Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

Pregnancy is the process of growth and development in the uterus from the time of fertilization of an egg by a sperm until delivery. Pregnancy lasts an average of nine (9) months and is divided into three 3-month periods. These periods are called:

  • First Trimester:         weeks 1 through 12
  • Second Trimester:    weeks 13 through 24
  • Third Trimester:        weeks 25 through delivery

Ideally, a woman should see a doctor before becoming pregnant for a complete health assessment. This procedure should include screening for various possible diseases including HIV and AIDS. The doctor should also discuss with her the serious dangers to the fetus of using tobacco, alcohol, and other addicting substances during pregnancy. The fetus is the developing child in the mother’s uterus. During pregnancy, the mother can expect discomforts such as the following:

  • nausea and vomiting (morning sickness)
  • abdominal cramps
  • fatigue (excess tiredness)
  • constipation (especially in the third trimester)
  • heartburn
  • frequent urination
  • swelling of feet or ankles
  • breathing difficulties (in third trimester)
  • stretch marks on the abdomen or breasts
  • varicose veins in the legs

Prenatal Care

It is very important that all pregnant women receive prenatal care throughout their pregnancy. The purpose for prenatal care is to monitor the health status of the pregnant mother and fetus at scheduled intervals. The first doctor’s visit should be made no later than 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. At that time, the menstrual period is likely to be 2 to 4 weeks late. In addition to having a complete health assessment, this permits a prediction of the expected date of delivery.

Your doctor is likely to schedule monthly visits as follows:

  • monthly during the first two trimesters
  • every two weeks for the next two months
  • weekly during the last month.

At each visit, your examination will include:

  • monitoring change in weight
  • blood pressure determination
  • size of the abdomen
  • position of the fetus
  • fetal heart beat

Women who delay the start of their prenatal visits, or do not keep all scheduled visits increase the risk of irreversible damage to the fetus, including the possibility of having a low weight newborn, having a premature delivery. In both of these situations, there is an increased risk that the newborn will have congenital or births defects. With inadequate prenatal care there is also an increased possibility of a stillbirth. . Pregnant women who have HIV or AIDS should be treated while pregnant with anti-viral medication, which greatly decreases the risk of the newborn having HIV, and thus of developing AIDS.