Pregnancy Questions and Health

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First . . . are you really pregnant?

There are various pregnancy symptoms that can indicate you might be pregnant. They differ from woman to woman, and from pregnancy to pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant, you may notice one or more of these symptoms. Don’t worry; you’re unlikely to get them all at once.

Equally, you shouldn’t worry if you don’t experience any of them. It’s perfectly possible to be pregnant without noticing any of the ‘classic’ signs of pregnancy listed below.

Classic Symptoms of Pregnancy

Missed period. This is the earliest and most reliable sign if you have a regular monthly cycle. Though it is possible to have a little light bleeding or spotting around the time you expected your period, even if you’re pregnant.

If you don’t have a regular cycle, you may notice some of the other pregnancy symptoms before you notice a missed period.

Feeling tired. You may feel unusually tired in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is probably due to rising levels of the hormone progesterone.

Feeling sick. You may start feeling sick, and even vomit, between about the 2nd and 8th week of pregnancy. Although this is often called ‘morning sickness’ it can happen to you at any time of the day or night.

Changes in your breasts. You may notice your breasts getting larger, feeling tender, or tingling (the way some women’s breasts do just before they get their period) in the early weeks of pregnancy. In addition, the veins on your breasts may show up more and your nipples may get darker.

Going to the bathroom more often. About 6-8 weeks after conception you may find that you have to get up in the night to go to the bathroom. Some pregnant women also find that they ‘leak’ a bit when they cough, laugh or sneeze.

Mood swings and stress. You may feel rapid changes in mood in the early stages of pregnancy, and even start to cry sometimes, without knowing why. This is probably because of the changes in hormone levels taking place in your body.

Changing tastes in food. You may find you go off certain things like tea, coffee or fatty food. Some women also feel cravings for types of food they don’t usually like.

If you suspect you might be pregnant and are experiencing these symptoms, you should probably take a pregnancy test. You can buy a pregnancy test kit at your local pharmacy, or go down to your local Planned Parenthood office, local Health Department, or local clinic.

Now that you know you are pregnant:

When you learn that you're pregnant, you may begin planning your pregnancy week by week. Every day, you may have more questions about healthy pregnancy. What should you eat? Can you exercise? What type of prenatal tests should you consider?

If you're carrying twins or other multiples, you may have even more questions about your pregnancy week by week. How much weight should you gain? How can you prevent preterm labor? Will you need bed rest?

Whatever your questions, understanding your pregnancy week by week can help you make good decisions throughout your pregnancy. Learn nutrition do's and don'ts, and get the basics on other healthy pregnancy issues — from exercise to back pain and sex. The more you know about your pregnancy week by week, the more manageable your pregnancy may seem.

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Calculating Your Due Date:

Can you explain how due dates are calculated?

First the short version!

Your due date is determined from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) by adding 40 weeks to determine your "expected date of birth." (For this purpose it tends to consider that everyone has a typical 28 day cycle.) Most women ovulate and conceive around day 14 of their cycle. Since the "clock" started on day 1 of a woman's menstrual cycle, on day 14 she is technically considered 2 weeks pregnant! This is the most important piece of the dating puzzle when it comes to figuring out a conception date.

The most reliable date for most women -- one they are certain of -- is the first day of their last period. This is why the pregnancy is counted from that date.

  • Day 1 -- The first day of your menstrual cycle, the day you start your period

  • Day 14 -- Ovulation. It is presumed that conception happens this day

  • Day 14 or the day of conception, you are considered 2 weeks pregnant, even though you are really only 1 day pregnant. (This is the confusing part!)

  • Day 28 -- the day you are supposed to start your period. If your period doesn't start, you are now consider 4 weeks pregnant

Now for a bit more detail:

Keep in mind that the gestation period (time you carry an infant in the womb) averages 40 weeks from day 1 of your LMP or 38 weeks from the date of conception. First time moms can expect an average 288 days versus 283 (again from LMP) for those that have previously had a baby.

What about those months? Is it 9 months or 10? Actually if you count lunar months (7 days per week with 4 weeks per month) and count from Day 1, then the typical pregnancy does average 10 lunar months. 9 typical months (since some have 5 weeks) just sounds better though doesn't it?

Be sure that you do not get too hung up on plans for your expected due date (EDD) to be "The Day" as only 5% of babies actually arrive as planned. Approximate 80% are born between weeks 38 and 42 -- again counting from Day 1 of your LMP. Yep, you can go early or over!

