, the headache continues to worsen, you have other symptoms such as swelling or abdominal pain, or the headache lasts longer than four hours. Yes, we mean headaches, not erections (thanks, Viagra commercials). Can anyone hear “lasting longer than four hours” now without that coming to mind?

As with all signs and symptoms of pregnancy, headaches are best treated with natural remedies if at all possible. In March, we will release another blog post, focusing on the alternative therapies for headaches and how you can avoid over-the-counter medications. Or, feel free to reach out to us if you need the information now.

So, if you have headaches, and maybe a couple other early signs or symptoms we’ve listed this month, you just might be pregnant.

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Initial Pregnancy: Increased Urination

Looking back on our own pregnancies, we really wish someone had given us the heads-up on this one. You are going to need to pee, a lot! And it’s not just in the last few months when the baby has grown your uterus to the size of a watermelon. It happens toward the very beginning, thanks to hormones increasing your urine production and your uterus beginning to grow. Even with an itty bitty baby, the uterus can sit pretty heavy on your bladder. I mean, it’s great that your body is working overtime to flush toxins and keep your baby safe, but you might as well switch to easy-to-pull-down leggings now.

To be clear, the frequency of needing to go pee during pregnancy should not resemble a urinary tract infection in any way. UTIs are common in pregnancy and are marked with typically uncomfortable symptoms, such as fever, burning with urinating, inability to feel like to emptied your bladder. While going to the bathroom more with pregnancy is a hassle, it should not be painful or marked with other UTI symptoms. If this occurs, contact your provider.

So if you can’t seem to make it more than a few blocks of a road trip without your urethra throbbing with the need to urinate, you might be pregnant.

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