Recent legislation has sought to ban abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable. For most women, that's as early as five or six weeks into pregnancy—and only one or two weeks after a missed period. That means many of these women might not even realize they're pregnant before it's already too late for them to get an abortion. (Learn more about what it means to be six weeks pregnant here.)
Still, these so-called "heartbeat bills" have raised a bunch of questions. When do most women figure out they're pregnant? Can women really not know they'r pregnant until after the 6-week mark? Why are some women able to tell right away, while others don't realize until much later? So we decided to talk to seven women about how and when they realized they were pregnant in an attempt to answer some of these questions.
The fact of the matter is: Pregnancy is totally different for each woman who experiences it—and there's nothing wrong with that. While one woman might discover she's pregnant right away, some other woman may take weeks or months to do the same. That doesn't mean either woman is "wrong" or "weird"—it just means they're experiencing pregnancy differently.
Beth I., 3.5 weeks
"I realized I was pregnant fairly early—around three and a half weeks in. I had gone off the pill more than a year beforehand and quickly realized my natural menstruation cycle was around 21 days. I had never been late before, so when I hadn’t gotten my period in four days, I think I instinctively knew I was pregnant. I woke up that morning and figured I should take a pregnancy test (my first one ever), still not fully grasping the reality of my potential situation. Sure enough, the pee stick confirmed it, and I promptly panicked. Even though my husband and I had been trying to conceive, there’s a big difference between 'trying' and it actually happening! I’m excited now, but it definitely took me some time to mentally catch up with my new life status."
Lauren W., 3-4 weeks
"I realized I was pregnant very quickly for both kids—three or four days before my approximate period. We were trying to get pregnant, so I used tools to track my period and increase my likelihood of pregnancy. I used an app that would show me when my next period was and when to check, and I used pregnancy tests both times."
Courtney P., 4 weeks
"I knew immediately. I was trying to get pregnant. So when I realized I was ovulating, I invited my partner over to "hang out" with me for five minutes. Then, I took a test on day 28. Boom! Knocked up! Mission accomplished."
Jennifer A., 6-8 weeks
"On Christmas Eve, my partner and I decided to pop open a bottle of aged tequila we'd received as a gift—but I couldn't hold it down. I took a pregnancy test the next morning, and it came up positive. But when I went to the doctor for confirmation, my test results were negative. A few weeks passed, and I was convinced I had some kind of liver issue. I headed back to the doctor, who reluctantly sent me to an ob/gyn. There, I learned I was pregnant—and 6-8 weeks along."
Hilla S., 7-8 weeks
"I discovered I was pregnant on a Sunday night after spending the weekend not really eating much, which is a strange thing for me to do. On Sunday evening, I finally had a desire to eat something: soup and fruit. And as soon as I recognized this, I knew I was pregnant. I'd been pregnant once before, and these were the only foods I wanted to eat while during my pregnancy. I took a digital test, and it confirmed I was pregnant. By my calculations, I was about five or six weeks along. Immediately, I booked an appointment with my ob/gyn, who confirmed I was pregnant via an ultrasound. By his calculations, I was 7-8 weeks pregnant."
Alexis V., 9 weeks
"I wasn't worried the day my so-called 'period' came. It seemed a little light to me, but it showed up on time—so I didn't think anything of it. My 21st birthday came, and I decided to celebrate with drinks and other festivities. And a little while later, I took cold medicine because I hadn't been feeling very well. But I noticed the sickness lingered—and turned into nausea at the mention of food. Then, I started putting things together. I took two pregnancy tests, and both came up positive. So my boyfriend and I headed to a free clinic to get an ultrasound, find out how far along I was, and make sure the pregnancy was healthy. There, I found out I was almost nine weeks along! I felt bad about drinking and taking medicine because I hadn't realized I was pregnant—my 'period' turned out to be implantation bleeding, a common side effect of pregnancies."
Sasha W., 12 weeks
"I found out I was pregnant when I was almost 12 weeks along. I was in a long distance relationship and was working a fast-paced job in Manhattan. I had an active social life at the time, so I'd mistakenly attributed my pregnancy symptoms to my poor schedule. I had a loss of appetite, which gave me plenty of headache—it just all seemed justifiable to me, since I was under so much stress. Eventually, I couldn't shake this weird 'feeling' I had. Something was just off to me. So I decided to take my first-ever pregnancy test—and voila. Needless to say, I was shocked!"
Feeling motivated to act? There are tons of ways to make your voice heard. SELF's resources on finding activist opportunities and getting involved in policy decisions are great places to start. And if you're passionate about women's access to reproductive health care in particular, you can also consider: donating to the Center for Reproductive Rights, volunteering for NARAL Pro-Choice America, donating to the Reproductive Health Access Project, or volunteering for Planned Parenthood.
Also: Ohio Governor Passes 20-Week Abortion Ban, Vetoes 'Heartbeat Bill' (from Newsy)
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