What are the signs of pregnancy? Pregnancy occurs when a women’s egg is fertilized by a men’s sperm. The egg grows inside a woman’s uterus (womb), and develops into a baby. This process takes about 9 months from the date of fertilization of the egg.
Doctors use certain terms when they discuss about a pregnancy. Some of the following definitions are useful:
- Intra-uterine pregnancy is a normal pregnancy which occurs when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus (womb) and an embryo grows out of it.
- Embryo is the term used for the developing fertilized egg during the first 9 weeks.
- Fetus is the term used for the developing embryo after 9 weeks of gestation.
- Beta human chorionic gonadotropin is the hormone which is secreted by the placenta that can be measured to determine the presence and progression of the pregnancy. Urine or blood are tested for its presence, and it is the hormone involved in the performance of a usually carried out home pregnancy test. A positive result means a woman is pregnant.
- Trimester is the duration of an individual pregnancy divided into three periods called trimesters. Each trimester is characterized by certain specific events and developmental markers. For instance, the 1st trimester includes the differentiation of the different organ systems of the growing baby.
- Estimated date of delivery (also known as EDD) is the delivery date which is estimated by counting forward 280 days from the first day of the woman’s last period. It is also known as the estimated date of confinement (EDC).
A pregnant woman and her doctor will monitor the pregnancy on a regular basis in order to exclude or prevent certain pregnancy conditions. The doctor will also treat medical conditions those are not pregnancy related in such a way as to promote the appropriate physical as well as neurological development of the fetus. The conditions of particular importance include the following:
- High-risk pregnancy: If at all a woman is considered to be prone to certain complications during pregnancy, she will be classified as high risk pregnancy. Examples to those include pregnancies in women with diabetes and/or high blood pressure. Age-related complications can occur in women such as teenagers, women who are over the age of 35.
- Ectopic pregnancy: In this type of pregnancy, the egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This complication can be life-threatening. This type of pregnancy must be diagnosed early in order to avoid damage to the Fallopian tubes and to prevent serious maternal illness or death. It is also known as tubal pregnancy or extra-uterine pregnancy.
- Cervical incompetence: This is one condition in which the cervix starts to open (widen) and/or efface (thin) without any contractions. Cervical incompetence can mostly be a cause of mid-pregnancy miscarriage.
- Preterm Labor: In this particular condition, the uterus begins to contract even before the baby has reached full-term.
- Preeclampsia/eclampsia: Preeclampsia is a systemic disease that affects various organ systems. In a pregnant woman, vascular effects cause the blood pressure to rise. The condition may cause kidney damage, generalized swelling, hyperactive reflexes, and other deleterious abnormalities in blood chemistry and nerve reflexes. If left untreated, it can lead to eclampsia, which is a serious condition mostly resulting in seizures, coma, and even death.
- Multiple Gestation (e.g. twins, triplets, etc): Pre-term births are twice as likely to occur in twin pregnancies than in singleton pregnancies. The percentage of pre-term birth is even greater for triplet pregnancies.