There are certain factors such as ethnicity, proper nutrition (or lack thereof), smoking and/or substance abuse, mother's age and size that also can impact your expected due date. For example, African-American women averaged 8.5 days fewer than Caucasian with all other socio-economic factors being equal. The most important thing to remember is to seek out prenatal care as soon as you know you suspect you are pregnant (or sooner for those trying to conceive!) Those early steps you take to care for both yourself and your baby can give you both the best start at a long term positive outcome possible.

Want a fun way to calculate your due date? Figure out the date of Day 1 of your last menstrual period. Add 7 days. Subtract 3 months. That's it!

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The First Trimester at a Glance:

The first few months of pregnancy — the first trimester — are marked by rapid changes for both you and your baby.

For you, first trimester physical changes may include breast tenderness, fatigue and nausea. Your emotions may range from excitement to anxiety. For your baby, the first trimester is a time of rapid growth and development. Your baby's brain, spinal cord and other organs begin to form, and your baby's heart begins to beat. Your baby's fingers and toes even begin to take shape.

If you're in your first trimester, make an appointment with your health care provider to begin prenatal care. You'll find out what to expect during the first trimester and beyond. What you learn can help you take the best care of yourself and your baby.

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The Second Trimester at a Glance:

During the second trimester of pregnancy — from months four to six — you may feel better than you did at first. Now's the time to enjoy your pregnancy!

During the second trimester, your baby may begin to seem more real. Second trimester signs and symptoms may include larger breasts, a growing belly and skin changes. For your baby, the second trimester often marks the ability to kick, make facial expressions and hear. By week 20, you'll be halfway into your pregnancy and your baby may weigh about 9 ounces (255 grams).

Regular visits to your health care provider remain important during the second trimester. Tell your health care provider what's on your mind, even if it seems silly or unimportant.

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The Third Trimester at a Glance:

The last few months of pregnancy — the third trimester — can be physically and emotionally challenging. Third trimester signs and symptoms may include backaches, swollen ankles and mounting anxiety.

During the third trimester, your baby will likely open his or her eyes and pack on the pounds. This rapid growth may leave you feeling more pronounced fetal movements. By the end of week 37, your baby is considered full term.

During the third trimester, you'll continue to meet with your health care provider regularly. He or she may check the baby's position and assess cervical changes. As your due date approaches, continue to ask questions. Knowing what to expect during the third trimester can help you get ready for the final stages of pregnancy.

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Your first prenatal visit:

Your first prenatal appointment should probably be around 2-3 months after your LMP (last menstrual period). Even if you are not a first time mom, prenatal visits are still important because every pregnancy can be different. This visit will probably be one of the longest, and it will help if you arrive prepared with vital dates and information. This is also a great time to prepare a list of questions that you might have about your pregnancy.

Your doctor will ask for your medical history, which includes:

  • Medical and/or psychosocial problems

  • Blood pressure, height, and weight

  • Breast and cervical exam

  • The date of your last menstrual period (an accurate LMP is helpful when determining gestational age and due date)

  • Birth control methods

  • History of abortions and/or miscarriages

  • Hospitalizations

  • Medications you are taking

  • Medication allergies

  • Your family’s medical history

Your healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam which will include a pap smear, cervical cultures, and possibly an ultrasound if there is a question about how far along you are or if you are experiencing any bleeding or cramping. Blood will be drawn and several laboratory tests will also be done, including:

  • Hemoglobin/ hematocrit

  • Rh Factor and blood type (if Rh negative, rescreen at 26-28 weeks)

  • Rubella screen

  • Varicella or history of chicken pox, rubella, and hepatitis vaccine

  • Cystic Fibrosis screen

  • Hepatitis B surface antigen

  • Tay Sach’s screen

  • Sickle Cell prep screen

  • HIV test

  • Hemoglobin levels

  • Hematocrit levels

  • Specific tests depending on patient such as tuberculosis and Hepatitis C

Your healthcare provider will probably want to discuss the following:

  • Advice concerning dental care, cats, raw meat, fish, and gardening

  • Fevers and medications

  • Environmental hazards

  • Travel limitations

  • Miscarriage precautions

  • Prenatal vitamins, supplements, herbs

  • Diet, exercise, nutrition, weight gain

  • Physician/midwife rotation in the office

You might also want to prepare a list of questions to ask your provider such as:

  • Is there a nurse line that I can call if I have questions?

  • If I experience bleeding or cramping, do I call you? Do I talk with your nurse?

