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Pregnancy Information-Everything You Need to Know

Pregnancy is the term used to describe the cycle of growth of a fetus inside the womb or uterus of a woman.

pregnancy & parenting tips

By Dr Sufia Shaikh

Pregnancy is the term used to describe the cycle of growth of a fetus inside the womb or uterus of a woman.

As measured from the last menstrual period to delivery, pregnancy usually lasts around 40 weeks, or just over 9 months.

Pregnancy occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg after it is released from the ovary while ovulating. Alternatively, the fertilized egg travels down into the uterus where there is implantation. Successful implantation leads to pregnancy.

everything about pregnancy

Knowing what to expect during the whole pregnancy period is important for managing the health of both your baby and your health.

Pregnancy can end in live birth, abortion or miscarriage, whereas access to safe treatment varies globally.

Childbirth usually happens about 40 weeks from the start of the last menstrual period (LMP). That is just over nine months, where every month an average of 31 days is predicted. It is believed to be about 38 weeks from fertilisation.

Symptoms of pregnancy

Before you even take a pregnancy test you can find some signs and symptoms.Others will appear weeks later, as your hormone levels change.

1)Missed period

A missed period is one of the earliest (and perhaps the most classic) signs of pregnancy. A missed period, however, does not necessarily mean that you are pregnant, particularly if your cycle generally tends to be irregular. There are many other health conditions than pregnancy which may cause a late or missed period.

Read : 21 Early Pregnancy Symptoms before Missed Period.

2)Headache

Headache In pregnancy

Headaches occur typically during early pregnancy. These are usually caused by altered levels of hormones and increased volume of blood. If your headaches don’t go away or are particularly painful, consult your doctor.

3)Spotting

During early pregnancy, some females may experience light bleeding and spotting. Most often this bleeding is the result of the implantation. Implantation takes place usually one to two weeks after fertilization.

 Bleeding from early pregnancy can also be the result of relatively minor conditions such as an infection or irritation. The latter often impacts the cervix surface (which is highly sensitive during pregnancy).

 Bleeding can also occasionally signal a serious complication of pregnancy, such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or placenta previa. If you are worried, please contact your doctor.

4)Nausea with or without vomiting

Morning sickness, which can strike day or night at any time, often begins one month after you become pregnant. Some women, however, feel nausea earlier and some do not experience it at all. While it is not clear what causes nausea during pregnancy, pregnancy hormones possibly play a role.

5)Tender, swollen breasts.

Hormone changes early in pregnancy may make your breasts sensitive and sore. Within a few weeks, the pain will likely decrease as the body adjusts to hormonal changes.

6)Increased urination.

You may find yourself urinating more often than normal. Throughout pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases, causing your kidneys to process extra fluid which ends up in your bladder.

7)Fatigue

Fatigue ranks high among early pregnancy symptoms, too. Levels of the hormone progesterone keep rising during early pregnancy — which could make you feel sleepy.

Other pregnancy signs and symptoms

Other less obvious signs and pregnancy symptoms you can feel during the first trimester include:

8)Moodiness.

During early pregnancy the surge of hormones in your body will make you overly emotional and weepy. Mood swings are also common.

9)Bloating

Hormonal changes can cause you to feel bloated during early pregnancy, similar to how you might feel at the onset of a menstrual period.

10)Cramping.

As the muscles in your uterus start to stretch and expand, you can experience a sensation of pulling that resembles menstrual cramps. If there is spotting or vomiting with the cramps, it may signify a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

11)Constipation

Changes in the hormones will slow down your digestive system during early pregnancy. You can get constipated as a result.

12)Food aversions.

You may become more sensitive to certain odors when you’re pregnant, and may change your sense of taste. As with most other pregnancy symptoms, these food preferences can be chalked up to hormonal changes.

13)Nasal congestion

Increasing hormone levels and blood output can  cause swelling, drying out and bleeding of the mucous membranes in your nose. This may triggers a stuffy or runny nose.

14)Weight gain

In your first few months of pregnancy, you could expect to gain between 1 and 4 pounds. Weight gain is becoming more apparent towards the start of your second trimester.

15)Pregnancy-induced hypertension

Occasionally, high blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs during pregnancy. There are a number of factors that may increase your risk, including: overweight or obese smoking with a history of pregnancy or a family history of hypertension

16)Back pain

Hormones and muscle stress are major causes of back pain during early pregnancy. Your increased weight and changed center of gravity can later add pressure to your back. About half of all pregnant women report back pain while pregnant.

17)Anemia

Pregnant women have increased anemia risk, resulting in symptoms such as lightheadedness and dizziness. The condition can lead to low birth weight and premature birth. Screening for anemia usually involves prenatal care.

18)Depression

Depression occurs during pregnancy between 14 per cent and 23 per cent of all pregnant women. The causes can be linked to the many mental and biological changes you’re experiencing.

