The Mommy’s Guide to Pregnancy – From Conception to Childbirth
It doesn’t matter if you’re already expecting, or are trying to get pregnant – the preparation for the arrival of a new baby can be both joyous and challenging. Understandably, your pregnancy journey will be rife with questions. Thankfully, we’ve put together this comprehensive article – full of pregnancy advice – that covers everything you need to know about this special time in your life. From pregnancy planning and potential complications to labor and delivery, this informative guide will adequately prepare you for the months ahead.
Are You Trying to Get Pregnant?
Excellent – you’re officially trying to have a baby. Undoubtedly, you think that you know how to get pregnant. After all, all those sex education lessons back in school did make it sound like you’d have a little one on the way the moment you have sex, right?
Well, not exactly. Statistics show that an average, healthy couple aged 20s to early 30s has about a 25% – 30% chance of conceiving each month. That means that 25 to 30 women, in 100 women, will become pregnant within the first cycle of trying. As you can see, successfully having a baby involves quite a bit of planning around your menstrual cycle.
So, how can you optimize your chances of getting pregnant when it comes to getting busy under the sheets? The answer to that is: in the days just before and during ovulation – when a mature egg is released from the ovary and is made available to be fertilized.
But wait – how can you tell if you’re ovulating? You can start by diligently tracking your period dates. Ovulation typically occurs 10 to 16 days before your period starts, so you can work out when you’re most fertile if you have a regular cycle.
Now, don’t fret if you experience irregular menstruation; you can employ other techniques such as an ovulation predictor kit, or by careful observation of your cervical mucus changes.
Are You Getting Pregnant in Your Early 30s?
By the time you’ve finished up with your education, carved out an excellent career for yourself, and finally connected with your soul mate, you realize that you’re already in your early 30s. And now you want a baby.
But a niggling thought persists at the back of your mind: are all the infertility horror stories you’ve heard from well-meaning family members and colleagues true? Have your eggs gone bad?
Well, not exactly. While there is indeed a slight decline in a woman’s fertility in the early 30s, you really shouldn’t worry about it until you’re past the age of 35. That’s where the real decline begins. To better illustrate how this looks, let’s examine how likely women get pregnant from trying at the first cycle at various age groups:
- The early 20s – 25%.
- The early 30s – 20%.
- After age 35 – 15%.
- The early 40s – 5%.
As long as you’re not thinking of having more than three children you want to space out, getting pregnant in your early 30s should not be a significant issue.
It’s A Baby!
Let’s assume it’s happened: a growing embryo has nestled itself into your womb’s plushy lining. How and when do you find out? Quite often, the first sign of pregnancy is a missed period. But there are numerous, other early signs of pregnancy that your body exhibits as well.
Symptoms of being pregnant
Here are three common pregnancy symptoms:
- Tender, swollen breasts – Hormonal changes related to pregnancy can cause your breasts to feel fuller and more substantial in general; this is one of the most common early pregnancy symptoms.
- Light spotting or cramping – Implantation bleeding occurs when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus lining around 10 to 14 days post-fertilization. Some women also experience abdominal cramping, much like period cramps, early in pregnancy.
- Nausea with or without vomiting – Morning sickness, contrary to its name, can strike at any time of the day. It is one of the classic symptoms of pregnancy. Some women experience queasiness as early as two weeks after conception.
Oh shoot – is there a pregnancy diet to follow?
You’re pregnant! You’ve heard that the maintenance of a healthy diet is critical for your baby’s development. But what to eat during pregnancy? And what supplements, if any, should you take? No worries – we’ve got you covered.
Here are three essential foods, and a dietary supplement, you need to incorporate into your diet the moment you find out you’re expecting a little one:
- Salmon-Salmon contains the essential omega-3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – which are vital for brain and eye development in your growing baby. Also, it serves as a natural source of vitamin D. Recent research findings suggest that vitamin D intake during pregnancy may prevent conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, later in your child’s life.
- Dark, leafy greens-Dark, leafy vegetables – such as kale and spinach – contain many of the nutrients that pregnant women require. These include, but are not limited to, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, and folate. They’re also rich in fiber, which can help keep your bowel movements regular.
