Pregnancy occurs during sexual intercourse when one or more fertile eggs in a womans Fallopian tubes are impregnated by male sperm, which leads to conception and the growth of an embryo in the uterus. The gestation period normally lasts approximately 38 to 40 weeks from conception, which is calculated from the start of the LNMP (last normal menstrual cycle), to when childbirth occurs.
The Different Stages of Pregnancy
During the first eight weeks of pregnancy the developing offspring is called an embryo, after which the term fetus is used until birth, when it is called an infant. When multiple embryos develop in a single uterus, it is called a multiple pregnancy.
Different Periods of Pregnancy
Pregnancy is divided into three periods to differentiate between the different prenatal stages.
- During the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a high risk of miscarriage, which is the natural death of the embryo or the fetus.
- The development of the fetus can be monitored during the second trimester and diagnoses can be made regarding the health of the fetus.
- During the third trimester the fetus is in the final stages of growth and development of fetal fat.
Pregnancy is considered to be at term when the gestation period has passed 37 weeks, which occurs at transition from 37 weeks to 38 weeks of pregnancy, but less than 42 weeks since the last menstrual period. The following categorization is used in pregnancy:
- Early term 37 to 38 weeks
— Full term 39 to 40 weeks
— Late term 41 weeks to 41 weeks and 6 days
Fetal viability is calculated as the point at which life outside the uterus will be impossible, which has been determined to be during the late second or early third trimester. Babies born at this early developmental stage are at high risk of dying during or soon after childbirth, or having serious medical conditions which are life threatening.
What are the symptoms of pregnancy?
Some women experience the first signs of pregnancy within a week after conception, while others may not experience signs for a few weeks. Early symptoms of pregnancy include:
- Missed menstrual period
— Tender Breasts
— Unexplained headaches
— Lower backache
If you are sexual active and are experiencing some of the above symptoms, you may be pregnant. Not all of the above symptoms are exclusive to pregnancy and could be as a result of something entirely different. Below are some indicators to look out for and how to interpret them:
- Missed Period
Most women should experience a missed period after conception, however, some women bleed throughout pregnancy, but the bleeding is lighter and of shorter duration than a normal period.
Other explanations for a missed period could be excessive weight loss or gain, extreme fatigue, tension, hormonal issues, stress, illness, breastfeeding or birth control.
- Tender or Swollen Breasts
As early as 2 weeks after conception the breasts may become tender and/or swollen with a noticeable change in the shape and size of the breasts.
Other explanations for swollen or tender breasts may be hormonal imbalance, impending menstruation, PMS, or a side effect from birth control pills.
A feeling of fatigue or feeling more tired than usual can start as early as one week after conception.
Other explanations are exhaustion, stress, cold or flu, depression or other health issues.
Nausea caused by pregnancy is called morning sickness and usually starts anywhere between two to eight weeks after conception. Some women experience morning sickness throughout their pregnancy while others dont have it at all.
Other explanations for nausea or morning sickness could be food poisoning, hormonal changes, stomach disorders, stress or a change in birth control method.
Lower backache often occurs early on in pregnancy and some women experience dull back pain throughout their pregnancy.
Other explanations for backache may be back problems, physical strain, stress or PMS.
Headaches in pregnancy are caused by a sudden rise in hormones.
Other explanations may include dehydration, eye strain, impending menstruation, caffeine withdrawal or other ailments.
If you suspect that you may be pregnant, it is important to visit your doctor for a pregnancy test, or to take an over the counter test. Proper pre-natal care is vital for the health of both the mother and the baby during and after pregnancy.