Pregnancy is the development of one or more offspring, known as an embryo or fetus, in a woman's uterus. It is the common name for gestation in humans. A multiple pregnancy involves more than one embryo or fetus in a single pregnancy, such as with twins. Childbirth usually occurs about 38 weeks after conception; in women who have a menstrual cycle length of four weeks, this is approximately 40 weeks from the start of the last normal menstrual period (LNMP). Human pregnancy is the most studied of all mammalian pregnancies. Conception can be achieved through sexual intercourse or assisted reproductive technology.
An embryo is the developing offspring during the first 8 weeks following conception, and subsequently the term fetus is used until birth. In many societies' medical or legal definitions, human pregnancy is somewhat arbitrarily divided into three trimester periods of three months each, as a means to simplify reference to the different stages of prenatal development. The first trimester carries the highest risk of miscarriage (natural death of embryo or fetus). During the second trimester, the development of the fetus can be more easily monitored and diagnosed. The third trimester is marked by further growth of the fetus and the development of fetal fat stores. The point of fetal viability, or the point in time at which fetal life outside of the uterus is possible, usually coincides with the late second or early third trimesters; babies born at this early point in development are at high risk for having medical conditions and dying.
In the United States and United Kingdom, 40% of pregnancies are unplanned, and between a quarter and half of those unplanned pregnancies were unwanted pregnancies. Of those unintended pregnancies that occurred in the US, 60% of the women used birth control to some extent during the month pregnancy occurred
Complications During Pregnancy
Each year, according to the WHO, ill-health as a result of pregnancy is experienced (sometimes permanently) by more than 20 million women around the world. Furthermore, the "lives of eight million women are threatened, and more than 500,000 women are estimated to have died in 1995 as a result of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth."
The following are some examples of pregnancy complications:
Pregnancy induced hypertension
Thromboembolic disorders. The leading cause of death in pregnant women in the US.
PUPPP skin disease that develop around the 32nd week. (Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy), red plaques, papules, itchiness around the belly button that spread all over the body except for the inside of hands and face.
Ectopic pregnancy, implantation of the embryo outside the uterus.
Hyperemesis gravidarum, excessive nausea that is more severe than morning sickness.
Symptoms and discomforts During Pregnancy
The symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy are those presentations and conditions that result from pregnancy but do not significantly interfere with activities of daily living or pose any significant threat to the health of the mother or baby, in contrast to pregnancy complications. Still, there is often no clear separation between symptoms versus discomforts versus complications, and in some cases the same basic feature can manifest as either a discomfort or a complication depending on the severity. For example, mild nausea may merely be a discomfort (morning sickness), but if severe and with vomiting causing water-electrolyte imbalance it can be classified as a pregnancy complication (hyperemesis gravidarum).
Common symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy include:
Pelvic girdle pain
Braxton Hicks contractions. Occasional, irregular, and often painless contractions that occur several times per day.
Edema (swelling). Common complaint in advancing pregnancy. Caused by compression of the inferior vena cava (IVC) and pelvic veins by the uterus leads to increased hydrostatic pressure in lower extremities.
Increased urinary frequency. A common complaint referred by the gravida, caused by increased intravascular volume, elevated GFR (glomerular filtration rate), and compression of the bladder by the expanding uterus.
Urinary tract infection
Varicose veins. Common complaint caused by relaxation of the venous smooth muscle and increased intravascular pressure.
Haemorrhoids (piles) are swollen veins at or inside the anal area, resulting from impaired venous return, straining associated with constipation, or increased intra-abdominal pressure in later pregnancy.
Regurgitation, heartburn, and nausea.
Striae gravidarum, pregnancy-related stretch marks
Intercurrent diseases During Pregnancy
In addition to complications of pregnancy that can arise, a pregnant woman may have intercurrent diseases, that is, other diseases or conditions (not directly caused by the pregnancy) that may become worse or be a potential risk to the pregnancy.
Diabetes mellitus and pregnancy deals with the interactions of diabetes mellitus (not restricted to gestational diabetes) and pregnancy. Risks for the child include miscarriage, growth restriction, growth acceleration, fetal obesity (macrosomia), polyhydramnios and birth defects.
Systemic lupus erythematosus and pregnancy confers an increased rate of fetal death in utero and spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), as well as of neonatal lupus.
Thyroid disease in pregnancy can, if uncorrected, cause adverse effects on fetal and maternal well-being. The deleterious effects of thyroid dysfunction can also extend beyond pregnancy and delivery to affect neurointellectual development in the early life of the child. Demand for thyroid hormones is increased during pregnancy which may cause a previously unnoticed thyroid disorder to worsen.
Hypercoagulability in pregnancy is the propensity of pregnant women to develop thrombosis (blood clots). Pregnancy itself is a factor of hypercoagulability (pregnancy-induced hypercoagulability), as a physiologically adaptive mechanism to prevent post partum bleeding. However, when combined with an additional underlying hypercoagulable states, the risk of thrombosis or embolism may become substantial
Nutrition and pregnancy
Nutrition and pregnancy refers to the nutrient intake, and dietary planning that is undertaken before, during and after pregnancy.
In a precursory study into the link between nutrition and pregnancy in 1950 women who consumed minimal amounts over the eight-week period had a higher mortality or disorder rate concerning their offspring than women who ate regularly, attributed to the fact that the children born to well-fed mothers had less restriction within the womb.
Not only have physical disorders been linked with poor nutrition before and during pregnancy, but neurological disorders and handicaps are a risk that is run by mothers who are malnourished, a condition which can also lead to the child becoming more susceptible to later degenerative disease(s). 23.8% of babies are estimated to be born with lower than optimal weights at birth due to lack of proper nutrition.
It is very important that expecting mothers should change their personal habits like smoking, alcohol, caffeine, using certain medications and street drugs as soon as they know they are pregnant or even when they are planning to conceive. All these can affect the development of the organs like brain, which happen in early stages of pregnancy. They can cause irreparable damage to the growing foetus
Beneficial pre-pregnancy nutrients
As with most diets, there are chances of over-supplementing, however, as general advice, both state and medical recommendations are that mothers follow instructions listed on particular vitamin packaging as to the correct or recommended daily allowance (RDA). Daily prenatal use of iron substantially improves birth weight, potentially reducing the risk of Low birth weight.
Magnesium and zinc supplementation for the binding of hormones at their receptor sites.
Folic acid supplementation, or dietary requirement of foods containing it for the regular growth of the follicle.
Regular vitamin D supplementation decreases the chances of deficiencies in adolescence. More importantly, it is known to reduce the likelihood of rickets with pelvic malformations which make normal delivery impossible.
Regular vitamin B12 supplementation, again is known to reduce the chances of infertility and ill health.
Omega-3 fatty acids increase blood flow to reproductive organs and may help regulate reproductive hormones. Consumption is also known to help prevent premature delivery and low birth weight. The best dietary source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish. Some other omega-3 fatty acids not found in fish can be found in foods such as flaxseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and enriched eggs
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