If you don’t feel like your usual self, tell your doctor

19)Insomnia

Insomnia is yet another common early pregnancy symptom. The causes can be related to stress, physical discomfort and hormonal changes. A balanced diet, good sleeping habits and calming yoga can all help you sleep well

20)Acne

A lot of women develop acne in early pregnancy because of elevated androgen hormones. Such hormones will make your skin oilier that can block pores. Pregnancy acne is usually temporary and will clear after the baby has been born.

21)Stress and pregnancy

Although pregnancy is usually a happy time, it can be a source of stress, too. A new baby means big body changes, personal relationships, and even finances. When you start feeling stressed, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help.

22)Diarrhea

Diarrhea and other digestive problems often occur during pregnancy. Changes in hormones, a particular diet and added stress are all possible reasons for this. When diarrhea lasts longer than a couple of days, contact your doctor to ensure that you are not dehydrated.

The bottom line

If you think you may be pregnant, you should not rely solely on evidence on those signs and symptoms. You can confirm a possible pregnancy by taking a home pregnancy test or by visiting a doctor for laboratory tests.

 Other health conditions, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), can also cause many of those signs and symptoms.

 Read more about early pregnancy symptoms before missed period

Credits: Mama Natural

Pregnancy Week By Week

Pregnancy is broken down into three trimesters, each lasting about three months. The exact length of each trimester can differ from source to source.

First Trimester

The first trimester begins with the onset of gestational age, i.e. the onset of week 1, ends at week 12 (11 weeks + 6 GA days) or week 14 (13 weeks + 6 GA days).

A baby grows quickly in the first trimester (weeks 1 through 12). The fetus is beginning to develop liver, spine, spinal cord etc. The baby’s heart will start beating too.

The risk of having a miscarriage during the first trimester is relatively high. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), approximately 1 in 10 pregnancies are estimated to result in miscarriage and approximately 85 percent of these occur in the first trimester.

When you consider miscarriage signs seek immediate assistance.

Second trimester

The second trimester is described as starting, at the end of week 27 ending between the beginning of week 13.

During the second trimester of pregnancy (weeks 13 through 27), your healthcare provider will likely perform anatomy scan ultrasound.

This examination detects any developmental abnormalities on the fetus ‘ body. The test results will also reveal the sex of your infant, if you want to find out about it before conception.

You will definitely begin to feel your baby moving, kicking, and punching inside your uterus.

After 23 weeks, a baby in utero is considered “viable,” meaning she could survive outside your womb. Babies born early on this often find themselves facing serious medical problems. The longer you can bear the baby’s pregnancy, the more likely it is to be born safely.

Third trimester

The third trimester is described when starting, it lasts until conception between the beginning of week 28. During the third trimester (weeks 28 to 40), the weight gain will rise, and you may experience more tired. Now your baby can feel the light open her eyes and shut them. Their bones are likewise created. When labor progresses, you may feel pelvic pain, and your feet which swell. Contractions that do not lead to labor, known as Braxton-Hicks contractions, may begin to occur in the weeks before you deliver.

The bottom line

Every pregnancy is different but it is most likely that developments will occur within this general time frame. Read more about the changes you and your baby will feel during the trimesters.

Diagnosis

Home pregnancy tests after the first day of your missed period are very reliable.

If you get a positive outcome on a home pregnancy test, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.

Pregnancy is diagnosed by measuring human chorionic gonadotropin(hCG) levels within the body.

HCG is also known as the pregnancy hormone, which is released after implantation. It may not, however, be noticed unless you miss a period.

HCG levels rise quickly if you miss a time period. HCG is measured via either a blood test or urine.

Blood testing can be done in a lab. The blood tests for hCG are about as reliable as those for home pregnancy.

The difference is that you can order blood tests as soon as six days after ovulation.

The sooner you can check that you’re pregnant, the better.

An early diagnosis will let you take better care of the wellbeing of your baby Find out more about pregnancy tests, such as tips to avoid a “false negative” result.

 Ultrasonography that detect fetal abnormalities, detect multiple pregnancies, the resulting estimated gestational age and fetal due date are slightly more accurate than last menstrual period methods.

As per my experience of 16 years, I usually suggest my patients to do ultrasonography at 6 to 7 weeks just to rule out fetal heartbeat. 

Repeat scan at 12 to 13 weeks to see nuchal fold thickness just to rule out  the chromosomal abnormalities, cardiac defects and neural tube defects like spinabifida. 

Anomaly Scan at 20-22 weeks to rule out congenital deformity. 

Diet In Pregnancy

Nutrition during pregnancy is important to ensure the fetus ‘ healthy growth. Nutrition during pregnancy is different from that of the non-pregnant condition.

Pregnant women require bigger amounts of some vitamins and minerals than non-pregnant women.

