Pregnancy

Reviewed: April 08, 2013
By eHealthIQ
Pregnancy

Planning for a pregnancy

Preparing for a pregnancy can take a lot of planning. The best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy is taking certain steps before you conceive. That doesn’t mean, however, that if you aren’t planning a pregnancy in advance that it won’t be healthy. But, if you are planning on having a child, there are things you can do to help yourself get pregnant and have the healthiest possible pregnancy.

  • Schedule a preconception doctor’s visit. At this visit, you will discuss things with your doctor that might identify anything that might put you at risk during the pregnancy.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to get your body ready for a pregnancy. Get regular exercise, avoid drinking alcohol, reduce caffeine intake, eat a nutritious diet and avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin.
  • Take prenatal vitamins. Mothers tend to develop nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, calcium and iron. Taking a supplement can reduce the risk of birth defects.

Early signs of pregnancy

Although some women don’t suspect they are pregnant until a missed period happens, there are other signs of pregnancy that begin immediately after conception. These symptoms include:

  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Frequent urination
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue

How pregnancy happens

The process of conception is related to a woman’s menstrual period. The following are the phases that happen during conception:

  • Ovulation: The process when a follicle ruptures and a mature egg is released from the ovary. This typically happens about two weeks before a woman’s next menstrual period starts.
  • The corpus luteum: The ruptured follicle becomes the corpus luteum. The progesterone secreted by the corpus luteum helps thicken the lining of the uterus so it is ready for the embryo to implant itself.
  • Egg release: Once the egg is released, it travels to the fallopian tube where it waits for a sperm to penetrate it. When ovulation occurs, an egg can be fertilized for up to 24 hours after.
  • Fertilization: This is the union of a sperm and egg. Once a sperm has entered an egg, fertilization has occurred and at that moment, the baby’s sex and entire genetic makeup has been determined.
  • Implantation: Once the egg has been fertilized, it starts to divide into many cells. It then passes through the fallopian tube to the uterus where it attaches itself to the endometrium.

The phases of pregnancy

First trimester.
The first trimester is the term for the first three months of pregnancy. It is a time in which a woman’s body goes through many changes – all the changes are purely to prepare the body to nourish the baby as well as help the baby along its phases of development. Some of the bodily changes may not affect some women as they do others – some women feel great, and some feel miserable. The following are some common things that occur at the onset of pregnancy and throughout the first trimester:

  • Morning sickness (nausea, with or without vomiting)
  • Bleeding or spotting
  • Fatigue
  • Discharge
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Food aversions or cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Tender breasts

During the first trimester, the embryo is developing into a fetus. By the end of the first month, the baby is about ΒΌ inch. So far, the amniotic sac has developed to protect the embryo, the placenta has developed and a primitive face has started to take form. In the second month, the brain, heart, muscle, bones and spinal cord are developing. Usually around this time, a heartbeat can be detected by an ultrasound. At the end of the second month, the embryo is about an inch long. In the third month, the embryo officially becomes a fetus. By the end of the first trimester, the baby is fully formed with all of its limbs, and fingernails and toenails are beginning to develop. Reproductive organs start to form, though the baby’s sex would be difficult to detect in an ultrasound.Second trimester.
Most women feel better in their second trimester, as symptoms such as morning sickness typically dissipate by the second trimester. The baby is rapidly developing in the second trimester and is usually about the time that a woman begins to ‘show.’ The second trimester is also when the baby’s sex can be determined via an ultrasound. The following are some symptoms that a woman may experience during the second trimester of pregnancy:

  • Breast enlargement
  • Aches (headache and backache)
  • Increased hair growth
  • Discharge
  • Weight gain
  • Spider veins
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Frequent urination

The second trimester is a time of rapid growth for the baby. At the end of the fourth month, the baby is about 6 inches long. Fingers and toes are well defined, and the baby can yawn, stretch and even suck his or her thumb. The fifth month of pregnancy is the midpoint. Women can start to feel the baby move because the muscles are being developed and subsequently exercised. By the end of the fifth month, the baby is about 10 inches long. At the end of the sixth month, the baby has grown to about 12 inches. The eyes begin to open and the baby may even start to respond to sounds with movement.

Third trimester.
This is the final period of pregnancy and can be characteristically challenging. Things start to get more uncomfortable, with all kinds of symptoms occurring, not to mention the extra weight that a woman is carrying around. These are some of the symptoms that a woman may experience during the third and final trimester of pregnancy:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions (mild contractions that prepare your uterus for real labor contractions)
  • Breast enlargement
  • Backache
  • Spotting
  • Discharge
  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling

By the end of the seventh month of pregnancy, the baby is about 14 inches long. The baby’s hearing is developed and he or she can cry and respond to stimuli such as sound or light. By eight months, the baby can hear and most internal systems are developed. The baby can be close to 20 inches by the end of the eighth month. In the ninth and final month, the baby can be up to 21.5 inches long. The baby continues to grow and develop in the final month. He or she can blink, turn the head and grasp firmly. In the ninth month, the baby also changes position to prepare itself for labor and delivery – the body drops down into the pelvis and faces its head down toward the birth canal.

References

  • http://www.webmd.com/baby/default.htm
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy-and-exercise/PR00096
  • http://www.medicinenet.com/pregnancy_symptoms/article.htm
  • http://pregnancy.about.com
  • http://www.nhs.uk/Planners/pregnancycareplanner/Pages/PregnancyHome.aspx

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