What is Pregnancy?

What is Pregnancy?
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

Did you know that there are approximately 211 million recorded pregnancies every year, 220, 000 pregnancy cases every day, and a child is born in every 3 seconds? With these figures in mind, the world is becoming less roomy for all of us despite a statewide decline in the pregnancy rate over the past decade.

What is the Exact Definition of Pregnancy?

A woman is considered pregnant when fertilization takes place that leads to the development of one or more embryo in the mother’s womb. Expected delivery of the fetus is more or less 40 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP). Human pregnancy is divided into three trimesters.

The term ‘embryo’ is used to describe a developing offspring in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy from the point of conception. Thereafter, the term ‘fetus’ is used.

How do you know if you are Pregnant?

The following are the top signs that may indicate you are pregnant:

  • Amenorrhea or Missed Period: The hallmark sign of pregnancy, a missed period of two weeks strongly signifies pregnancy unless an underlying condition causes it. To make sure you are pregnant, buy a home pregnancy kit.
  • Feeling sick: One of the early signs of pregnancy is extreme and unexplainable fatigue.
  • Nausea and Altered Sense of Smell: Women who are conceiving often experience queasiness the moment they wake up in the morning, or when they sense a kitchen odor.
  • Fainting: Pallor is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. Pregnant mothers experience occasionally light headedness and sometimes, sweat a lot.

What are the Most Significant Happenings in Every Trimester?

Note: A pregnancy is considered full term at 37th week.

First Trimester

  • Period: First 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Physiological changes in mothers are not evident.
  • The most notorious period due to onslaught of pregnancy signs and symptoms as a result of surging hormones.
  • The most critical period for baby’s growth and development, particularly the third month. Thus, exposure to environmental hazards and chemicals should be avoided. Maintain a balanced diet, consume prenatal supplements, do not smoke and drink alcohol and avoid stress.

Second Trimester

  • Period: Week 13 to Week 27.
  • Known as the Golden Area, second trimester is the most comfortable period for pregnant mothers due to alleviation of pregnancy symptoms.
  • Baby bump starts to show and pregnancy becomes more evident.
  • The baby grows rapidly in size; it is 4 times bigger as it was during the first trimester.
  • Second trimester is the best time to announce pregnancy and shop (and wear) for maternity clothes.
  • Leg cramps and heartburn are common complaints of pregnant mothers.
  • Second trimester is the period where majority of the screening tests are performed.

Third Trimester

  • Period: Starts from 28th week until delivery of the baby.
  • The focus of third trimester is to prepare the mother and the baby for childbirth. Fundal height measuring, checking baby’s position and vital signs monitoring are the most common activities during the third trimester.
  • Considering enrolling to a childbirth class.

What are The Possible Complications of Pregnancy?

A complication in pregnancy refers to any health problem that occurs during pregnancy. It can involve the mother, the baby or both.

It is the termination of fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. Miscarriage is a common complication of first trimester of pregnancy. Sharp abdominal pain, bleeding and severe abdominal cramps are the identifying signs and symptoms of miscarriage.
Ectopic Pregnancy
Also known as tubal pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that takes place outside the uterus, specifically when the fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancy is a common complication of first trimester of pregnancy, usually at the 8th week.

Formerly referred to as toxemia, pre-eclampsia is characterized by hypertension and high level of proteins in the urine. It usually happens in the second trimester but can happen during the last trimester of pregnancy.
Placenta Previa

Any health problem related to placenta can be referred to as placental previa. In particular, placenta previa occurs when placenta blocks the cervix, a neck-like passage that connects the uterus and the vagina.

Molar Pregnancy
This is when the maternal tissues that will supposedly form the baby grow abnormally triggering several symptoms of pregnancy such as increased HCG level.
Anemia in pregnancy occurs when the maternal body produces insufficient amounts of red blood cells that are necessary to produce oxygen. A pregnant mother who is anemic often experience fatigue and weakness.

10 Best Steps to Problem-Free Pregnancy

While complications occur anytime during pregnancy, it should be noted that they are preventable and there are steps that moms-to-be could take to make pregnancy problem-free and healthy.

  • Perform Physical Activity: Pregnancy should not be viewed as a cop-out for mothers not to exercise. Yoga, swimming and brisk walking are the most recommended exercises for pregnant mothers.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Moms-to-be normally gain weight during pregnancy. Normal weight gain during pregnancy is between 25 and 35 pounds.
  • Stop Smoking: Nicotine in cigarettes decreases* oxygen supply to the developing baby and increases* the risk of still birth and birth defects.
  • Cut Back Alcohol Drinking: Excessive alcohol drinking can harm the baby. It can cause still birth, low birth weight, miscarriage and birth defects.
  • Steer Clear From Marijuana and Cannabis Use: Study shows that the use of marijuana or cannabis during pregnancy can interfere with the baby’s fetal brain development.
  • Overworking: Overworking during pregnancy may not be good to the mother’s and baby’s health. Study shows that working mothers are at a greater risk of pre-eclampsia, low birth weight and premature birth.
  • Medications: Not all drugs are safe to pregnant mothers. Medications that are not suitable during pregnancy include but not limited to: paracetamol, certain flu and cold tablets, acne and skin care preparations, antidepressants and antibiotics.
  • Follow Healthy Diet Proportions: Fruits and greenies are good for pregnant mothers and the baby. Manage overweight during pregnancy by cutting back saturated fats, sweets and fatty foods.
  • Take Prenatal Vitamins. Prenatal vitamins and supplements include folic acid, vitamin D, calcium and zinc.
  • Complimentary Therapies: The use of complimentary therapies such as massage, acupuncture and chiropractic may contribute to overall wellness of pregnant mothers and babies. However, it is always best ask your doctor before considering a treatment.

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Expert Author : Peony C Echavez (Consumer Health Digest)

Peony is a registered nurse, and former Director of Nursing services for a large nursing facility. She has written web content for a large health education website, and currently creates content for a number of health practisioners.