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Pregnancy

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Pregnancy Testing and Symptoms

Symptoms of Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the term used to describe the period in which a fetus develops inside a woman’s womb or uterus. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks, or just over 9 months, as measured from the last menstrual period to delivery. Health care providers refer to three segments of pregnancy, called trimesters. The major events in each trimester are described below.

First Trimester (Week 1 to Week 12)

The events that lead to pregnancy begin with conception, in which a sperm penetrates an egg. The fertilized egg (called a zygote) then travels through the woman’s fallopian tube to the uterus, where it implants itself in the uterine wall. The zygote is made up of a cluster of cells that later form the fetus and the placenta. The placenta connects the mother to the fetus and provides nutrients and oxygen to the fetus.

Second Trimester (Week 13 to Week 28)

  • Between 18 and 20 weeks, the typical timing for ultrasound to look for birth defects, you can often find out the sex of your baby.
  • At 20 weeks, a woman may begin to feel movement.
  • At 24 weeks, footprints and fingerprints have formed and the fetus sleeps and wakes regularly.
  • According to research from the NICHD Neonatal Research Network, the survival rate for babies born at 28 weeks was 92%, although those born at this time will likely still experience serious health complications, including respiratory and neurologic problems.

Third Trimester (Week 29 to Week 40)

  • At 32 weeks, the bones are soft and yet almost fully formed, and the eyes can open and close.
  • Infants born before 37 weeks are considered preterm. These children are at increased risk for problems such as developmental delays, vision and hearing problems, and cerebral palsy. Infants born between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy are considered to be “late preterm.”
  • Infants born in the 37th and 38th weeks of pregnancy—previously considered term—are now considered “early term.” These infants face more health risks than infants who are born at 39 weeks or later, which is now considered full term.
  • Infants born at 39 or 40 weeks of pregnancy are considered full term. Full-term infants have better health outcomes than do infants born earlier or, in some cases, later than this period. Therefore, if there is no medical reason to deliver earlier, it is best to deliver at or after 39 weeks to give the infant’s lungs, brain, and liver time to fully develop.
  • Infants born at 41 weeks through 41 weeks and 6 days are considered late term.
  • Infants who are born at 42 weeks and beyond are considered post term.

The most common early signs and symptoms of pregnancy might include:

  • Missed period. If in childbearing years and a week or more has passed without the start of an expected menstrual cycle, then the pregnancy is probably. However, this symptom can be misleading if due to an irregular menstrual cycle.
  • Tender, swollen breasts. Early in pregnancy hormonal changes might make breasts sensitive and sore. The discomfort will likely decrease after a few weeks as the body adjusts to hormonal changes.
  • Nausea with or without vomiting. Morning sickness, which can occur at any time of the day or night, often begins one to two months after becoming pregnant. However, some women feel nausea earlier and some never experience it. While the cause of nausea during pregnancy isn’t clear, pregnancy hormones likely play a role.
  • Increased urination. More frequent urination is often experienced. The amount of blood in the body increases during pregnancy, causing kidneys to process extra fluid that ends up in the urine bladder.
  • Fatigue. Fatigue also ranks high among early symptoms of pregnancy. Often a rapid rise in the levels of the hormone progesterone during early pregnancy might contribute to fatigue.

Other signs and symptoms of pregnancy

Other less obvious signs and symptoms of pregnancy that you might experience during the first trimester include:

  • Moodiness. The flood of hormones in your body in early pregnancy can make you unusually emotional and weepy. Mood swings also are common.
  • Bloating. Hormonal changes during early pregnancy can cause you to feel bloated, similar to how you might feel at the start of a menstrual period.
  • Light spotting. Light spotting might be one of the first signs of pregnancy. Known as implantation bleeding, it happens when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus — about 10 to 14 days after conception. Implantation bleeding occurs around the time you would expect to have a menstrual period. However, not all women have it.
  • Cramping. Some women experience mild uterine cramping early in pregnancy.
  • Constipation. Hormonal changes cause your digestive system to slow down, which can lead to constipation.
  • Food aversions. When you’re pregnant, you might become more sensitive to certain odors and your sense of taste might change. Like most other symptoms of pregnancy, these food preferences can be chalked up to hormonal changes.
  • Nasal congestion. Increasing hormone levels and blood production can cause the mucous membranes in your nose to swell, dry out and bleed easily. This might cause you to have a stuffy or runny nose.