- Lean Meat-Lean meat is an excellent source of high-quality protein. Beef and pork deserve a special mention as both types of meat are rich in iron – an essential mineral that is used by red blood cells as a part of hemoglobin. When you’re pregnant, your blood volume increases; you, therefore, need more iron. Be sure to get your red, lean meats in!
- Folic acid supplement-Also known as B9 vitamin, folic acid plays an indispensable role when it comes to the growth and development of your baby. In pregnancy, folic acid supplementation is crucial. All pregnant women are recommended to consume at least 400 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid daily.
How to have a less stressful birth experience
Now, you may have heard of some pretty scary labor stories from friends or family, and you’re now wondering, “How painful is childbirth?” Well, the truth is that the level of pain experienced during childbirth varies from woman to woman; some women breeze through the whole process, while others find delivery incredibly painful.
So, how can you have an easier time when giving birth? Well, other than the common-sense tips like keeping fit and eating right, there’s one other thing you might like to try out: prenatal classes.
It won’t be as dull as school, we promise! A good, well-structured class can teach you specialized techniques to relax, breathe, and distract yourself during delivery, so you get some relief from the pain.
Variations and hybrids of the following techniques exist, but here are the most common approaches:
- Lamaze – Popularized in the 1950s, Lamaze remains a hit amongst expecting parents because of its emphasis on natural and straightforward strategies, such as relaxation and rhythmic breathing, for labor. This technique’s goal is to enable you to get through the birthing process more naturally, without minimal medical intervention. The course also covers standard medical interventions, such as the cesarean section (c-section).
- Bradley – The Bradley method teaches relaxation techniques and deep abdominal breathing. The Bradley course is designed to help you accept pain as a natural part of the birthing process; many women who practice the Bradley method opt for natural births (childbirths with no medical interventions for pain).
- Hypnobirthing – As can be inferred from its name, hypnobirthing is a childbirth education approach that makes use of self-hypnosis techniques – including affirmations, visualizations, and mindfulness – to help you remain calm and relaxed during the birthing process.
So – when can I meet my baby?
And now, you can hardly wait to hold your precious newborn in your arms – but wait, when is your baby’s due date again? Pregnancy math can get confusing; are you nine weeks pregnant or 10 weeks pregnant? In your first trimester or second?
Don’t worry: we’ll show you exactly how to calculate your pregnancy, so you know when to expect your baby. Before that, though, you have to remember three crucial points:
- There are 40 weeks in pregnancy.
- There are 3 trimesters in pregnancy.
- There are 13 or 14 weeks per trimester.
Baby’s birth date
While the most accurate way of predicting when your baby would be born is through a check with the doctor, you can calculate the date yourself by adding 40 weeks to the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). Did something catch your eye?
Yes – it might seem bizarre, but your last period is also counted as part of your 40-week pregnancy, even though you weren’t pregnant at that time. Well, if it makes you feel better, you can think of it as something like a head start – you’re clocking in 2 weeks of pregnancy before you even conceive!
As an expectant mum, you’re undoubtedly immensely curious about the development of your pregnancy – week by week. Let’s take a closer look at the fetal development and potential complications that occur in the various trimesters.
Trimester 1 (Week 1 – Week 12)
You’ll experience significant changes in hormone levels in the first few weeks following conception. Within the first two months of pregnancy, your child will develop from a ball of cells called a blastocyst to an embryo that will eventually develop into your baby.
Your uterus begins to support placenta and fetus growth, your body increases its blood supply to supply oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby, and your heart rate picks up. These changes accompany many of the pregnancy ailments that many expecting mums complain about – fatigue, headaches, and even constipation.
Here’s a rough overview of how your baby develops during the various stages of the first trimester:
Weeks 5 – 6
Your little embryo, already the size of an orange seed, now looks pretty similar to a tadpole – with a rudimentary head and tail. Don’t start panicking now; there’s no frog in your future.
As the first system to be operational in an embryo is the circulatory system, it’s highly probable that you’ll be able to see beating on an early ultrasound. Also, your baby’s facial features are beginning to develop here, such as the jaws, cheeks, and chin. Can’t wait to see how it all comes together to form an adorable face? Us too!
