Becoming pregnant can create many changes in your life. Pregnancy begins at the magnificent moment of conception, continues through 40 weeks of growth & development, and ends during labor & delivery when mother and infant separate for the first time. Choose from the topics below to learn more about pregnancy. But, before viewing Healthguide: Pregnancy, please take a moment and review our user agreement if you haven’t already.
Important Steps In Becoming Pregnant
Predicting Your Ovulation Date
NOTE: DO NOT USE THIS TECHNIQUE TO AVOID PREGNANCY. Ovulation dates can vary widely and sperm can live 48-72 hours in the woman’s reproductive system. Following the below system will likely improve your chances of becoming pregnant. Doing the opposite of below is NOT a means of birth control.
Predicting when you ovulate is a relatively simple task. Begin by trying to remember the dates of the first days of your last four menstrual periods. Count the number of days between the first days of each cycle and get the average of these three numbers. Add this number to the first day of your last menstrual period. Subtract 14 days from this date to get your ovulation date.
Since this date is only a rough estimate, some sources say that you should have sexual intercourse every day within this time period, as others suggest that you should have sexual intercourse every other day within this time frame.
Home Pregnancy Tests
There are several home pregnancy tests that you may take to determine whether or not you are pregnant. These tests are generally easy to use and provide quick results. Some tests can be used as early as the first day after a missed period. They work by measuring the level of the pregnancy hormone, humanchorionic gonadotropin (HCG), in urine. Home pregnancy tests are always improving in accuracy, but they are still not 100% accurate. If you take a home pregnancy test, it is still important to visit your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may be pregnant. Even if you get a false result, it is still possible that you are be pregnant, so contact your physician as soon as possible. Remember, early prenatal care is a vital part of the good health of your developing child.
For a more accurate test of pregnancy, you can get a blood test at your physician’s office. While blood tests are more sensitive than home tests, they are also more expensive and must be performed by your doctor or clinician. Blood tests also do not give results as quickly. Blood tests work by measuring the amount of a specific portion of the HCG hormone, which is called the beta subunit. By measuring these levels, it is even possible to predict a due date.
Possible Signs of Pregnancy
Some pregnant women experience many of the signs of pregnancy while others may not notice any at all. Here is a list of possible signs of pregnancy:
Missed or late period (however, spotting can occur in pregnant women.)
Tingling or tender, swollen breasts
Some women experience morning sickness, nausea
Uterus feels larger, softer, and rounder
Changes in color of vaginal and cervical tissue
Darkening of the area around the nipples and elevation of tiny glands around the nipples
Blue and pink lines under skin on breasts; later, on abdomen
Food cravings or aversions
Darkening of line from navel to pubis
Change in sense of taste or metallic taste in your mouth
What To Do Once You’ve Become Pregnant
Calculating Your Due Date
Pregnancies usually last about 280 days (40 weeks). For a rough calculation of your due date, you can use this procedure:
Determine the first day of your last period.
Count forward 9 months and one week from that day. (This is your estimated due date.)
Another way to quickly determine your estimated due date is by using the chart below.
Look at the white lines of dates for the first day of your last period.
Directly below the white number is a purple number this day is your estimated due date.
Estimating the Weight You’ll Gain
There is no “correct” amount of weight that a woman should gain during pregnancy; all women vary. However, the average weight gain by pregnant women is between 20 lbs. and 35 lbs. Although most women experience minor fluctuations, weight gain should be pretty steady. Keeping track of weight gain is a good idea since irregular patterns can signal potential pregnancy problems. Below is a chart that depicts the pattern of weight gain in pregnant women.
During the first trimester, women usually only gain about 4-6 lbs. In the second trimester and 7th and 8th months, weight gain is about a pound a week. Then during the ninth month, weight gain is only about 1-2 lbs.
The next table gives a breakdown of weight gained during pregnancy.
Components of Weight Gain
Baby 7.5 lbs.
Placenta 1.5 lbs.
Amniotic Fluid 1.8 lbs.