  • What do you consider an emergency?

  • Will I need to change my habits regarding sex, exercise, nutrition?

  • When will my next prenatal visit be?

If you have not discussed labor and delivery issues with your doctor, this would be a good time to do that. This helps ensure that there are no surprises when labor arrives. You may want to discuss the following topics:

  • What situations would warrant an episiotomy?

  • What are your thoughts about natural childbirth?

  • What situations would warrant a Cesarean?

  • How long past my expected due date will I be allowed to go?

  • What is your policy on labor induction?

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Eating Healthy the First Weeks of Pregnancy:

Eat at least three meals every day. If heartburn or nausea are a problem, try eating 4 to 6 smaller meals daily. Eat a variety of foods.

Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables first, then frozen, and then canned.

Cook meat well. Raw meat and partially cooked meats pose a health risk since they may contain organisms that could cause illness.

Keep high-fat meats to a minimum. These include hot dogs, ribs, bacon, corned-beef hash, and sausage. To lower fat content, trim fat from all meat before cooking. Try broiling, grilling, and baking rather than frying.

Avoid "empty calorie" foods, such as soft drinks, cookies, and doughnuts.

Snacks can be healthy if you plan ahead. Choose cheese, fruit, yogurt, and vegetables for between-meal pickups.

If you're not already a food-label reader, start now! You may be amazed at what you've been feeding yourself and your baby.

Making Healthy Lifestyle Choices for a Heathy Pregnancy:

Some risks in life are a matter of chance. Others are a matter of choice.

In your new role as an expectant mother, learning how to minimize the risks over which you have control is very, very important.

Avoiding behaviors that could affect your baby is especially critical in the first trimester (the first 3 months of pregnancy). Your baby is at a time when it's organs and tissues are beginning to form and the baby is most vulnerable.

We encourage you to discuss any special concerns you have with our doctors and nurses at your next prenatal visit.

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Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) has been associated with babies born to women who have consumed unsafe amounts of alcohol during their pregnancies. Alcohol use during pregnancy is the major cause of mental retardation in the United States and a leading cause of birth defects. Babies who are affected with FAS have severe physical and mental problems, including mental retardation, slow growth and development, heart problems, and small heads and abnormal eye features.

The severity of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is dependent upon the amount of alcohol that is consumed. The more a woman drinks, the more potential danger there is to her baby. However, even moderate consumption throughout your pregnancy can be related to a number of serious problems and complications. In addition, studies have shown that pregnant women, who drink even in small amounts, have a higher incidence of miscarriage. At this time, no safe threshold of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been identified.

Talk with your doctor/midwife for additional information on drinking alcohol during pregnancy, as well as recommendations for your personal situation.

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Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of prenatal problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and public health and lung associations all strongly support the warning that smoking may complicate pregnancy. Several studies have shown that pregnant women who smoke appear to be at-risk for miscarriage, premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall (abruptio placentae), vaginal bleeding, premature rupture of membranes, preterm birth and stillbirth. These babies may:

  • Be born with a low birth weight (5.5 pounds or less).

  • Have an increased risk of breathing and heart problems.

  • Have an increased incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and have a higher rate of death within the first year of life.

When a mother smokes, her baby is exposed to the chemicals in the smoke. He/she has the same physical response as anyone would in this situation; heartbeat speeds up and worst of all, due to insufficient oxygen, the baby can`t grow and thrive as the baby should. There is strong evidence that an expectant mother`s smoking negatively affects her baby`s development in the womb. This seems to be the result of carbon monoxide build-up and a reduction of oxygen to the baby through the placenta.

Studies also show that the effects of tobacco use, like those of alcohol use, are dose-related; tobacco use reduces the birth weight of babies in direct proportion to the number of cigarettes smoked. So even though it is safest that you stop smoking altogether, cutting down on the number of cigarettes you smoke will help. Remember too, that passive, or "second-hand" smoke from other smokers is also dangerous to mother and a developing baby. Second-hand smoke can have the same or similar side effects when exposure is constant and in large quantities.

Your doctor/midwife can provide you with information and tips to help you quit smoking. Many hospitals and community organizations provide smoking-cessation programs and support groups. Additional information can be obtained from your local American Heart Association and American Lung Association chapters. Remember, the benefits of quitting smoking will last a lifetime, for both you and your baby.

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Medications and Over-the-Counter Drugs

Many medications have not been proven to be safe for use in pregnancy. Some are very harmful to your baby, especially during the first trimester, when major body systems are developing.

Prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter -OTC) medications should be taken only if doctors and nurses ordered or approved them. Let your doctor/midwife know on your first prenatal visit about any medication you are currently taking, including those for a pre-existing medical condition, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins. Before your next visit, make a note of what each medication is and what it is for.

It is best to ask your provider what medication you can take for problems such as headache, indigestion, etc. before they are needed.

Discuss with your doctor/midwife the following points about any and all medications you are taking:

  • The proper way (when and how) to take each of your medications.

  • Risk versus benefits of all medication prescribed (this includes over-the-counter drugs).

  • Possible risks of not taking a prescribed medication.

  • Any possible side effect of each medication prescribed.

  • Safe alternatives to taking these prescribed medications, especially during the first trimester.

Let your provider know if there is any reason you cannot take your medication as prescribed,including expense, your inability to obtain it, any negative side effects or the medication schedule itself.

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Recreational and Street Drugs

Using recreational or street drugs during pregnancy can have serious harmful effects on a developing baby. Substances such as opium derivatives, barbiturates and amphetamines can cause fetal distress, low birth weight, and drug withdrawal in a newborn. Examples of specific drugs and their possible effects including the following:

  • Marijuana "pot" - fetal growth retardation.

  • Cocaine - chronic use related to possible learning difficulties and miscarriage.

  • Valium - cleft lip and palate, respiratory difficulties, decreased muscle tone, and low body temperature.

  • Other drugs to avoid include LSD, angel dust, speed (amphetamines), downers (barbiturates).

Any illicit drug use during pregnancy is a danger to an unborn baby. Talk to your provider for additional information on drug use during pregnancy, as well as recommendations for your personal situation.

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X-rays - It is your responsibility to tell all your doctors and nurses (including dentists) that you are pregnant before an X-ray is taken. Exposure to X-rays or other diagnostic techniques that use X-rays, such as CAT scans or fluoroscopy can be extremely harmful to a developing baby. If X-rays are absolutely required, make sure that a lead shield is placed over your abdomen to protect your baby.

Microwave Ovens - Ordinary use of microwave ovens has not been proven to cause harm to you or your developing baby. Follow the manufacturer`s directions for use and don`t stand in front of or right next to the oven when it is in operation.

Video Display Terminals - At this time, there is no proof that video display terminals (VDTs) emit a dose of radiation that is high enough to cause any harm to a pregnant woman or her developing baby. However, turn the VDT off when it is not in use.

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Other Safety Considerations

Hot Tubs, Saunas, and Steam Baths - Our doctors and nurses normally recommend that you do not use hot tubs, saunas, and steam baths during pregnancy. An abnormally high body temperature (hyperthermia) may contribute to an increased risk of neural tube defects to an unborn baby. When you are taking a tub bath, keep the temperature of the water below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hazardous Chemicals - In addition to being sensitive to chemicals that pose a hazard at any time, you should be aware that there are certain chemicals that may create special problems for your unborn baby. These include lead or lead dust and permanent hair colorings. In addition, healthcare experts and environmental experts advise that you avoid any prolonged exposure to common household cleaning solvents, such as turpentine, that are used in arts and crafts, and indoor and outdoor pesticides.

Anesthesia - General anesthesia for surgery or dental work, when used on a woman who is pregnant, can significantly affect her unborn baby. It is important to discuss the planned use of any anesthesia, regional, local, or generals.

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Prenatal Vitamins:

Prenatal supplements consist of a variety of vitamins and minerals. During pregnancy, a woman's daily intake requirements for certain nutrients, such as folic acid (folate), calcium, and iron will increase. Vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and folic acid are vital for proper fetal growth, development, and healthy adult living.

To help increase your chances of creating a healthy and nutritious environment in which your baby can develop, it is important that you establish a well-balanced diet and exercise routine before you get pregnant. If you choose to supplement your diet with synthetic nutrients, be sure to keep track of daily amounts that you take and let your health care provider know.

Choose Wisely

Multivitamin combinations can vary depending on the nutritional focus. For example, some manufacturers will create multivitamins that have a higher amount of iron than usual, targeting women who are prone to iron-deficiency anemia. While certain prenatal multivitamins are only available by a doctor's prescription, many of them are available over the counter. Keep in mind that it is possible to jeopardize your baby's (or your own) health by taking inappropriate amounts of synthetic vitamins, so be sure your health care provider is aware of any supplements you are taking.