Weeks 8 – 9
It takes a lot of developing for an embryo to become a full-fledged baby, but you’ll be pleased to know that your unborn child is now growing at an incredible speed. When you’re eight weeks pregnant, your little one is now nearly the size of a raspberry!
If you were able to get a close-up view of your embryo, you’d find that your baby now looks a lot less reptilian, and is starting to resemble an actual baby. It’s an exciting time, we know. You’ll also be able to see the formation of lips, nose, and tiniest bit of eyelids.
Tiny muscles are also starting to form, and in fact, your little one can make spontaneous movements of all limbs. Don’t get too excited; you won’t be able to feel your little MMA fighter for at least another month or two.
Weeks 10 – 11
Congratulations are in order! Now that you’re ten weeks pregnant, your little one has officially graduated from embryo to fetus and has vital organs, such as kidneys, brain, liver, and intestines. Your newly-crowned fetus is now the size of a prune and is beginning to take on human shape. The bones are hardening, and small indentations on the legs are developing into knees and ankles.
Also, the fingernails and toenail beds have begun to develop in this stage: and, of course, here’s a reminder to you to add a baby nail clipper to your post-birth shopping list, if you haven’t already.
Did we also mention that the tooth bud fairy makes an appearance here? Well, your baby won’t emerge from the womb with a complete set of pearly whites – we’re only saying that those little choppers are now forming under the gums.
Potential complications in the first trimester:
While we all hope for happy and healthy outcomes for every single planned pregnancy, for about 20% of expectant women, however, that initial joy and excitement of being pregnant will be replaced by the sadness of two primary first trimester complications – miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.
A miscarriage, also known medically as spontaneous abortion, is defined as the unexpected end of a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation. Nearly 80% of all miscarriages occur in the first trimester – of these, a large number transpire in the first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
You should always contact your healthcare provider to discuss the symptoms you’re experiencing if you see heavy spotting during pregnancy.
Contrary to popular beliefs, falls, sex, work stress, or even heated arguments with a spouse do not cause miscarriage -a miscarriage is simply the body’s way of terminating a pregnancy that isn’t quite right.
Understandably, the sudden and unexpected loss can cause you to experience many feelings and reactions. No matter how early in pregnancy you lost your little one, the sadness and sense of loss you’re feeling is real – you have the right to grieve as much as you need, so long as it helps you heal and eventually move on. If you have suffered a miscarriage, please seek help and advice from the hotlines listed here: What to Do After a Miscarriage
Also, you might want to get a postpartum massage after your miscarriage to help your body recover from the traumatizing experience. A postpartum massage session can help reposition your pelvis and restore the muscle tones in your abdomen – both crucial aspects of restoring your fertility.
Ectopic pregnancy is a type of pregnancy complication where the embryo (fertilized egg) attaches itself to a place other than inside the uterus. Nearly 90% of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes, although the embryo can also mistakenly implant in the cervix, on an ovary, or in the abdomen.
Unfortunately, you cannot preserve an ectopic pregnancy; it requires prompt medical attention as when the embryo grows in size, it can rupture the fallopian tube and induce life-threatening internal bleeding.
An ectopic pregnancy takes place in 1 out of 50 pregnancies – in other words, they account for approximately 2% of all pregnancies.
One or more of the following reasons can cause ectopic pregnancies:
- Infection or inflammation of the fallopian tube
- Old scar tissue present on the tube
- Previous surgery on the tubes or in the pelvic area
- Abnormalities in the fallopian tube’s shape
Trimester 2 (Week 13 – Week 28)
Pat yourself on the back: you’ve made it through the first three months of pregnancy! Welcome to the second trimester – for many women, the most enjoyable and comfortable of all three.
The arrival of this milestone brings about several welcome changes: most early pregnancy symptoms and ailments – morning sickness, tender breasts, and fatigue – will ease up or disappear. This is also the time where these
which will come in very handy for those swollen calves and ankles and backaches you will be experiencing from this trimester on.
