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The Early Signs Of Pregnancy

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



Cessation of Menses—Morning Sickness - Changes in the Breasts -Enlargement of the Abdomen— Calculation of the Probable Date of Confinement.

First Signs of Pregnancy.—The first circumstance to make a woman suspect that she is pregnant is generally the non-appearance of her usual monthly discharge. This is called the cessation of the menses, or monthlies, and is one of the most constant signs of pregnancy. Cases, do, indeed, now and then occur, in which, notwithstanding pregnancy, the customary flow takes place for the first few months just as usual, and in certain still rarer instances it has been known to appear regularly throughout the pregnancy.

On the other hand its absence is by no means a sure indication of pregnancy, as it may be due to many other causes; such, for example, as an attack of severe illness, a condition of general weakness, or even strong emotional excitement.

Another Symptom.—The next symptom to attract attention is usually a feeling of sickness, often most distressing in the early morning, and some-times accompanied with vomiting. This commences about the fourth or fifth week, and continues to the middle of pregnancy, when it generally ceases. Occasionally it lasts to the end of the pregnancy, while, on the other hand, in some women it is entirely absent throughout.

Shortly after pregnancy has commenced, a sensation of weight and fullness Is felt in the breasts. A little later these organs enlarge, and the nipples become more prominent; the skin, too, just around the nipples becomes darker In color, an alteration most marked in women of fair skin and light complexion. Of course these changes are most noticeable in women who are pregnant for the first time; for when they have once occurred, the breasts never quite resume their original appearance, so that subsequent changes are less observable. The breasts may increase in size, and may even contain milk, without pregnancy; as, for example, in the case of certain diseases of the womb.

Enlargement of the Abdomen.-About the end Of the third month the abdomen begins to enlarge, and continues to do so from that time forwards; by the end of the seventh month the hollow of the navel has generally disappeared. It need scarcely be said, however, that the abdomen may enlarge from many other causes, so that not one of the four signs above described affords, when taken alone, positive proof of pregnancy; although, when two or more of them are found to be present, there is good ground for a strong suspicion. Whenever it is important that the question of pregnancy should be. established beyond a doubt, a doctor should be consulted.

Probable Date of Confinement.--The usual method of reckoning the probable date of confinement is to learn on what day the last monthly ;low ceased, then to count three months backwards (or nine months forward, and add seven days. This is, in practice, the best plan that has been suggested, and will generally give a date within a very few days of actual confinement, frequently the very day. The following example will show how the calculation is made:—A woman, we will say, was last unwell on March 10 counting three months back from March 10 gives December 10; add seven days and it will give December 17, which is the probable date of her confinement. If it is not the actual day, labor will in all probability take place within three or four days before or after it.

Movements of the Foetus; The movements of the foetus are not perceived by the mother until between the fourth and fifth months—that is, until pregnancy has advanced about half-way. Not very uncommonly the occurrence of the first definite movement of which the mother is conscious is accompanied by a sensation of nausea and faintness. It is this fact which gave rise to the opinion long held, and still prevalent amongst the ignorant, that the foetus then for the first time becomes living, an opinion that finds expression in the word "quickening," the use of which, like that of many other words, has outlived the theory in which it had its origin. As a matter of fact, the foetus is living from the very commencement of pregnancy, and the reason why movements are not felt during the earlier half of pregnancy is to be found in the fact that the womb itself is not sensitive, and that it is not until the middle of pregnancy that that organ has enlarged sufficiently to bring it in direct contact with a part fully endowed with sensibility-namely, the inner surface of the abdominal wall. From the moment when they are first perceived, the movements of the child become more and more distinct as pregnancy advances, and constitute one of the most important of the later signs of that condition. When from any cause it is impossible for the probable date of confinement to be calculated according to the rule laid down in the preceding paragraph (as, for example, when the date of the last menstruation is uncertain, or when one pregnancy succeeds another so quickly that menstruation has not been re-established in the interval), it may be approximately arrived at by reckoning it as four and one-half months after the date of "quickening."

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