Weeks 2 and 3 Ovulation fertilization and implantation

The lining of your uterus, which will nourish your baby, is developing. Your body is secreting follicle-stimulating hormone, which will cause an egg in your ovary to mature. As you ovulate and the egg is released into your fallopian tube, the hormones involved in the process — estrogen and progesterone — cause a slight increase in your body temperature and a change in secretions from your cervical glands.

When fertilization occurs, the corpus luteum — a small structure that surrounds your developing baby — starts to grow and produce small amounts of progesterone. This helps support your pregnancy. Progesterone keeps your uterus from contracting. It also promotes growth of blood vessels in your uterine wall, essential for your baby's nourishment.

Roughly four days after fertilization, your developing baby is at the blastocyst stage. At about this time, your placenta begins producing a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This hormone can be first detected in your blood and shortly later in your urine. Home pregnancy tests can detect HCG in a sample of your urine about six to 12 days after fertilization.

By the time your developing baby travels through your fallopian tube and implants itself in the lining of your uterus — about a week after fertilization — your endometrium has grown thick enough to support it.

As your baby implants, you may notice spotting, a scanty menstrual flow or yellowish vaginal discharge. You may mistake it for the start of your normal menstrual period. This spotting may in fact be a first sign of pregnancy. It comes from the small amount of bleeding that can occur when your developing baby implants itself into the lining of your uterus.

Also around the time of implantation, finger-like projections that will become your placenta begin producing large amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones ultimately cause growth and changes in your uterus, endometrium, cervix, vagina and breasts.

At this point, you are pregnant, although it's too early for you to have missed a period or to have any other symptoms of pregnancy. In these first days after fertilization, miscarriage is common, often before you know you're pregnant. Scientists estimate that three of every four lost pregnancies are the result of a failure of implantation. In the first week to 10 days after conception, infections or exposure to harmful environmental factors, such as drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, medications and chemicals, can interfere with your baby implanting in your uterus. At this stage of the pregnancy, such exposures can result in pregnancy loss, but not birth defects. Most of the

When to take a home pregnancy test

I think I'm pregnant. When can I take a home pregnancy test?

You'll want to wait at least until the first day of your missed cycle — and perhaps a bit longer. Here's why. Home pregnancy tests measure a hormone produced after the fertilized egg attaches in the wall of the uterus. This hormone, called HCG, isn't present until six to 12 days after fertilization. The timing varies, so testing when your menstrual cycle is only a day late might miss a developing pregnancy.

How accurate are the tests?

The tests are quite good. A recent study showed that the tests are capable of diagnosing 90 percent of pregnancies on the first day of the missed period. By one week after the first day of the missed period, that rises to as much as 97 percent.

For the most accurate test results:

• Follow the specific directions of your home pregnancy test exactly.

• Test using your first urine of the morning, which has the highest concentration of HCG.

How does the pregnancy test work?

After your developing baby prompts the production of HCG, this hormone can be detected in your blood and shortly later in your urine. Home pregnancy tests can detect HCG in your urine. The tests usually require that you place a pregnancy test stick in a sample of your urine. Within a few minutes, the presence of a dot or line on the test stick indicates whether HCG is present in your urine. If it is, the test is positive, meaning you are pregnant.

What if the test says I'm pregnant?

If the test result is positive, make plans to see your health care provider to begin prenatal care. Ask him or her to prescribe prenatal vitamins.

What if the test says I'm not pregnant?

If your result is negative, but you still have the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, wait a few days and then take a second test. Or ask to have a pregnancy test done at your health care provider's office.

time, however, pregnancy losses result from mistakes in the process of development that aren't under anyone's control.

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