Missed Periods and Pregnancy Scares

Is It Too Early or Too Late?


My husband is watching the first season of the cable show Mad Men on DVD. He tells me, "One of the characters went into labor and didn't know she was pregnant. I knew this was coming four episodes ago when they started mentioning how fat she was getting." That happens a lot on TV—women get a stomachache, rush to the ER and are told to push. Not so much in real life. Sure, I've had a couple patients over the years who really didn't know they were pregnant until they landed in labor and delivery. I've had a few more who "said" they didn't know but when you got them alone, they admit, they knew. They just didn't want to think about it or tell anyone. Denial works really well until those contractions kick in. Things get "real" real fast after that.

More often what happens are the situations Crystal and Michelle wrote about this week. Both are wondering if they're pregnant and have barely missed a period. Crystal's period is a week late, she's nauseated, bloated, constipated and generally feeling lousy in the "below the belt" region. Her pregnancy test was negative. Her question: "What should I do?" Answer: There's nothing much to do Crystal, except wait awhile. Your symptoms might be very early pregnancy but might also be a virus. Sometimes they feel a lot alike. You might be pregnant and just didn't have enough HCG (pregnancy hormones) in your urine sample to turn your home pregnancy test positive. It might be too early to tell. Other than avoiding all the bad stuff like alcohol, drugs and toxins, there's no need to do anything. If you don't get your period soon, take another pregnancy test. If your tummy troubles don't go away soon, go see your doctor. If you're hoping you're pregnant, I hope so too. If you're hoping you're not, I hope your period starts today so you don't have to spend any more time in the twilight zone.

Michelle's sick to her stomach, too. She writes that she and her husband were never planning on having children but their birth control method indicates otherwise. Michelle says her husband "pulls out," before ejaculating. Except maybe he didn't and she thinks she was ovulating and now she has a pain in her side. Her question to me: Is it possible we conceived?

Michelle honey, DUH. Whoever told you "pulling out" was a reliable method of birth control was pulling your leg. If you and your husband Really Didn't Want To Have Children, you should have been using some real contraception like an IUD, the pill or heck, even a condom. Pulling out is useless. Plenty of sperm cells make an early appearance and find their way to your waiting egg way before he has an orgasm. If this turns out to be just a scare and you're not pregnant, you need to come up with a different birth control plan. Or maybe, you two aren't really all that sure you don't want children. Seems like if you're willing to play the "pull out game" at least one of you is not all that committed to staying kid-free.

This calls up the question: Why do we have pregnancy scares? To give us the chance to see how we'd feel about a pregnancy if it were to really happen. If we're being reckless with birth control but really don't want a baby—a late period and queasy tummy are a heck of a wake up call. If we're hoping, hoping, hoping for a baby, a late period might be a fragile dream come true. Either way, it's a good opportunity to take a close look at that pesky cycle of action and consequences. Having sex makes babies.

Crystal and Michelle, I hope both of you get your period soon or the pregnancy test results you want. I know that nervous, queasy feeling when my period's more than 20 minutes late and I'm waiting to find out if life is changing forever—or not. It's not my favorite. Michelle, honey, this might be a good time to get real about whether or not you want children. If you really don't, call your doctor and have a chat about contraception.

Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to labornurse@fitpregnancy.com and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.