Pregnancy Facts

Are you wondering when morning sickness will end or when you’ll start to feel your baby move? Follow this step-by-step guide to find out what to expect during each stage of your pregnancy. Learn More ›

Asthma in Pregnancy

If you have asthma, and you become pregnant, you may wonder how pregnancy will affect your asthma symptoms and if your medication will harm your baby. Be assured that with great care and planning you can have a safe and healthy pregnancy even with asthma.

Read More About Dealing With Asthma During Pregnancy

Preparing for Pregnancy

If you're planning to become pregnant, taking certain steps can help reduce risks for both you and your baby. Proper health before deciding to become pregnant is almost as important as maintaining a healthy body during pregnancy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these two recommendations to reduce the risk for SIDS:

Get prenatal care. Routine prenatal care is critical for reducing the risk for SIDS.

Avoid using illicit drugs and alcohol, and don't smoke during pregnancy or after birth.

The first few weeks of pregnancy are crucial in a child's development. However, many women don't realize they're pregnant until several weeks after conception. Planning ahead and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.

Learn more about planned Pregnancy

The First Trimester of Pregnancy

The first prenatal visit is the most thorough. A complete medical history is taken, a physical examination is conducted, as well as certain tests and procedures are performed to assess the initial health of the mother and her unborn baby. The first prenatal visit may include the following:

  • personal medical history - this may include previous and current medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), anemia, and/or allergies; current medications, such as prescription and over-the-counter; or previous surgeries

  • maternal and paternal family medical history - including illnesses such as diabetes or mental retardation, and genetic disorders such as sickle cell disease or Tay-Sachs disease

  • personal gynecological and obstetrical history - including past pregnancies - stillbirths, miscarriage, deliveries, terminations - and menstrual history (i.e., length and duration of menstrual periods)

  • education - including a discussion regarding the importance of proper nutrition, regular exercise, the avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco during pregnancy, and a discussion of any concerns about domestic violence

  • pelvic examination - this type of examination may be performed to note the size and position of the uterus; to determine the age of the fetus; to check the pelvic bone size and structure; or to perform a Pap test (also called Pap smear) to detect the presence of abnormal cells.

  • laboratory tests - this includes urine tests (to screen for bacteria, sugar, and protein) and blood tests (to determine blood type)

Learn more about the First Trimester

The Second Trimester of Pregnancy

During the second and third trimester prenatal visits, your health care provider may check the following, depending on your current medical condition and the health of the fetus:

  • Any current symptoms or discomforts

  • Mother's weight

  • Mother's blood pressure

  • Urine test - to detect albumin (a protein) which may indicate preeclampsia or toxemia, and sugar (which may indicate hyperglycemia)

  • Growth, size, and development of the fetus

  • Size of the uterus - after approximately 12 weeks of gestation, the uterus can be felt through the abdominal wall

  • Height of the fundus (top of the uterus)

  • Fetal heartbeat

The second trimester marks a turning point for mother and fetus. The mother usually begins to feel better and will start showing the pregnancy more. The fetus has now developed all its organs and systems and will now focus on growing in size and weight.

Learn more about the Second Trimester

Pregnancy - The Third Trimester

During the second and third trimester prenatal visits, your physician may check the following, depending on your current medical condition and the health of the fetus:

  • any current symptoms or discomforts

  • mother's weight

  • mother's blood pressure

  • urine test - to detect albumin (a protein) which may indicate preeclampsia or toxemia, and sugar (which may indicate hyperglycemia)

  • position, growth, and development of the fetus

  • height of the fundus (top of the uterus)

  • fetal heartbeat

As you begin the third trimester, your physician may change the schedule of your prenatal visits from monthly to every two weeks. Your prenatal visits may be scheduled once every week in the last month. This schedule will depend upon your medical condition, the growth and development of the fetus, and your physician's preference.

Learn more about the Third Trimester

Healthy Pregnancy: Prenatal Medical Care

As soon as a woman discovers she is pregnant, she should establish a schedule of prenatal care with her health care provider for the entire duration of the pregnancy. For normal pregnancies without significant complications, prenatal exams are usually scheduled as follows:

This schedule may vary depending on your personal medical condition and your health care provider's preference. Additional prenatal care may be necessary if there are any preexisting medical conditions (i.e., diabetes) present in the mother and/or if complications arise while carrying the baby to term.

Prenatal care can be provided by various medical professionals, including the following:

  • Obstetrician/Gynecologist (OB/GYN) - a physician who has specialized training in the care of women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. An OB-GYN also specializes in many gynecological health issues.

  • Family Physician (FP) - a physician who has specialized training in primary care, including obstetrics.

  • Nurse Practitioner - a nurse with specialized training who can provide women's health care. Nurse Practitioners are certified by either the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) - a nurse who has additional training to care for women with low-risk pregnancies. Some midwives work with physicians while some work on an independent basis. CNMs are certified by the American College of Nurse Midwives.

  • Perinatologist - an obstetrician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Perinatologists are also called maternal-fetal specialists.

Learn more about Prenatal Medical Care

Complications of Pregnancy

Although the majority of pregnancies are uneventful, sometimes complications do occur. The following are some of the more common pregnancy complications:

  • Amniotic fluid complications

    Too much or too little amniotic fluid in the membranes surrounding the fetus may indicate a problem with the pregnancy. Too much fluid can put excessive pressure on the mother's uterus, leading to preterm labor, or can cause pressure on the mother's diaphragm, leading to breathing difficulties. Fluids tend to build up in cases of uncontrolled diabetes, multiple pregnancy, incompatible blood types, or birth defects. Too little fluid may indicate birth defects, growth retardation, or stillbirth.

Bleeding in late pregnancy may be a sign of placental complications or a vaginal or cervical infection. Women who bleed in late pregnancy may be at greater risk of losing the fetus and hemorrhaging (bleeding excessively). Bleeding at any time during the pregnancy should be reported to your physician immediately.

Learn more about Pregnancy complications

Labor and Delivery

After nine months of incredible growth and changes both in the mother and the fetus, labor (contractions of the uterus) may finally start, signaling the pending birth of the baby. Many women fear the prospect of delivering their child. Part of this fear may be attributed to the unknown, especially in first pregnancies. Instead, be proactive and consider discussing the following questions with your care provider before labor begins:

Just as prenatal development occurs in several stages, so does the delivery of a baby. Listed in the directory below, you will not only find information regarding the different stages of labor, but also the importance of providing appropriate postpartum (also called post-delivery) care for the new mother and the newborn, for which we have provided a brief overview.

Learn more about Labor

Postpartum

After you've had your baby and returned home from the hospital, you are not yet finished with the physical transitions that pregnancy brings. Your body continues to change after delivery. Your breasts fill with milk and your uterus shrinks back to its regular size.

Coping with these changes while you adjust to caring for a new baby can present a challenge. To stay in good health, you need to recognize which symptoms are normal and which require medical attention.

The following are some health issues that you may encounter in the first weeks after childbirth and some suggestions on how to deal with them. Call your doctor if you experience a high fever, severe pain, or any other unusual symptoms.

Learn more about Postpartum

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Did You Know?

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If you are pregnant or have a heavy menstrual period, you may need an iron supplement. A 2007 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women moderately deficient in iron had difficulties with memory and learning, but that an iron supplement resolved the problems. Pregnancy and heavy periods are two causes of iron deficiency.