Pregnancy

SYMPTOMS OF PREGNANCY

Pregnancy is the carrying of one or more embryos or fetuses by female mammals, including humans, inside their bodies.

In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations (for example, in the case of twins, or triplets). Human pregnancy is the most studied of all mammalian pregnancies.

Human pregnancy lasts approximately 9 months between the time of the last menstrual cycle and childbirth (38 weeks from fertilization).

The medical term for a pregnant woman is genetalian, just as the medical term for the baby is embryo (early weeks) and then fetus (until birth).

Home pregnancy tests are personal urine tests, which normally cannot detect a pregnancy until at least 12-15 days after fertilization. Both clinical and home tests can only detect the state of pregnancy, and cannot detect its age.

Pregnancy Symptoms

The beginning of pregnancy may be detected in a number of ways, including various pregnancy tests which detect hormones generated by the newly-formed placenta. Clinical blood and urine tests can detect pregnancy soon after implantation, which is as early as 6-8 days after fertilization.

In the post-implantation phase, the blastocyst secretes a hormone named human chorionic gonadotropin which in turn, stimulates the corpus luteum in the woman’s ovary to continue producing progesterone. This acts to maintain the lining of the uterus so that the embryo will continue to be nourished. The glands in the lining of the uterus will swell in response to the blastocyst, and capillaries will be stimulated to grow in that region. This allows the blastocyst to receive vital nutrients from the woman. Pregnancy tests detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin.

An early ultrasound can determine the age of the pregnancy fairly accurately. In practice, doctors typically express the age of a pregnancy (i.e. an “age” for an embryo) in terms of “menstrual date” based on the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, as the woman reports it. Unless a woman’s recent sexual activity has been limited, the exact date of fertilization is unknown.

Absent symptoms such as morning sickness, often the only visible sign of a pregnancy is an interruption of her normal monthly menstruation cycle, (i.e. a “late period”). Hence, the “menstrual date” is simply a common educated estimate for the age of a fetus, which is an average of two weeks later than the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. (The margin of error is 0 to 30 days after last menstruation, hence a 14 day average.) The term “conception date” may sometimes be used when that date is more certain, though even medical professionals can be imprecise with their use of the two distinct terms. The due date can be calculated by using Naegele’s rule.

An ultrasound of a developing fetus. There are likewise finer distinctions between the concepts of fertilization and the actual state of pregnancy, which starts with implantation. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilization of the egg usually will have occurred in the Fallopian tubes or in the uterus. (Often, an egg may become fertilized yet fail to become implanted in the uterus.) If the pregnancy is the result of in-vitro fertilization, the fertilization will have occurred in a Petri dish, after which pregnancy begins when one or more zygotes implant after being transferred by a physician into the woman’s uterus.

Pregnancy – Maternity Info and Resources