Talk to Your Health Care Provider

Avoid taking several different supplements unless under a health care provider's supervision; instead take one multivitamin that includes a variety of needed nutrients in one dose. Combining supplements (such as taking a folic acid supplement along with your multivitamin, etc.) can raise concerns because you run the risk of overdosing on a particular nutrient. Taking more than 100% the RDA of any nutrient should be avoided during pregnancy unless under the direction of your health care provider.

If your typical daily diet consists of unprocessed foods, fruits, a colorful variety of vegetables, whole grains, lentils, and plenty of water, then you will likely have sufficient vitamins and minerals already in your body. As long as you are eating a well balanced diet, you need not fear overdosing on nutrients found naturally in foods (although some studies have shown symptoms of toxicity after large consumption of animal organs, like liver).

However, supplements (synthetic vitamins and minerals) are a different story. They contain higher doses in concentrated form, which can be dangerous if taken in improper amounts. Always let your health care provider know what nutritional supplements you are taking. Consider taking your supplement bottles with you to your first prenatal visit.

Synthetic vitamin supplements can be helpful ways of including vital nutrients in your daily meals. Vitamins and minerals are essential to healthy development of your baby, as well as your own physical health. Be sure to speak with your health care provider about nutrition before you conceive if you are planning to get pregnant in the near future, or as soon as you know you are pregnant.

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Labor and Delivery:

Have you decided how to have your baby? The choice is yours!


Questions to ask the hospital before it's time to deliver:

First, you should learn as much as you can about all your choices. There are many different ways of caring for a mother and her baby during labor and birth.

Birthing care that is better and healthier for mothers and babies is called "mother-friendly." Some birthplaces or settings are more mother-friendly than others.

A group of experts in birthing care came up with this list of 10 things to look for and ask about. Medical research supports all of these things. These are also the best ways to be mother-friendly.

When you are deciding where to have your baby, you'll probably be choosing from different places such as a birthing center, a hospital, or a home birth service.

Here's what you should expect, and ask for, in your birth experience. Be sure to find out how the people you talk with handle these ten issues about caring for you and your baby. You may want to ask the questions below to help you learn more.

1. Ask, "Who can be with me during labor and birth?"
Mother-friendly birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services will let a birthing mother decide whom she wants to have with her during the birth. This includes fathers, partners, children, other family members, or friends.

They will also let a birthing mother have with her a person who has special training in helping women cope with labor and birth. This person is called a doula or labor support person. She never leaves the birthing mother alone. She encourages her, comforts her, and helps her understand what's happening to her.

They will have midwives as part of their staff so that a birthing mother can have a midwife with her if she wants to.

2. Ask, "What happens during a normal labor and birth in your setting?"
If they give mother-friendly care, they will tell you how they handle every part of the birthing process. For example, how often do they give the mother a drug to speed up the birth? Or do they let labor and birth usually happen on its own timing?

They will also tell you how often they do certain procedures. For example, they will have a record of the percentage of C-sections (Cesarean births) they do every year. If the number is too high, you'll want to consider having your baby in another place or with another doctor or midwife.

Here are some numbers we recommend you ask about.

  • They should not try to start labor for more than 1 in 10 women (10%).

  • They should not do an episiotomy on more than 1 in 5 women (20%). They should be trying to bring that number down. (An episiotomy is a cut in the opening to the vagina to make it larger for birth. It is not necessary most of the time.)

  • They should not do C-sections on more than 1 in 10 women (10%) if it's a community hospital. The rate should be 15% or less in hospitals that care for many high-risk mothers and babies.

A C-section is a major operation in which a doctor cuts through the mother's stomach into her womb and removes the baby through the opening. Mothers who have had a C-section can often have future babies normally. Look for a birthplace in which 6 out of 10 women (60%) or more of the mothers who have had C-sections go on to have their other babies through the birth canal (VBAC)

3. Ask, "How do you allow for differences in culture and beliefs?"
Mother-friendly birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services are sensitive to the mother's culture. They know that mothers and families have differing beliefs, values, and customs.

For example, you may have a custom that only women may be with you during labor and birth. Or perhaps your beliefs include a religious ritual to be done after birth. There are many other examples that may be very important to you. If the place and the people are mother-friendly, they will support you in doing what you want to do. Before labor starts tell your doctor or midwife special things you want.

