Pregnancy

In the time it takes to count to 10, more than 60 women become pregnant around the world. Pregnancy is normally a 40-week journey, usually measured from the date of a woman's last menstrual period to the birth of her baby. It's a time of rapid development for the soon-to-be-baby, and sometime bewildering changes for the mother.

Pregnancy is divided into three periods, known as trimesters. Each lasts about 13 weeks. The trimesters are roughly equivalent to specific developmental stages.

First trimester: A baby's body and organ systems begin their initial development. This is the period during which most miscarriages and birth defects occur. It is also when women tend to experience morning sickness, fatigue, and other pregnancy-related symptoms. By the end of the first trimester, the average fetus is 3 inches long and weighs about an ounce.

Second trimester: During the second trimester, a baby grows skin and hair, and even develops fingerprints. A heartbeat can be heard with a stethoscope. For moms, morning sickness tends to fade, and sleep improves. But other problems, such as back pain, leg cramps, and heartburn, may appear. The baby's first movements are usually felt during the second trimester. By its end, the average baby is about 14 inches long and weighs more than 2 pounds. Babies delivered at the end of the second trimester may be able to survive with the help of medical technology.

Third trimester: The final stretch for baby and mother. It's a time of rapid growth and maturation for the baby. Toward the end of the third trimester, the baby usually moves into the "head down" position in preparation for birth. At 38 weeks, the baby is considered full term and can make its appearance at any time. Because the baby is getting so big, a mom can experience shortness of breath, hemorrhoids, and trouble sleeping. Toward the end of the third trimester, the average baby is 19 to 21 inches long and weighs between 6 and 10 pounds.

Pregnancy Articles

Pelvic Ultrasound and Transvaginal Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. A radiologist or ultrasound technician applies lubricant to your skin to reduce friction. He or she then places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and moves it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a screen. Pelvic organ ultrasound is used to monitor pregnancy, find cysts on your ovaries, examine the lining of your uterus, look for causes of infertility, and find cancers or benign tumors in the pelvic region. Depending on the view needed, the ultrasound sensor is placed either on your abdomen (pelvic ultrasound) or in your vagina (transvaginal ultrasound). Your doctor might ask you to drink a few glasses of water before the test because a full bladder lifts your intestines out of the way and provides a clearer view of your pelvic organs. If you're having a transvaginal ultrasound and have a tampon in place, you'll need to remove it before the test. (Locked) More »

Predicting heart disease: The sex factor

Several conditions that are specific to women or men may be lesser-known warning signals for heart disease. For women, these include problems that can occur during pregnancy, including gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and premature delivery. All of these conditions seem to raise a woman’s risk of heart disease later in life. For men, erectile dysfunction has been linked to double the risk of serious cardiovascular events. (Locked) More »

Baby’s early arrival may hint at future heart problems for mom

 Image: © metinkiyak/Getty Images Preterm birth has long been known to bring health risks for the baby, but it may also bring risks for the mother. A study in the June issue of Hypertension shows that women who gave birth to a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy were more likely to experience rising blood pressures later on compared to women who delivered closer to term. If they had this pattern, they were also more likely to show signs of coronary artery disease, which is associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Because of the unique demands that pregnancy places on a woman's body, it may serve as a stress test for the female heart, says Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, the Michael and Lee Bell Professor of Women's Health at Harvard Medical School. In the May issue, we talked about how other pregnancy-related conditions — gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia (a type of pregnancy-induced high blood pressure), and other pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders — can raise a woman's risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Preterm birth should now join that list, says Dr. Manson. More »

Hidden risk factors that could put your heart in danger

Women who had gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. As a result, they should take prevention seriously and be aggressive about lifestyle interventions. (Locked) More »

Study finds weak link between birth control and breast cancer

 Image: © designer491/Getty Images Hormonal birth control — whether it comes as pills, injections, a ring, an intrauterine device (IUD), or an implant — may raise your risk of breast cancer, according to a study published Dec. 7, 2017, in The New England Journal of Medicine. If you're like many women who currently use one of these contraceptive methods, or if you used one for years in the past, should you be worried? (Locked) More »