As noted on our suicide page, reports have reached the author of this website that Ira Yarmolenko may have been concerned about being pregnant around the time of her death. While scene findings are more important than coincidental factors such as this when evaluating whether the death was suicide or murder, the pregnancy rumors add to the picture of other risk factors she may have been facing.
The rumors conflict in their details. One source said that on Friday, May 2, 2008, three days before Yarmolenko's death which was also her 20th birthday, Yarmolenko told a friend she was worried about possibly being three months pregnant. The friend in whom she confided reportedly encouraged her to return to the clinic where Yarmolenko had previously received psychiatric treatment in Monroe, North Carolina, southeast of where she was attending college at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. A different source said there is no evidence that Yarmolenko was panicked about a pregnancy on her 20th birthday and had even joked to her friends that pregnancy would be impossible. Yet, Yarmolenko had taken a pregnancy test several weeks prior to her death that returned a negative result. The author of this website has seen no documentation for any of these claims.
What is certain is that Yarmolenko's autopsy did not list a pregnancy. However, the typical autopsy examination method for pregnancy is looking at the size of the uterus which is still small in the early weeks. A positive confirmation of pregnancy may sometimes be missed during the first trimester (the first three months of a nine-month pregnancy) due to the following reasons:
- Home pregnancy urine tests, clinic blood labs and even ultrasounds sometimes return false negatives up through the first trimester. Ultrasound is almost always reliable by the end of the first trimester as is physical examination of an enlarged uterus.
- If blood or urine pregnancy tests are administered too early, before the first five weeks, the hCG hormone upon which the tests are based may not be high enough to register.
- When blood or urine pregnancy tests are done after five weeks, the hCG hormone level may in some cases be so high that it over-saturates blood and urine tests to create a false negative, known as the "hook effect." The hCG hormone peaks around the end of the first trimester, but in rare cases the hook effect can create false negative blood and urine results throughout an entire pregnancy. Diluting the blood or urine sample will provide an accurate result in cases of a hook effect.
- Blood and urine pregnancy tests may produce false negatives due to fragmented variants of hCG which are enough different from the hCG measured by the tests that a false negative is returned.
- While most pregnant women notice the cessation of normal periods, it is not uncommon for pregnant women to continue to have hormonal breakthrough bleeding coinciding with the timing of their expected periods throughout the first trimester or in rare cases, longer. This can lead to delayed testing.
- Stress and various forms of birth control can disrupt normal menstrual cycles, causing cessation for months at a time despite the absence of a pregnancy.
Without knowing what methods were used during Yarmolenko's autopsy, 100% confirmation of an early pregnancy or lack thereof is unconfirmed. Pregnancy tests can go from registering negative to positive in a day's time. A negative test dated several weeks before Yarmolenko’s death is far from definitive proof of pregnancy or lack thereof at the time of her death if the rumor that she sought pregnancy testing is indeed true.