What is Pregnancy?
Pregnancy is without a doubt one of the most incredible life experiences for a woman. It is an amazing time when you will experience both physical and emotional changes – unexpected and surprising! Pregnancy is divided into three stages: the first trimester, second trimester and third trimester. Many challenges await you during the nine months of pregnancy and it is essential that you learn how to cope with all the new adjustments to ensure a comfortable pregnancy.
The first trimester of pregnancy takes place from conception to 12 weeks and is a time of enormous change as you slowly adjust to the idea of being pregnant. You will experience a number of pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue, nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), frequent urination, breast tenderness, constipation, gas, dizziness and backache. In addition, you will experience a range of emotional levels, feeling pure joy and elation the one moment and mood swings, irritability, weepiness and anxiety the next moment.
At this stage of your pregnancy, the baby is an embryo and its organs are gradually beginning to form. By the second month what was once called an embryo becomes a fetus, and develops a brain spine, central nervous system, stomach, liver and limbs. Eyes, ears, fingernails and toenails begin to appear, and the heart starts beating. At the end of this trimester the fetus weighs 1 and a half-inch and is at least 7cm long.
Early prenatal care is very important and starts with regular appointments with your obstetrician or midwife to monitor both the health of mother and baby. Tests will be performed such as blood tests, blood typing and screening for Rh antibodies, for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV as well as immunization against chickenpox, measles, mumps and German measles. Start eating nutritious meals, take folic acid supplements and rest as much as possible.
The second trimester spans from the 13th to 27th week and is usually the easiest and most enjoyable stage of pregnancy. Most of your physical symptoms experienced during the first trimester have subsided and you are feeling really good about yourself. By now your belly would be showing and you would have gained about three to five pounds.
You are feeling more energetic, your hair shines and complexion glows and there is a definite increase in your libido Pregnancy symptoms that are common during this trimester include shortness of breath, aches and pains in the abdomen, groin and thighs, nasal and gum problems,
skin changes, stretch marks, backache and itching on the abdomen, hands and soles of the feet.
Significant developmental changes will also take place for the baby. The baby’s facial features – forehead, nose and chin are formed. The baby becomes more active by the 20th week and responds to sound and music. By the end of this trimester, the baby weighs about 1 and a half pounds and has eyelashes, eyebrows, fingers, toes, scalp hair and fine hair on the body.
Certain tests and procedures are also performed during this trimester to check for any problems such as birth defects as well as to confirm your due date. Remember to eat healthily, drink plenty of water and to take your prenatal vitamins. Stay active by exercising as this will help you have an easier pregnancy and lose the baby weight once you give birth. Be good to yourself and surround yourself with positive people during this time.
The third trimester occurs from week 28 up until birth and is a very exciting time for both and baby as birth preparations are under way. This trimester is usually an extremely uncomfortable for the mother-to-be and she will experience many pregnancy symptoms. Physical symptoms include fatigue, temperature increase, frequent urination, skin changes, indigestion, swollen hands and feet (edema), constipation, hemorrhoids and Braxton-Hicks contractions.
You may also feel anxious, irritable and terribly moody. The baby grows quickly and there is marked increase in weight and size. By the 36th week, the baby’s head drops further into the pelvic area to prepare for entry into the birth canal. The lungs and brain will be fully matured by 38 to 40 weeks, and your baby can see, hear and also responds to touch. At the end of this trimester, the baby weighs between 6 to 9 pounds and measures approximately 19 to 21 inches in length.
Continue to make prenatal care your main priority. Consult regularly with your physician or midwife, eat well, exercise regularly and rest as often as possible. Attend childbirth and breastfeeding classes, and read childbirth books and baby magazines to help you prepare for the arrival of the little one. Stock up on baby items, set up the nursery, plan your maternity leave if you are working and choose baby names so that you do not have to worry about these things after the birth.