The Pregnancy process
As we all know, pregnancy is a period of excitement, expectancy and a lot of fear and nervousness for the mother. It should be an exciting experience, and for that, love and consideration of the family as well as knowledge of what changes are taking place in the body and what to expect, is important.
A man is constantly producing sperms and is therefore capable of fathering a baby at any time from puberty (about 13 years of age) until he dies. But a woman produces an ovum only once a month. She starts producing ova at puberty and continues until menstruation stops, a time called menopause, which is about 45-50 years of age. An ovum is discharged from the ovary about two weeks after a menstrual period and will be washed out of the uterus at the next menstrual period unless it meets a sperm and conception occurs.
The moment of ovulation, when the ovum leaves the ovary, is accompanied by a rise in body temperature. This can be useful for a couple who wish to choose a time for sexual intercourse with the best chance for conception. At the same time, this period can be avoided for sexual intercourse if pregnancy is not wanted.
Hundreds of millions of sperms are deposited in the vagina during sexual intercourse, but only a few hundred will reach the fallopian tubes, and only one will fertilize the ovum. After the ovum has been fertilized, the cell divides again and again until the millions of cells in the baby have been formed.
The developing ovum passes down the tube and settles in the lining of the uterus. The next menstrual period is prevented and the embryo begins to grow and develop.
Twins can be produced in two ways. The egg may split into two shortly after it has met the sperm, producing two babies who look exactly alike, identical twins or the mother may produce two eggs, which are fertilized by two different sperms, which will produce two babies who look like brothers or sisters but are not identical. Twins are commoner in some families than others, but non-identical are the more usual type.
Most educated girls get married between 18 and 25 years. Some, however, get married soon after finishing school, i.e., 16- 17 years. The best age to have a baby is between 20 and 25 years, and so the first pregnancy should be delayed a bit in case of an early marriage.
It is necessary for every woman to consult her doctor as soon as possible during her pregnancy. It is particularly important for mothers over 35 years and under 18 years; mothers who have tuberculosis, heart or kidney disease; mothers with diabetes or thyroid gland abilormality; mothers with a previous miscarriage, premature birth, a jaundiced baby or toxemia; and mother who is Rh negative.
To Detect Pregnancy
A woman who has regular menstrual periods and has now missed a period could be pregnant. However, a menstrual period, may be missed due to anxiety, emotional upset or an illness. On the other hand, some women have one or two menstrual periods even after they become pregnant. However, the flow, is less and for a shorter.duration. Some fullness in the breasts may be another sign of pregnancy. Early morning sickness is present in some women.Some women lose their appetites, while others develop a craving for certain foods and a dislike for others.
A popular indian belief is that pregnant women develop a liking for sour things and this may even be looked upon as an early sign of pregnancy. This is not a true fact. Some women develop a yearning for eating mud or wall plaster. This is probably due to a deficiency of iron aad possibly of calcium.
As soon as you know you are pregnant you must consult a doctor for confirmation of pregnancy and for continued care during pregnancy at an ante-natal clinic. For delivery, you can decide between a hospital nursing-home or your own home. if it is the first baby, it is advisable to have the delivery at an institution. The doctor will advise you as to how often you should be examined, but usually it is once a month till the seventh month of pregnancy, and once a fortnight after that.
The first 3 months of pregnancy are important because during this period the babyís organs, like brain, heart, kidneys, limbs, eyes and ears are being formed. Avoid any medicine during this period. Some medicines can be harmful to the growing baby inside you, and so no medicine, particularly pills for sickness, headaches and anxiety should be taken without the advice of your doctor. And also, all X-ray exposures should be avoided during the first few months, as these can cause deformity in the growing baby. Some infections, particularly Rubella may result in abnormality of some organs such as a heart defect, congenital cataract or mental retardation. All vaccinations too should be avoided during pregnancy, particularly the first 4 or 5 months, unless there is the danger of an epidemic.
If there is any bleeding from the vagina or pain in the lower abdomen, consult your doctor immediately and take complete bed-rest.
The First check-up
Your doctor will give you a thorough examination and take a detailed history about your past illnesses and also about the present pregnancy. He or she will check your blood pressure, record your weight, and have your blood and urine examined. After a general examination, your doctor will examine the size, shape and position of the uterus to find out how far along the pregnancy is, and whether it tallies with your history regarding missing the menstrual period. He will listen to the foetal heart with a stethoscope on your abdomen. The doctor will also take measurements to determine the size of your birth canal, to be sure that you can deliver your baby normally. The examination will also include a pelvic (internal) examination.