Uterine Enlargement 2.1 lbs.
Maternal Breast Tissue 1.0 lbs.
Fluids in Maternal Tissue 3.0 lbs.
Maternal Fat 7.0 lbs.
Maternal Blood Volume 2.7 lbs.
TOTAL WEIGHT GAIN (approx.) 26.6 lb
Questions You Should Ask Your Physician
Choosing the right practitioner is an important part of making your pregnancy as safe and comfortable as possible. While most women (8 of 10) choose an obstetrician as their caretaker, some opt for the family practitioner, general practitioner, or certified nurse/midwife. Regardless of which practitioner you choose, there are many questions that you should ask to ensure that you are comfortable with and confident in your caretaker. A good idea is to take a list of questions to your first prenatal visit. Between visits, if other questions arise, write them down to take to your next visit.
Print out these questions to take to your prenatal checkups!
How will you monitor the pregnancy (Blood tests, urine tests, ultrasound, amniocentesis)?
Can my birth partner stay with me the whole time (labor, delivery, and operating room, even during Cesarean)?
What is your opinion on natural vs. anesthesized vs. pain relief as needed childbirth?
What hospital do you use? What facilities do they have (birthing rooms, chairs, rooming-in, neonatal intensive care, etc.)?
What kind of fetal monitoring do you use?
NOTE: External is less cumbersome but less accurate, too. Internal is more accurate but requires that you stay in bed.
What sort of routine procedures are conducted (shaving, enemas, feet in stirrup during delivery, other concerns you may have)?
What is your C-section rate? (Remember, normal rates are around 20% and lower is better.)
Do you induce labor? When?
If you have partners, will you come in to perform the delivery even if you are not on call?
How many of your patients are high risk deliveries?
When do you use forceps for vacuum extraction?
What is your policy on episiotomies?
Questions You Should Ask Your Insurance Company
For instance, it will be important to ask:
Does my policy cover obstetrics?
What prenatal tests are covered (ultrasound, amniocentesis, etc.)?
Is there a deductible? If so, how much?
How long can I stay in the hospital after delivery?
Creating A Healthy Lifestyle For You and Your Baby
The Importance Of Exercising
*Note: Always check with your physician before starting any new exercise activity while pregnant!
Although many people once believed that pregnant women should refrain from any type of physical activity, today many medical professionals believe that exercising is a key step to a healthy pregnancy. In fact, exercising builds muscles that you will eventually be using during labor, it reduces your stress level, and it prevents you from gaining unwanted excess weight.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
If you’ve never exercised before, walking is a great way to start. Walking is a low impact activity, which means it gives you a goodworkout without straining anyjoints or muscles. Swimming is also a lowimpact activity to participatein while you’re pregnant. The water supports your bodyweight, thus reducing the strainon your muscles. Riding a bike is anotherform of exercise forpregnant females.Stationary bikes are evenbetter…less chance of falling!
Deciding which exercise is right for you is very important. Choose an exercise that you enjoy already, one that gives you a good cardiovascular workout without putting your body at health is usually the best. It is not advisable to start a new sport once you become pregnant, (for example: basketball, unless you normally engage in this activity on a regular basis) since this increases your risks of injury to yourself and/or the baby. Below are some other exercises to help get you moving:
Aerobics classes for pregnant women
Calisthenics for pregnant women
Eating During Pregnancy
Eating healthy during pregnancy is not only good for you, but your baby as well. Always remember, what you eat or don’t eat, is what your baby is eating or not eating. During your pregnancy, you may feel like you need to eat for two, but remember the tiny developing fetus inside of you is rather small and only requires about 300 calories a day early in the pregnancy. Later as your metabolism speeds up, you may need more than the 300 calories for your baby. Try eating a variety of different foods to ensure you and your baby are getting essential vitamins and minerals.
Protein is a must during your pregnancy, at least 60-75 grams daily is essential for proper fetal development.
