Pregnancy is the carrying of one or more offspring, known as a foetus or embryo, inside the womb of a female. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets. Childbirth usually occurs about 38-40 weeks after conception.
Pregnancy occurs as the result of the female gamete or oocyte merging with the male gamete, spermatozoon, in a process known as fertilization, or “conception”. After the point of fertilization, it is referred to as a zygote or fertilized egg. The fusion of male and female gametes usually occurs through the act of sexual intercourse, resulting in spontaneous pregnancy. However, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization have also made achieving pregnancy possible in cases when sexual intercourse does not result in fertilization.
The beginning of pregnancy may be detected in a number of different ways, either by a pregnant woman without medical testing, or by using medical tests with or without the assistance of a medical professional.
Most women experience a number of symptoms, which can signify pregnancy. These symptoms vary in their intensity, frequency and duration. A delayed or missed menstruation leads women to test for pregnancy. The expectant mothers may notice changes in their breasts which get tender to the touch, sore, or swollen. Nausea is an early pregnancy symptom and can happen with or without a bout of morning sickness. Feeling tired is related to the change in hormones in the body, which usually disappears as the body adjusts to the new hormone levels. Some women may experience lower back pain in the early stages of pregnancy. This usually goes away in the second trimester and returns toward the end of pregnancy when the baby’s weight affects the back. Increased need to urinate is a common early sign of pregnancy that occurs shortly after conception, and prevails for several weeks. Some women may also have difficulty in urination, and a few may experience discomforts with it.
Craving for certain foods and aversion to some others may also be an indicator of pregnancy. Some women desire sweets such as ice cream, while others have the urge to eat something spicy and salty. Similarly, a previously favourite food may now cause nausea. Related to this is sensitivity to aromas.
Pregnancy identification can be accomplished using one or more various pregnancy tests, which detect hormones generated by the newly formed placenta. Clinical blood and urine tests can affirm pregnancy 12 days after implantation.
Pregnancy is typically broken into three periods, or trimesters, each of them about three months. These periods are accompanied by various physiological changes.
Prenatal medical care is the medical and nursing care recommended for women before and during pregnancy. The aim of good prenatal care is to detect any potential problems early, to prevent them if possible, and to direct the woman to appropriate specialists and hospitals if necessary.
A balanced, nutritious diet is an important aspect of a healthy pregnancy. Eating a healthy diet as well as balancing carbohydrates, fat and proteins usually guarantees good nutrition. It is important to choose a wide variety of foods to make sure the nutritional needs of both mother and baby are met. The best diet is one with a plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grain bread and cereals, low-fat dairy produce, lean meat, chicken and fish, dried beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, etc. A varied diet generally provides the body with enough of each vitamin and mineral each day. However, pregnant women may need supplements of particular vitamins or minerals.
Exercise during pregnancy, such as walking and swimming, is recommended. Exercise has notable health benefits for both mother and baby, including preventing excessive weight gain.
Pregnancy is the period which requires intense hygiene and body care. The skin has to be especially cared and cleaned to ease the functions of this important organ. Warm, short and frequent baths are a “must do” because the pregnant woman sweats a lot. After bath a massage with a rough towel activates circulation and increases skin suppleness. Breast hygiene is also very important. Concerning dental hygiene, the expectant mother should go regularly to the dentist in order to treat any dental decay. The pregnant woman’s clothes have to be special too; they have to be comfortable and to allow blood circulation and season adaptation.