The blood examination is done to test for anaemia, and also for blood grouping and Rh factor typing if you are Rh positive, there is no problem. If you are Rh negative, then your husbandís blood will also be examined. If he too is Rh negative, there will be no problem. But with a mother Rh negative and father Rh positive, precautions must be taken. There will be no complications in the first pregnancy unless the mother has had a blood transfusion without testing for the Rh factor at an earlier age, but in any subsequent pregnancy, complications such as jaundice are likely to occur in the baby. In India, Rh negative people are far fewer than in many western countries, and so the problems relating to this are also fewer. For an Rh negative mother Anti D globulin is now available, and should be injected as soon after delivery as possible. This will prevent complications such as jaundice, due to Rh sensitization in the second baby. An Rh negative mother must have a regular blood check for antibodies throughout pregnancy. She must deliver in a hospital, so that any problem that may arise can be dealt with immediately. Almost all babies with Rh disease can be saved by exchanging their blood soon after birth.
Blood pressure and urine is examined every time you visit your doctor. This is important to diagnose toxaemia or early diabetes. Excessive weight increase and swelling of the feet and ankles may be due to toxaemia.
The baby begins to kick around by about 6 months of pregnancy. He often changes his position and swims around in the bag of water around him. By the eighth month, the head goes down into the pelvis and now you only feel the movements of his limbs.
This symptom is quite normal towards the end of pregnancy because of the pressure of the womb. But if there is any discomfort or burning, then you should have your urine examined and report it to your doctor.
This is a burning sensation in the upper abdomen, and sometimes a bitter taste in the mouth. Avoid rich, greasy and fried food, but if it does not improve, consult your doctor.
Constipation and the pressure of the growing baby may lead to hemorrhoids, which often bleed and can be very painful. Applying cold compresses gives relief. Avoid constipation by eating more salads, vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water.
Iron and vitamin tablets
The requirements of iron and vitamins increase during pregnancy. The effort should be to get these by some addition of iron and vitamin-rich food to your diet. But most doctors prescribe some iron and vitamin tablets during pregnancy to ensure an adequate amount.
Because of the growing size of your abdomen and the baby kicking away, you may not be able to lie comfortably, and sleep may become a problem. You can sleep in vhichever position is convenient to you. It is all the same to the baby and no particular position is bad for him. You can even sleep on, your stomach if you find that comfortable. A bath and a hot drink at bedtime also helps to relax, and encourages sleep.
You may be awakened in the middle of the night with a painful cramp in your leg. This may be due to calcium deficiency, but more often it is just due to sluggish circulation because of the advancing pregnancy. The cramps will pass off in a few moments.
Some Minor complaints
Much of how you feel depends on your own attitude to pregnancy. Many women feel much better than they ever felt before. They radiate health and happiness. Everyone in the family, particularly the father-to-be, has to be understanding and give the necessary assurance and support to the mother-to-be. In spite of your joy and happiness you feel worried and depressed at times, thinking about the possible problems or about things you have heard or read somewhere. If you have a genuine worry, discuss it with your husband and your doctor; otherwise, pick up an interesting book and divert your mind.
The following are a few minor problems which might bother you.
This does bother some women, in spite of their determrnation not to be sick Never keep your stomach empty. Have an early breakfast or have a biscuit or toast with your morning tea. Sometimes, cooking odours tend to make one sick. Donít get over-tired. Drink plenty of water, lemon-juice or any pleasant drink.
Some women notice dark patches on their cheeks. Their cause is not known but they usually fade after the baby is born. The skin of the abdomen and breasts stretches because of their increased size during pregnancy. Sometimes, if you gain too much weight, the same may happen to the arms and thighs. The stretch marks are lighter in colour than the skin and are not particularly noticeable after the tissues have gone back to their original stage after the baby is born, unless you had gained too much weight.
Swollen ankles and legs
This happens because of increased body water during pregnancy. Put up your legs in the middle of the day and any other time that you can. Avoid standing for long periods, wear comfortable shoes or sandals and cut down on salt. Consult your doctor because this may be the first sign of toxaemia.
It is the maleís sperm and not the femaleís egg which determines the sex of a child. There are two types of spermatozoa; half have X chromosomes, the other half Y. When an egg is fertilzed by an X-bearing sperm, a girl is created; when fertilized by a Y-bearing sperm, a male is created. Heredity does not determine the sex of the child; nor is it possible to assure the sex of a child.