Folic acid also known as folate or vitamin B9 intake before pregnancy and also just after conception as it decreases the risk of fetal neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

Folate is present in :

  • green leafy vegetables,
  • legumes and citrus

Several micronutrients are important for the health of developing fetuses, especially in areas of the world where insufficient nutrition is common to all.

Routine daily iron supplementation trials for pregnant women showed an increase in levels of blood iron, without a specific clinical benefit. 

Nutritional needs are higher for women women carrying twins or triplets than those for women carrying one infant.

Women are advised to avoid certain foods due to the possibility of contamination with bacteria or parasites that may cause disease Careful washing of fruits and raw vegetables may remove these pathogens, as may leftovers, meat, or processed meat thoroughly cook.

Unpasteurized dairy and deli meats may contain Listeria which can lead to neonatal meningitis, mortality and miscarriage. 

Pregnant women are also more prone to infections with Salmonella, and may be in eggs and poultry, which should be cooked thoroughly.

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii may be found in cat feces and undercooked meats and may cause toxoplasmosis. 

Practicing good kitchen hygiene can reduce those risks. Women are also advised to eat seafood in moderation and eliminate seafood which is known to be high in mercury due to the risk of birth defects.

Because large amounts of caffeine are associated with miscarriage, pregnant women are advised to consume caffeine in moderation. The connection between caffeine, birth weight and premature birth is unclear.

Consider To Read:

Food to avoid in early pregnancy – 10 Foods You Must Avoid.

Weight gain

The amount of healthy weight weight gain during pregnancy varies. Weight gain is linked to the baby’s weight, placenta, extra circulatory fluid, larger tissues, and reserves of fat and protein.

Later in pregnancy the most significant weight gain occurs. The Institute of Medicine recommends an overall gain in pregnancy weight for those with normal weight (body mass index 18.5–24.9), 11.3–15.9 kg (25–35 pounds) with single-ton pregnancy.

Women who are underweight (BMI less than 18.5) should gain between 12.7–18 kg (28–40 lbs), while those who are overweight (BMI 25–29.9) should gain between 6.8–11.3 kg (15–25 lbs) and those who are overweight (BMI 25–29.9)

Throughout pregnancy, inadequate or excessive weight gain may negatively impact the health of the mother and fetus.

The most appropriate weight gain strategy in underweight women is not clear. Being or being overweight throughout pregnancy increases the risk of complications for the mother and fetus including cesarean section, gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia, macrosomia and dystocia of the shoulders.

Pregnancy and exercise

 

To keep you fit, relaxed and ready for labour, exercise is essential. Specially the stretches of yoga will help you stay limber. However, it is important not to overdo your stretches, since you may be at risk of injury.

Other good pregnancy exercises are gentle Pilates, hiking, and swimming.

You might need to change your current fitness routine to suit your changing body and lower energy levels.

Check with your health care provider or a personal trainer to make sure you’re not over-exercising. Get more ideas in your first trimester to stay fit.

When to seek medical care Most women in their twenties or early thirties have a good chance of having trouble-free pregnancy.

Teens and women over 35 years of age are at an increased risk of health complications.

Underlying conditions Underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular disease will increase your risk of complications during pregnancy.

Other examples include: cancer kidney disease epilepsy If you have one of these conditions, make sure your pregnancy is properly monitored and treated. Otherwise, miscarriage, poor fetal growth, and birth defects can result.

Other risk factors Other factors that may affect an otherwise healthy pregnancy include: multiple-born pregnancies, such as infections with twins or triplets, including overweight or obese anaemia.

Pregnancy complications

Risks of pregnancy can involve health of the baby, health of the mother or both. They may occur during delivery or pregnancy.

Common risks of pregnancy include: preterm labor miscarriage of high blood pressure gestational diabetes preeclampsia Addressing them early can minimize the harm done to the mother or the child. Know the options when dealing with complications of pregnancy.

Pregnancy and labor

Sometime after your fourth month of pregnancy, you may start experiencing contractions of Braxton-Hicks, or fake labour.

They are totally natural and they help to train your uterus for the job ahead of real work. Braxton-Hicks contractions do not occur at regular intervals, and the intensity does not increase.

This could be premature labor if you experience regular contractions before week 37. When this happens, contact the healthcare provider for assistance.

In general, early labor contractions are classified as early labor contractions and active labor contractions. 

Early contractions of labour last between 30 and 45 seconds. At first, they may be far apart, but contractions will be about five minutes apart by the end of early labour.

During work your water may break early or your doctor may break it for you later during your work. When the cervix begins to open, you’ll see your mucous plug covered with a blood-ttinged discharge.

Active labor In active labor, the cervix dilates, and the contractions are getting closer together and intensifying. 

You should call your health care provider if you are in active labor and head to your birth setting.

When you’re uncertain when it’s successful labour, calling and checking in is always a smart idea. Labor pain During active labour, pain will be at its peak.

