You took every precaution. You followed every direction that was printed on the box of the contraceptive of your choice. Some of you even used two methods of birth control, but it still happened - you got pregnant - or so you think. Now your period's late, your breasts hurt, and you've been throwing up like a frat boy since last tuesday.
Do you freak out and warn your folks that they might become grandparents? Or do you wait it out just in case this is all just a false alarm? If you're like most people, you're going to hold off until you're absolutely positive before you spread the news. But what do you do until then?
Just the Facts, Mom
There are tons of myths about how and when a girl can get pregnant, but the truth is, you can get pregnant any time of the month - even during your period - and even if the guy doesn't ejaculate. Since no birth control method is 100 percent reliable, sex is always risky. The fact that sperm can live three to seven days in a vagina makes the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy even higher.
The best thing to do first is break out a calendar and figure out when your last period was. For example: A girl who has a solid 28-day menstrual cycle will most likely ovulate around 14 days from the first day of her period, and as we all know, when you ovulate, you're open to getting pregnant. There are, of course, a number of unknowns in this equation, but the normal rule of thumb is you're most likely to get pregnant immediately after that halfway period. Charting the days you had sex and comparing them to your ovulation period should significantly narrow down whether or not you might be pregnant.
Know Your Body
OK, you've spent hours with the calendar trying to remember when your last period was - guessing what days you had sex - and you still can't determine whether or not your pregnant. No problem. There are also physical signs that you can look out for.
Many young women, mostly in their mid- to early teens, aren't aware of what to look out for when it comes to natural signposts their body gives them on a daily basis, says Pamela Waynick, MSN, CMN, and Patient Consultant with HeliosHealth.com. What one girl might think of as a common stomachache could actually be a sign her body is giving her that she's pregnant.
Waynick stresses the importance of taking every pain and discomfort seriously, not only as signs of pregnancy, but for any other possible health concerns. In many cases, the signals a woman's body gives her are highly informative, Waynick continues. It's all about taking the time to educate yourself and know what to look for.
Ouch, My Breasts Hurt
As Waynick says, your body may show symptoms if you are indeed pregnant. For those first couple of weeks that you're unsure, they're probably going to be very subtle, but they'll be there.
According to Jon Knowles, author of Planned Parenthood s All About Birth Control: A Personal Guide, what you should look out for during those first couple of weeks are sore nipples and breasts (as well as the darkening of the areola), nausea and vomiting, exhaustion, head and backaches, and frequent urination. But remember, just because you aren't experiencing any of these symptoms doesn t mean you're not pregnant. You're just lucky.
It's a Take-Home Test
You've tried to chart your menstrual cycle, and you've noted every symptom your body has given. You haven't gotten your period yet, but you're still not sure if you're pregnant. Since most home pregnancy kits won't show true results until approximately two weeks after ovulation, using one up until now would be ineffective. But it has been a couple weeks and Aunt Flo is definitely late, that's why it's pretty important that you invest in a reliable home pregnancy kit soon. (Expect to shell out $5 to $19 dollars per kit.)
Although most home pregnancy tests claim that their product is 97 to 99 percent accurate in their labs, your bathroom results aren't always going to have the same numbers. That's why you should take the test again a couple of days later, no matter what the first result was.
So you've done just about everything you can do up until this point. If your pregnancy tests show up positive, visit a doctor's office ASAP. There should be dozens of free clinics that'll keep your case anonymous while advising you on the options you have.
Look through your local yellow pages or surf the Net for clinics in your area. And if your tests show up negative, then thank your lucky stars and wait for your period.
Alarcon co-founded outsideleft with lamontpaul in 2004. His work for o/l has attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of readers, oh and probably the fbi too.