TABLE OF CONTENTS:
What is pregnancy?
How is pregnancy achieved?
Gestation and delivery
What expert treats it?
What is pregnancy?
Pregnancy is the physiological state of a woman that begins with the conception of the fetus and continues with fetal development until delivery. This period is divided into 40 weeks and lasts approximately 280 days. Even so, under special conditions, delivery can take place before the expected term, known as preterm labor, or after the expected term.
It is important to follow a correct monitoring of the pregnancy and to perform an adequate prenatal diagnosis. Among the tests that this may include are the following:
- Fetal echocardiography
- 4D ultrasound
- Chorionic biopsy
On the other hand, during pregnancy it is very important to follow a good diet and practice sports to stay active. There are different types of physical exercise indicated for this stage, such as pilates for pregnant women. You can also attend obstetric physiotherapy sessions and osteopathy in pregnancy and postpartum.
Symptoms of pregnancy
Among the most common signs and symptoms of pregnancy are the following:
- Lack of menstruation
- Swollen and tender breasts or nipples
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Mood changes and mood swings
- Increased frequency of urination
- Mild spotting
- Eating changes
- Nasal congestion
However, on many occasions, these symptoms may indicate another type of condition, so the most important thing is to consult a specialist who can establish a diagnosis.
Medical tests for pregnancy
To confirm pregnancy, a hormone is measured in the body known as human chorionic gonadotropin, which appears in the blood and urine of pregnant women 10 days after conception. In this regard, two types of tests can be performed:
- Blood test: a tube of blood is drawn and analyzed in the laboratory until the results are obtained.
- Urine test: urine is applied to a prepared strip and results are obtained within minutes.
Once the pregnancy is confirmed, a series of tests must be performed during the process to verify that the fetus is developing properly. Among the most important tests are the following:
- Ultrasounds: this is a test that is performed periodically to be able to observe the fetus and its development and, more specifically, to be able to detect malformations if they exist.
- Amniocentesis: performed to determine the presence of chromosomal irregularities in the fetus.
- O’Sullivan test: is a test performed between 24-28 weeks of gestation to determine the amount of glucose in the blood.
How is pregnancy achieved?
For conception to occur, the male seminal fluid must be introduced into the female reproductive tract. In this way, the sperm contained in this fluid pass through the canal of the cervix and into the fallopian tubes.
The female egg released from the ovary is found in the fallopian tubes and once fertilized by the sperm undergoes a series of cell divisions as it moves toward the uterus, where it attaches to and penetrates its wall, known as the endometrium.
From this moment on, the development of the fetus begins. The moment of maximum female fertility is ovulation, when the female egg moves into the fallopian tubes: it lasts a maximum of six days, and is called the fertile window.
Can it be prevented?
Contraceptive methods can be used to prevent pregnancy. General methods include the following:
- Barrier methods: these are contraceptives used at the time of sexual intercourse (condoms, diaphragms, sponges or cervical cap).
- Short-acting hormonal methods: these are prescription methods (pill, patch, injection, intravaginal ring).
- Reversible contraceptives or long-acting methods: these are contraceptives that are inserted by the physician only once (intrauterine devices, hormonal implants).
- Female and male sterilization: method that prevents pregnancy for the rest of life (tubal ligation in women or vasectomy in men).
- Natural rhythm methods: no contraceptive is used, but the couple avoids having sex during the most fertile days.
Gestation period and delivery
Normally, the gestation period is 40 weeks, during which the fetus develops.
The first eight weeks are very important, as the embryo forms the main organs: the mother may experience symptoms such as nausea, irritability, tiredness and breast enlargement. Between the 8th and 13th week, the mother-to-be’s body begins to change and the sexual organs of the fetus are differentiated, and the vocal cords of the fetus will also be formed. At this point, the most critical period of pregnancy ends, in which there is a high risk of miscarriage and damage to the fetus: this is how the second trimester of gestation begins.
From week 13 to 17, fatigue will decrease and nausea will tend to disappear, while the fetus is fully formed. From the 17th to the 21st week, the mother will begin to feel the baby’s first movements: between the 21st and 26th week, the belly will begin to be quite large and she will be able to feel the first uterine contractions. During this month the baby will double its weight, will begin to open and close its eyelids and will start to make small respiratory movements.
From week 26 the last trimester of pregnancy begins: the baby will grow more and more and between week 30 and 35 the baby will begin to slowly position itself in preparation for delivery: the mother will begin to feel pain in her back and abdomen, as well as more frequent uterine contractions.
In the last month of gestation (weeks 35-40) the fetus will reach full development and will usually be positioned inverted, with the head turned towards the pelvic cavity.
Childbirth, or the moment when the child is expelled from the mother’s body, can take place in different ways:
- Natural childbirth: occurs spontaneously, and the mother gives birth to the child naturally.
- Caesarean section: performed when the baby is in the breech position, in case of placenta previa, when there is fetal distress or in case of twin pregnancy, when there have been previous uterine interventions and if there is a risk to the health of the mother or the baby. It may be scheduled or performed on an emergency basis
- Induced labor: if two weeks have passed since the due date or if there is a risk to the health of the baby and the mother, labor is induced manually or by administration of oxytocin and epidural.
What specialist treats pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a delicate time for both the baby and the mother-to-be, so support is needed to accompany both along this path. Therefore, it is very important to consult specialists in Gynecology and Obstetrics who are experts in Fetal Medicine.
These experts will explain in detail the stages of gestation in any pregnancy (such as multiple pregnancy), the risks (risky pregnancy, preeclampsia, ectopic pregnancy, melasma, hypertension in pregnancy, etc.), the symptoms and the tests that should be performed so that both mother and child enjoy excellent health, both during and after delivery (at which time the mother may suffer from postpartum depression).