Have a discussion with your doctor about your preferred pain treatment method. You may choose drug-free measures like meditation, yoga or music listening.

If you choose to use drugs to manage your pain, your doctor will need to know whether to use pain relievers or anesthetics. 

Analgesics like meperidine (Demerol) make the pain dull but allow you to retain a certain feeling. Anesthetics, like an epidural, prevent certain muscle movement, and block the pain completely.

Prognosis

 

Every week of your pregnancy you are likely to move for without too much trouble. 

Pregnancy brings a lot of changes to your body with it, but these changes don’t always have a serious health effect.

 

However, some lifestyle choices can either help your baby’s development or actively harm it.

 

Some actions that can keep you and your baby healthy include: taking a multivitamin to get enough sleep to practice safe sex to get a flu shot visiting your dentist.

Some things you want to avoid include: smoking alcohol eating raw meat, deli meat, or unpasteurized dairy products sitting in a hot tub or sauna gaining too much weight. 

You will have to weigh the health benefits against potential risks to your baby’s development.

Ask your healthcare provider about any medications you can take, including OTC ones for minor ailments like headaches.

According to the Trusted Source of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 50 percent of pregnant women in the US report taking at least one medication each year.

 

In the 1970s the FDA created a Trusted Source letter system for categorizing drugs and their perceived risk to pregnant women.

 Yet in 2015, they started phasing out this letter scheme (and using revamped product labeling). Their new drug labeling regulationsTrusted Source apply only to prescription drugs.

The bottom line Learning or relearning all pregnancy rules can be overwhelming, particularly if you have your first child. Feel prepared with this supportive maternity list of do’s and don’ts.

The takeaway

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all health insurance plans are required to offer some form of prenatal care in the United States.

 

When your pregnancy is confirmed, call your insurance company to get an idea of what your particular plan is covering. 

Once you find out that you are pregnant, if you do not have health insurance, talk to your doctor about steps you can take to get coverage.

 

Your first prenatal appointment may be timed according to the overall health. During week 8 of pregnancy, most women can get their first visit.

 Women whose pregnancies are considered high-risk may be asked to see their physicians earlier, such as those who are over 35 or who have chronic conditions.

 

There are many ways to prepare for labor, mentally and physically. Many hospitals offer pre childbirth birth lessons so women can better understand the signs and stages of labor.

 

You may want to prepare a hospital bag of toiletries, sleepwear and other day-to-day necessities in your third trimester. 

When labor starts, that bag would be ready to take with you. You and your physician should also discuss your labor and delivery plan in depth during the third trimester.

 

Understanding when to go to the birth setting, who will aid in the birth setting, and what role your doctor will play in the process may lead to greater peace of mind as you enter the final weeks.

Pregnancy prevention

When women who have male sexual partners are not interested in getting pregnant, they should seek birth control.

 

For some people certain forms of pregnancy prevention perform better. Talk to your doctor for proper birth control. Here are a few of the most popular methods of birth control:

Intrauterine devices (IUDs)

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) often work by stopping fertilization. Nowadays they are the most powerful form of birth control. The downside is that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are not prevented.

The pill and other hormonal birth control methods

Birth control pills, patches, and the vaginal ring work by controlling a woman’s body’s hormone levels. We are on prescription.

 

Actions that may decrease these methods ‘ efficacy involve failing to use them as prescribed. These types of human errors account for efficacy rates which mention “typical use.”

 

Certain hormonal birth control types include the patch and the vaginal ring. They are also available on prescription and their efficacy rates are similar to the pill’s.

Condoms and other barrier methods

Condoms, diaphragms, and sponges are easy and inexpensive types of birth control which can be bought without a prescription.

 

They are most powerful any time you have sexual intercourse, when used correctly. 

If you rely on these barrier methods to avoid getting pregnant, consider also using an additional contraceptive method such as spermicide or a birth control pill.

 

Other methods of barriers include the sponges and diaphragms. These can be purchased without a prescription.

Emergency contraception

There are several drugs available morning after pills, both over the counter and on prescription. 

Such pills are not intended as regular birth control types. Alternatively, if you have unprotected sex, they can serve as a substitute, or forget to use your regular birth control form.

To be successful they need to be used within 120 hours (five days) of sexual contact. Some pills if taken within 72 hours (three days) are most effective.

Natural family planning (NFP)

Natural family planning (NFP), or awareness about fertility, is the method of birth control with the highest rate of failure. 

A woman tracks her menstrual cycle with NFP, so she can predict when she is going to ovulate. During her fertile window she will then avoid the intercourse.

 

Accidental pregnancies can occur because a woman’s cycle is affected by many variables from month to month.

The bottom line

Condoms are the only method of birth control which both prevents pregnancy and protects against STDs. Find the most safe condoms available on the market here.

 

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