Pregnancy and birth can be a very special time in the life of a woman. The nine months of pregnancy, as well as labor and delivery, are filled with many physical and psychological changes, as well as changes in lifestyle. Each change poses a challenge that can be met successfully when the woman shares her feelings and experiences with a partner or other supportive person and with her physician, midwife, nurse, and childbirth educator. The importance of health care throughout pregnancy is emphasized, because proper health care increases the likelihood of a healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby, and satisfied parents.
The reproductive process through which a new baby is conceived, incubated and ultimately born into the world. Many facets of pregnancy are covered starting with the preparation and planning stages, and moving through conception, fetal development, labor and delivery, and post-partum (or post-birth) stages. The document describes normal, uncomplicated pregnancy in some detail, and also contains information concerning more difficult pregnancies, including pregnancies for women with chronic illnesses and other health complications. Pregnancy is a unique, exciting and often joyous time in a woman’s life, as it highlights the woman’s amazing creative and nurturing powers while providing a bridge to the future. Pregnancy comes with some cost, however, for a pregnant woman needs also to be a responsible woman so as to best support the health of her future child. The growing fetus (the term used to denote the baby-to-be during early developmental stages) depends entirely on its mother’s healthy body for all needs. Consequently, pregnant women must take steps to remain as healthy and well nourished as they possibly can. Pregnant women should take into account the many health care and lifestyle considerations described in this document.
Though we have tried to present relatively comprehensive coverage of pregnancy, this document should only be considered to be an overview. It will hopefully introduce you to some new ideas, and help you to learn about aspects of pregnancy that you may not have previously encountered, but it does not contain or provide all the information you will need to make informed choices as you go through your own actual pregnancy. Be sure to see your doctor when you become pregnant. Share with him or her any questions or concerns you may have about your pregnancy. Your doctor, and other specialized health care providers including nurses and midwives, will be some of your more important allies during your pregnancy. They are in the best position to guide you through the process and to make authoritative recommendations that will best benefit your baby-to-be’s development and future health and welfare.
When you are ready to have your baby, you’ll go through labor. Labor is the process of giving birth. Signs that you might be going into labor include:
*Contractions that are regular then start to come closer together
*Leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina
*Low, dull backache
*Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs, even if it is before your due date. Preterm labor can start before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy.
Labor happens in three stages. The first stage begins with contractions. It continues until your cervix has become thinner and dilated (stretched) to about 4 inches wide. The second stage is the active stage, in which you begin to push downward. Crowning is when your baby’s scalp comes into view. Shortly afterward, your baby is born. In the third stage, you deliver the placenta. The placenta is the organ that supplied food and oxygen to your baby during pregnancy. Mothers and babies are monitored closely during labor. Most women are able to have a baby through normal vaginal delivery. If there are complications, the baby may need to be delivered surgically by a Cesarean section.
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