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Pregnancy and Childbirth

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and anxious times in a woman's life. Pregnancy is a period of constant change for both the woman's body and the baby growing within. In the early stages of pregnancy, the changes to the mother's body seem to be slow, but just because all of the many changes that are occurring are undetectable to the eye doesn't mean that the bodies aren't in a constant state development. From the moment of conception to the actual arrival of the newborn, pregnancy is a work in progress.

The beginning of pregnancy can be detected in a number of ways, including various pregnancy tests which detect hormones generated by the newly formed placenta. Clinical blood and urine tests can detect pregnancy soon after implantation, which can be as early as 6 to 8 days after fertilization. Home pregnancy tests are personal urine tests which normally cannot detect a pregnancy until at least 12 to 15 days after fertilization. Both clinical and home pregnancy tests can only detect the state of pregnancy and cannot detect its age.

Signs of being pregnant can start to appear within the first few weeks. Pregnancy symptoms vary from woman to woman and no two experiences are ever the same. It is useful to know some of the more common symptoms and how to handle them to have the happiest, healthiest pregnancy possible. The degree to which pregnant women experience the various symptoms also varies from woman to woman. Some women experience few or no symptoms at all while other women experience many of the symptoms of pregnancy.


Traditionally the length of a human pregnancy is considered to be 280 days from the last menstrual period (approximately 40 weeks} or 266 days from the date of fertilization (38 weeks). A pregnancy is considered to reach term between 37 and 43 weeks from the beginning of the last menstrual period. Babies born before the 37 week mark are considered premature. Babies born after the 43 week mark are considered postmature.

These are only averages. The actual length of pregnancy depends on various factors. The first pregnancy tends to last longer than subsequent pregnancies. Fewer than 10% of births occur on the due date. Only 50% of births are within a week of the due date and almost 90% are within two weeks of the due date. The due date is typically calculated as 40 weeks from the last menstrual period.

Due dates are usually only a rough estimate. The process of accurately calculating a due date is complicated by the fact that not all women have regular 28-day menstrual cycles or ovulate on the 14th day following their last menstrual period. An early sonograph can determine the age of the pregnancy fairly accurately. An accurate date of fertilization is important because it is used in calculating the results of various prenatal tests.

Pregnancy is typically broken into three periods, or trimesters, each about three months. Trimesters are useful for describing the changes that take place over the course of the pregnancy and reference the different stages of prenatal development.

The first trimester carries the highest risk of miscarriage (natural death of the embryo or fetus). During the second trimester, the development of the fetus can be more easily monitored and diagnosed. The third trimester often approximates the point of viability, or the ability of the fetus to survive, with or without medical help, outside of the uterus.

Prenatal development is divided into two primary biological stages. The first is the embryonic stage which lasts for about two months. After this point, the fetal stage begins. and the risk of miscarriage decreases sharply. All major structures including hands, feet, head, brain, and other organs are present, and they will continue to grow and develop. The fetus is typically about 30 mm (1.2 inches) in length. The heart can be seen beating via sonograph. The fetus bends the head and makes general movements that involve the whole body. Brain stem activity has been detected as early as 54 days after conception, and the first measurable signs of EEG activity occur in the 12th week. Birth occurs approximately 40 weeks from the last menstrual period.

Childbirth is the process by which an infant is born. It is considered by many to be the beginning of a person's life. Age is defined relative to this event in most cultures.

A woman is considered to be in labor when she begins experiencing regular uterine contractions accompanied by changes of the cervix in preparation for the vaginal birth. While childbirth is widely experienced as painful, others find that concentrating on the birth helps to quicken labor and lessen the pain of the contractions.

Modern drugs can make the pain very tolerable in childbirth labor. It is possible to have an epidural as soon as true labor begins which will take you through your childbirth labor process feeling barely any pain at all. You could find that through breathing and relaxation exercises, you are able to tolerate the pain of childbirth without medication.

Most births are successful vaginal births. Sometimes complications arise and a woman will undergo a caesarean section. Some women choose to have a caesarean section.

Learning all you can about the process of labor and delivery can help you  prepare for childbirth. Many women find that Lamaze or childbirth classes ease their minds by helping them learn what to expect. Having a childbirth coach with you, such as your husband, significant other, close friend can help you immensely throughout the childbirth process.