Am I Pregnant?

This article will describe the early signs of pregnancy, as well as some ways to combat the uncomfortable symtoms.

One of the most important questions a woman will ask herself during her childbearing years is "Am I pregnant?" This relatively simple question can be the cause of great joy and excitement if it is wanted, and much reflection if the pregnancy was unplanned.

There is little doubt many changes occur to a woman's body during the first trimester of a pregnancy. The pregnancy itself is dated from the last menstrual cycle of the woman with conception occurring sometime around the fourteenth day.

During this time an ova has been released from the woman's ovaries and if fertilized by a man's sperm somewhere in the fallopian tubes. Once a sperm has been able to pierce the ovum's protective covering, a chemical reaction takes place so no other sperm can reach the center of the ova.

The fertilized egg will continue down the tube into the uterus multiplying at phenomenal rates. At first dividing within hours to a two-cell zygote ,it continues for four days and becomes a blastocyst, consisting of about one hundred cells.

During the time between conception and the first day of a missed period, a woman may suspect due to certain symptoms that she is pregnant before a urine test can be performed. The most common of these symptoms are:

1. Tenderness in the breasts

2. Darkening of the areola

3. Sharp, pulling type of cramps within the right or left side of the abdomen.

4. Increase in the frequency of urination but not in the amounts.

5. Sleepiness or fatigue that is often caused by a sedative side affect of high levels of the hormone progesterone.

By this time the blastocyst has implanted itself into the endometrium or lining of the uterus and the woman in considered officially pregnant. Once the blastocyst has become implanted, substances are secreted which cause changes in the woman's body that usually include a halting of the normal menstrual cycle. This halting or "missed period" can often be the first sign for a woman that she may be pregnant. This is especially true for women who have never been pregnant.

As the blastocyst becomes an embryo and the woman's expected time to begin her period has come and gone, she may begin feeling some nausea with a more pronounced tenderness and lumpy feeling to the breasts. A home pregnancy test will check the woman's urine for traces of the pregnancy hormone, human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) that starts being produced approximately one week after conception.

The embryo is now a becoming visible to the naked eye. When looked at, it has a distinct top and bottom with a stripe down the back that curling over to form a groove. This groove will eventually close up forming a tube in which the spinal cord and brain will develop. There is already a bulge in the center of the embryo where the heart will be formed and the beginnings of a rudimentary vascular system in place.

During the sixth week, symptoms may hit in full force. Some women never have morning sickness while others may suffer it on a regular basis every morning or even stick around the entire day. In sever cases, vomiting may become a problem the doctor may want to address if it interferes with a woman's ability to keep any food down or she is losing a substantial amount of weight. Many experts recommend eating a small snack just before going to bed to keep the glucose levels equalized to reduce the incidence or at least the severity of morning sickness. Many women find keeping crackers by the bed to eat before getting up or munching on dry toast an excellent way of staving off the nausea.

It is also during this time that fatigue sets in and stays while hormonal levels often cause moodiness and irritability. It is important at this stage for the woman to listen to her body and rest as much as possible. The woman's body is going though an enormous effort to keep up with the changes in metabolism caused by the pregnancy. Many find it helpful to restrict fluid intake in the evening hours to cut back upon the need to urinate frequently at night. Mid-day or afternoon naps can also be beneficial to the woman although they may be hard to come by if there is a small child in the house who needs watching.

The embryo at this time has developed the spinal tube and her brain is growing to fill the head. Dark areas can be seen on either side of the head. These are optic vesicles and will eventually give the baby its sight. The heart may start to beat this week and tiny limb buds emerge. These buds will form into the arms and legs later on. At this time its overall length from rump to crown is approximately 0.08-0.16 inches.

By the seventh week, the cervix has started to soften and the mucus plug at the cervical canal is formed. This "plug" seals off the uterus from the outside world and will remain in place until shortly before labor.

This week has shown great progress in the embryo. Its digestive tract is beginning to form with a hindgut already present. The "tail" will start to fade while the lungs have begun developing as well. The placenta has formed and the umbilical cord starts growing to transport nutrients to the embryo while removing toxins. A face has started to appear with slight coloring to the iris of the eyes and perforation has begun for the mouth. Tiny nostrils have appeared and the limb buds now show distinct areas of hand and shoulder placements.

During the eighth week, a woman often can tell the uterus is growing because her waistbands are becoming tight. The unpleasant feelings of tiredness and nausea continue during this week as the body tries to adjust itself to the pregnancy.

The embryo on the other hand now has tiny fingers and toes forming as well as showing bends at the elbows, wrists and knees. Its ears are starting to form while the upper lip and nose have begun to develop, as have eyelids. Overall length has gone to 0.5 to 0.8 inches and weight has climbed to about 0.1 ounce.

The first few weeks are the most important for the developing baby. All of the major systems and organs of the body have been developed by the twelfth week and from that point on are only growing and being enhanced. Women should remember to eat adequate diets with high levels of folic acid and other nutrients necessary for the formation and well being of the baby. She should also consult her doctor about ANY medications, prescription or over the counter before taking them and always inform medical personnel of her condition before having any type of x-rays done. Simple, common sense precautions will give the baby the best chance for normal development he or she can have. Isn't this something they all deserve?

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