How long is pregnancy?
Pregnancy spans for 40 weeks and is often said to be 10 months. Actually pregnancy lasts for 9 months since each month is longer than 4 weeks (7 days per week). More importantly though is that pregnancy is divided into three trimesters of 3 months (13 weeks) each – the first, second and third trimester. At end of the term, the baby is ready to be born. Delivery is either through the vagina (normal delivery) or by surgically opening the uterus through the abdomen known as a caesarean section (C-section). Although babies should ideally be born between 38 to 40 weeks, it is still normal if birth occurs a week earlier or later. Babies born at 36 weeks or earlier (before 37 weeks) are considered to be premature.
The symptoms of pregnancy depend upon the trimester.
In the first trimester the common symptoms include :
- Breast tenderness
- Nausea and vomiting especially in the early morning known as morning sickness
- Loss of appetite or craving for certain foods
- Emotional outbursts
The pregnancy symptoms drastically improve during the second trimester. Most women report feeling much better by the second trimester. The nausea may still be present but vomiting decreases and appetite improves drastically. Steady weight gain with enlargement of the abdomen are the main features as the baby starts growing significantly. Pregnant women will notice a major change in breast size during this trimester and reports “kicks” from the baby in the womb.
The third trimester is both physically and emotionally challenging for a woman. There are a number of symptoms that lead to maternal discomfort such as :
- Shortness of breath
- Low back pain
- Swelling of the feet, ankles and fingers
- Acid reflux
- Anxiety and apprehension about childbirth
Other Symptoms During Pregnancy
Sometimes other symptoms may become apparent during pregnancy. They are a result of other conditions that develop or worsen in a pregnant women. There are number of health problems that can be serious during pregnancy, some of which may have been present before pregnancy while others develop during the course or pregnancy. Chronic ailments like high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus may worsen during pregnancy or it may start during the course of pregnancy as in preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Epilepsy, heart disease, asthma and allergies may also worsen during pregnancy and sometimes a woman may not realise that these conditions were present prior to falling pregnant
It is important to remember that medical conditions affecting the pregnant mother may also affect the developing baby in the womb.Defects like mental retardation, low birth weight, defects in the baby’s internal organs and even miscarriage can occur due to the mother being in poor health. At times the medication used to treat various medical conditions can have major side effects and affect the baby’s development. Drugs, like any substance, that causes foetal defects are known as teratogen. It can be as simple as taking too many of certain types of antihistamines. Some of the other drugs that are know to be a problem in pregnancy includes blood thinning medications like warfarin, anti-epileptic drugs and blood pressure medication like ACE inhibitors.