Being pregnant can be a wonderful experience.  Your body will go through certain changes in preparation for delivery.  Most women will not know they are pregnant until they have missed a period.  There are several common symptoms of pregnancy such as tender breasts, feeling tired, light bleeding, nausea, sensitivity to odors, bloating, frequent urination, missed period, and temperature increase.  Pregnancy tests may be bought at a local store and are typically accurate.  Women should follow up with a dr. appointment for a checkup and to establish how far along they are.

The first trimester is week one through twelve.  During this time symptoms that may be experienced are the symptoms mentioned previously and mood swings, constipation, headache, heartburn, food cravings, or weight gain.  Some women may not have any symptoms at all. 

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The baby is rapidly growing.  At four weeks the spinal cord, brain, and heart begin to form.  Buds appear as arms and legs.  The baby is now considered an embryo and is about 1/25" long.  At eight weeks external body structures, major organs, sex organs, and eyelids begin to form.  What were buds begin to grow longer, and fingers and toes begin to form.  The baby has a regular heartbeat, and the umbilical cord is now visible.  At the end of the eighth week the baby is called a fetus, and more resembles a tiny human at the size of one inch long, weighing less than 1/8 of an ounce.  At twelve weeks eyelids close to protect the eyes and will not open again until the twenty eighth week.  External sex organs begin to show, and nerves and muscles begin to function.  The baby is now about three inches long and weighs almost an ounce.  Growth will begin to slow down a little.

The second trimester is week thirteen through week twenty eight.  Morning sickness usually goes away during this time.  As the body changes to allow the baby's growth, women might experience pain in the back, abdomen, groin, or thigh.  Stretch marks may begin to appear on the breasts, thighs, or buttocks.  Some women experience swelling of the ankles, fingers, or face.  At the end of the second trimester the baby's movements can be felt.

At sixteen weeks the baby can make a sucking noises with the mouth.  Skin begins to form, and the skeleton becomes more complete.  The baby will experience a bowel movement, and is now four to five inches long and weighing almost three ounces.  At twenty weeks the baby's activity may be felt.  Eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails and toenails have formed.  The baby can hear, swallow, and scratch itself.  Now the baby should be about six inches long and weigh close to nine ounces.  During the twenty fourth week, the baby begins to form taste buds, footprints and fingerprints, hair, and lungs.  The baby sleeps and wakes routinely, and is about twelve inches long and one and a half pounds.

Week twenty nine through forty is the third trimester.  Many of the same symptoms from the second trimester will continue.  New symptoms include shortness of breath, hemorrhoids, trouble sleeping, and contractions.  As the due date approaches, the cervix becomes thinner which helps the birth canal to open during labor. 

40 weeksCredit: twenty nine weeks the baby's bones are formed but still soft.  Kicking and other movement can definitely be felt at this time.  The eyes open and close and can sense changes in light.  Breathing movement begins, the baby starts gaining weight quickly, now weighing over four pounds and over fifteen inches in length.  At thirty six weeks body fat increases and the baby has less room to move around.  The average weight at this time is a little over six pounds and sixteen to nineteen inches long.  The pregnancy is considered full term at the end of thirty seven weeks.  As the due date approaches the baby may turn in the head down position for birth.  The average weight and length of a newborn is six to nine pounds and nineteen to twenty one inches long. 

There are several things women can do to ease pregnancy symptoms.  For aches and pains, try laying down and using a heating pad.  Be sure to wear bras with good support.  Drinking plenty of water, avoiding caffeine, and eating healthy can help with constipation.  For those who suffer from dizziness don't skip meals, stand up slowly, and lie on the left side.  If changing diet does not relieve heartburn, then talk to a doctor about using antacids.   Morning sickness can be relieved by eating saltine crackers, dry toast, or cereal before getting out of bed.

Several reasons to call a doctor include: pain that does not go away, a breast lump or discharge from the nipple, constipation persists, feel faint or have vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain, vomiting several times a day or flu like symptoms, frequent nosebleeds, or if your hands and feet suddenly swell and you experience rapid weight gain.

During labor women experience many body changes.  Early labor consists of the cervix thinning out and begins to dilate (open).  Next is active labor, and the cervix begins to dilate more quickly.  Contractions begin to last longer and are closer together.  The 'pushing stage' is when the cervix is completely dilated and the baby is born.  Immediately after birth the placenta is separated.  Labor typically averages anywhere from ten to twenty hours for new moms, but usually gets easier the next time around.  Sometimes labor doesn't start on its own and will have to be induced using medication or other techniques to start contractions.  There are also several choices available for childbirth, such as natural birth, epidural, spinal block, or combined epidural/spinal block. 



If problems arise, a c-section may be performed.  An incision is made in the mothers abdomen and uterus to take the baby.  Reasons for this surgery are due to failed labor, problems with the baby's heartbeat, a prolapsed umbilical cord, or if the placenta moves away from the uterine wall which decreases oxygen to the baby.  Other reasons include having a previous c-section, carrying multiple babies, size of baby, if the baby is breech, or if the baby has known abnormalities.

Even with possible complications, pregnancy can be a joyful experience.  Mothers form a bond with the baby before birth even takes place.  It's a life changing event that doesn't compare to anything else.