As usual, your baby is extremely busy in your womb – in these three months, your baby’s sex or gender will become apparent, his or her circulatory system will begin pumping blood, and the bones will attain density or harden. Let’s take a brief look at how fetal development plays out in the second trimester:
Weeks 15 – 16
At this stage, your belly looks less like a food baby, and more like a pregnancy – this is because your developing fetus is now nearly the size of a pear! Your little one’s ears are now appropriately positioned on the sides of the head (they used to be in the neck), and the eyes are making their way to the front of the face from the side.
Other exciting news: even though your baby’s eyelids are still fused shut at this point, your little one is already able to make small side-to-side eye movements and perceive light filtered from outside the womb. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to gaze lovingly into your baby’s eyes!
Weeks 19 – 23
Have you ever wondered why full-term babies never look wrinkled upon birth, even though they’ve spent nearly nine months soaked in amniotic fluid? Well, that’s because of a ‘cheesy varnish’ – a protective layer termed as vernix caseosa that forms and covers your baby’s skin when you’re in your 19th week of pregnancy.
If you’re put off by the thought of a ‘cheese-covered’ baby emerging from your vagina, don’t worry. The vernix is gradually sloughed off as your delivery date approaches; you probably won’t get to see this miraculous anti-wrinkle cream in action unless your baby is born early. Also, you will start to feel your baby move and kick around.
Weeks 24 – 27
Wondering who your baby resembles more – yourself, or your partner? Well, if you had a baby cam when you’re 24 weeks pregnant, you’d be able to tell by now. Your baby’s beautiful face is almost fully formed, complete with eyelashes, hair, and eyebrows. Also, in your 26th week of pregnancy, your baby’s eyes are beginning to open! Undoubtedly, the view in your uterus isn’t all that stimulating or exciting but hey – your baby can see what’s going on now! If you shone a torchlight at your stomach, you might be able to elicit a kick out of your little peanut! Don’t do it too often though; you might seriously annoy the little one.
A potential complication in the second trimester:
The odds are that once you’ve made it past the first trimester, the next three months (second trimester) should be relatively smooth sailing. However, there are still a few complications that could pop up during the second trimester.
Gestational diabetes – also known as pregnancy diabetes – is high blood sugar that develops during, yes you guessed it, pregnancy. Similar to other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes impairs your cells’ ability to take up glucose that’s available in your blood. By recent estimates, gestational diabetes affects roughly 10% of all pregnant women.
The resulting increase in blood sugar levels – hyperglycemia – can damage your nerves, blood vessels, and organs in your body. And the health impact extends beyond yourself: the excess glucose can cross the placenta and circulate in your baby’s bloodstream as well.
When this happens, your baby may grow too large (a medical condition called macrosomia) and make delivery extremely difficult. You might need to opt for a C-section.
But don’t despair: you can avoid the adverse health effects mentioned above if you follow their doctors’ recommendations of eating healthy foods, exercising, and if necessary, pills or insulin injections. Also, blood sugar typically returns to normal levels soon after delivery.
Trimester 3 (Week 29 – Week 40)
You’re in the final stretch of your pregnancy! Over the last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby’s skin will fill out with baby fat – get ready for adorable, chubby, and pinchable cheeks!
As usual, let’s take a closer look at your baby’s development:
Weeks 28 – 34
Are you beginning to feel sharp kicks from your baby? Well, that’s because your little one is not so little anymore – in fact, your baby now spans nearly 45 centimeters. The length of your baby, compounded with the fact that your amniotic fluid levels maxed out during your 33rd week of pregnancy, signifies that you now have more baby than the fluid within you at this stage.
Also, your baby is now closing his or her eyes to snooze, and opening them when awake – this helps your precious one settle into a sleep schedule.
Weeks 37 – 39
It’s not long before your baby makes his or her debut now! At this stage, your baby is considered full-term. The lungs work, your baby has a firm grasp, and has a full head of hair. So – what’s keeping your little one occupied while waiting it out till you two finally meet for the first time?
Well, practice! Your baby is now stimulating the action of breathing by inhaling and exhaling amniotic fluid, blinking, sucking his or her thumb (adorable!) and pivoting from side to side.
At 40 weeks pregnant, you’ve officially reached the end of your pregnancy. Your baby is now fully ready for life outside the womb.