Vitamin C helps in tissue repair and other healing processes, try for two servings daily. Also, Vitamin C is used by your baby for strong teeth and bones.
Calcium is necessary to ensure your baby grows healthy and strong. Calcium aids in the development of bones, teeth, muscles, the heart, and nerves. Aim for at least four servings of Calcium daily.
Vitamen A & E helps your baby develop healthy skin, eyes, and bones. Indulge in three servings daily of yellow fruits & green leafy vegetables to get Vitamin A & E.
Vitamin B, zinc, magnesium, and selenium can be founds in whole wheat breads, pasta, cereals, beans, & rice. Shoot for five servings daily.
Iron is very important for expecting mothers. Iron helps with the fetal blood supply and your own as well. Iron supplements should also be taken after the twelfth week of pregnancy.
Fluids are still very important for you during your pregnancy. Extra fluids help to reduce constipation, rid your body of toxins, help reduce urinary tract infections, and also help to keep your skin hydrated. Eight glasses of fluids should be consumed daily.
Avoid foods like sweets, cakes, cookies, fried foods, high-cholesterol & high fat foods, pork, lamb & beef.
Always remember to exercise properly and get your needed amount of rest and relaxation!!
Substances To Avoid While Pregnant
Many substances need to be avoided while you are pregnant, so that your baby remains unharmed.
Steer clear of:
Any raw meat and/or raw seafood
Lead containing products (lead can be found in paints, water pipes, windowsills, radiators, and batteries).
Harmful gases like carbon monoxide, car exhaust fumes, and smoky areas.
Radiation (if you absolutely have to have an X-ray, inform the technician that you’re pregnant and wear a lead shield).
Step By Step Through Your Pregnancy
Your pregnancy will last approximately 9 months (or 40 weeks) when carried to full term. Your pregnancy is broken down into three trimesters.
First Trimester (conception through the 1st 12 weeks):
Your baby is beginning to develop at this stage. You will need to meet with your physician for both a medical history and a physical exam. Morning sickness could be a symptom for you throughout this semester. At 21 days your baby’s heart will begin to beat and by the end of this trimester, most of your baby’s organs will have developed.
Second Trimester (13 weeks to the 27th week):
During the second trimester your baby is doing a significant amount of growing and all of the vital organs have developed. At this point in your pregnancy you will begin to show. Usually, morning sickness and fatigue cease to exist and your appetite begins to become larger.
Third Trimester (28 weeks to delivery):
At this point you will be seeing your physician more often, so that he/she will be able to closely monitor a changes in you and your baby. Your baby and your tummy are still growing. If you’re interested in taking a birthing class, you should do it within this trimester.
Post Partum (delivery to about 6 weeks after birth):
Your boby slowly begins to change back to your pre-pregnancy state. At this stage, you’ll be dealing with a lot of changes: new sleep patterns, motherhood, breastfeeding, and mood changes. Continue to see your physician through this period, so that he/she can monitor any problems you may incur.
After you have confirmed that you’re pregnant, the next important steps are to schedule your prenatal visits. In order for your physician to keep a close watch on the health of you and your baby, it is necessary that you make an appointment once a month for the first seven months. During the 8th month you’ll need to see your physician twice, and during the ninth month you’ll need to make four visits to your physician. To find out what each of your prenatal visits will entail, click on the calenders below.
Bodily Changes You Can Expect
To see what bodily changes you can expect throughout your pregnancy click on the bodies below corresponding to the month and the changes you can expect will be given.
Eisenberg A, Murkoff HE, Hathaway SE (1991) What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Workman Publishing: New York
Lansky V (1993) Complete Pregnancy and Baby Book. Publications International, Ltd.: Lincolnwood.
Moore KL (1982) The Developing Human (3rd edn). W. B. Saunders Company: Philadelphia
Sadler TW (1995) Langman’s Medical Embryology (7th edn). Williams & Wilkins: Baltimore
Stanway P (ed) (1994) New Guide to Pregnancy and Child Care. Simon & Schuster, Inc.: New York