So – the delivery date you’ve circled in bright red on your calendar has now come and gone… three weeks ago, and you’re still pregnant. What’s up? Well, you now have an overdue baby on your hands. Take it as a compliment; your womb is probably so comfortable that your little one doesn’t want to leave!
Nevertheless, the baby cannot stay in your womb till the end of time, for obvious reasons. At 43 weeks pregnant, you’re considered post-term. Your health care provider will most likely recommend inducing labor as going beyond 42 weeks of pregnancy can be risky for both you and your baby.
How is induction typically done?
Wondering about how your doctor can evict your baby from your uterus? Well, here are some of the most common ways employed by doctors in attempts of kickstarting contractions:
- Stripping the membranes
As the term suggests, stripping the membranes involves your doctor sweeping their gloved finger between the membranes of the amniotic sac in your uterus – this helps separate the sac. The stripping of the sac causes your body to release prostaglandins – hormones that prepare the cervix for delivery and may bring on contractions.
- Rupturing your amniotic sac (amniotomy)
Your amniotic sac will be ruptured by the doctor – during a vaginal exam – using a little plastic hook. Amniotomy is typically followed by labor in a matter of hours if your cervix is ready for delivery.
- Pumping oxytocin into your veins
The hormone, oxytocin, is pumped directly into your bloodstream through an IV drip. It is first started in a small dose and then increased until the labor is well under-way. Both your baby and the uterus will need to be closely monitored post-administration.
But wait – those are all so invasive!
As you can imagine, none of the induction methods mentioned above are comfortable. Why put yourself through all that discomfort when a better alternative exists – the prenatal massage.
A specially trained massage therapist can help bring on labor during a massage session to help you move things along when you’re overdue by stimulating meridian points in your body that induces labor.
Also, you can rest assured that the massage session will be painless as prenatal masseuses typically specialize in the gentle and relaxing Javanese technique most favoured by Singaporeans from all walks of life.
A potential complication in the third trimester:
Preeclampsia, also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension, is a pregnancy complication that generally develops in the third trimester of pregnancy. This disorder is characterized by a sudden onset of high blood pressure, kidney malfunction, and severe swelling of the hands and face.
Up to 10% of pregnant women are diagnosed with preeclampsia, though it’s worth taking note that half of those cases are among those who had hypertension before their pregnancy.
When mismanaged, pregnancy-induced hypertension can prevent a developing fetus from getting enough blood and oxygen. More dangerously, it can also damage an expectant woman’s liver and kidneys.
Thankfully, preeclampsia is nearly almost always detected early on among women who receive regular medical care. When managed with appropriate treatment, a woman diagnosed with preeclampsia has the same chance of carrying the baby to full-term, as a woman with normal blood pressure.
Your baby is out!
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t stop eating healthily the moment you’ve given birth. A well-balanced, nutritious diet is vital in ensuring that you regain your health and strength so you can focus all your attention on taking care of your newborn during your confinement period at home.
But it can be challenging to prepare home-cooked, nutritious meals when both you and your partner are struggling with the inevitable fatigue and annoyance that comes with a baby. Well, if both of you are thoroughly overwhelmed, you could prevent a full-blown screaming match from happening by ordering in your confinement meals!
Here’s a tip: you should order your confinement food in advance: most providers allow a sample to be purchased before you commit to a full catering service, and some even offer early-bird discounts if you order at least a month ahead in advance, as it helps their kitchens to properly calculate their ingredients orders with minimal wastage, do this early and you’ll get a better deal!
You might be surprised to hear this, but even though you’ve already given birth, you’d still experience back pain in the post-partum period. If you find that you require some pain relief, you can book a session of postnatal massage.
The traditional Javanese style bengkung tummy wrap done at the end of the session or package can reduce occurrences of back spasms and cramps. And, besides – a few hours away from your crying baby could do your mental health some good, too!
Phew – that was a lot of information to take in! Hopefully, you now have a general idea of what you can expect during your pregnancy. Do take note, however, that every pregnancy is unique – even moms who’ve delivered multiple times may discover surprising, new symptoms when pregnant again.
Always stay in close contact with your health care provider to ensure the best possible, healthy outcome for your very own pregnancy.
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