4. Ask, "Can I walk and move around during labor? What position do you suggest for birth?"
In mother-friendly settings, you can walk around and move about as you choose during labor. You can choose the positions that are most comfortable and work best for you during labor and birth. (There may be a medical reason for you to be in a certain position.) Mother-friendly settings almost never put a woman flat on her back with her legs up in stirrups for the birth.

5. Ask, "How do you make sure everything goes smoothly when my nurse, doctor, midwife, or agency need to work with each other?" Ask, "Can my doctor or midwife come with me if I have to be moved to another place during labor? Can you help me find people or agencies in my community who can help me before and after the baby is born?"

Mother-friendly places and people will have a specific plan for keeping in touch with the other people who are caring for you. They will talk to others who give you birth care. They will help you find people or agencies in your community to help you. For example, they may put you in touch with someone who can help you with breastfeeding.

6. Ask, "What things do you normally do to a woman in labor?"
Experts say some methods of care during labor and birth are better and healthier for mothers and babies. Medical research shows us which methods of care are better and healthier. Mother-friendly settings only use methods that prove to be best by scientific evidence.

Sometimes birth centers, hospitals, and home birth services use methods that are not proven to be best for the mother or the baby. For example, research has shown it's usually not helpful to break the bag of waters.

Here is a list of things we recommend you ask about. They do not help and may hurt healthy mothers and babies. They are not proven to be best for the mother or baby and are not mother-friendly.

  • They should not keep track of the baby's heart rate all the time with a machine (called an electronic fetal monitor). Instead it is best to have your nurse or midwife listen to the baby's heart from time to time.

  • They should not break your bag of waters early in labor.

  • They should not use an IV (a needle put into your vein to give you fluids).

  • They should not tell you that you can't eat or drink during labor.

  • They should not shave you.

  • They should not give you an enema.

A birth center, hospital, or home birth service that does these things for most of the mothers is not mother-friendly. Remember, these should not be used without a special medical reason.

7. Ask, "How do you help mothers stay as comfortable as they can be? Besides drugs, how do you help mothers relieve the pain of labor?"
The people who care for you should know how to help you cope with labor. They should know about ways of dealing with your pain that don't use drugs. They should suggest such things as changing your position, relaxing in a warm bath, having a massage, and using music. These are called comfort measures.

Comfort measures help you handle your labor more easily and help you feel more in control. The people who care for you will not try to persuade you to use a drug for pain unless you need it to take care of a special medical problem. All drugs affect the baby.

8. Ask, "What if my baby is born early or has special problems?"
Mother-friendly places and people will encourage mothers and families to touch, hold, breastfeed, and care for their babies as much as they can. They will encourage this even if your baby is born early or has a medical problem at birth. (However, there may be a special medical reason you shouldn't hold and care for your baby.)

9. Ask, "Do you circumcise baby boys?"
Medical research does not show a need to circumcise baby boys. It is painful and risky. Mother-friendly birthplaces discourage circumcision unless it is for religious reasons.

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Detailed Fetal Development:


Day 1: Sperm joins with the ovum to form one cell smaller than a grain of salt. Twenty-three chromosomes from each parent join to form every detail of human development: sex, hair, eye color, height, skin tone, personality, emotional make-up, and other inherited characteristics.

Day 3-4: The fertilized egg is rapidly dividing as it travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus where for the last two weeks the lining has been preparing to receive the zygote.

Days 5-9: The zygote implants in the lining and begins to draw nourishment from the lining.

Days 10-14, Week 2: The zygote splits into two sets of cells, half become the placenta, which provides nourishment for the fetus and the other will become the fetus. Placental chemicals and hormones prevent the women from menstruating.

Day 20: The embryo is now the size of an apple seed. The placenta and umbilical cord are now functioning. The foundations for the brain, spinal cord and nervous system are established.

Day 21, Week 3: The heart begins to beat.

Day 28, Week 4: The backbone and muscles are forming. Arms, legs, eyes and ears have begun to show. Hair has begun to sprout.

Day 30: The embryo is 10,000 times larger than the original fertilized egg. The heart is pumping increasing quantities of blood through the circulatory system. The placenta forms a unique barrier that keeps the mother's blood separate while allowing food and oxygen to pass through to the embryo.

Day 35, Week 5: Five fingers can be discerned in the hand. The eyes darken as pigment is produced. The embryo is now the size of a raspberry.

Day 40: Brain waves can be detected and recorded.

bweek6_122Week 6: The liver is now taking over the production of blood cells and the brain begins to control movement of muscles and organs.

Week 7: The uterus is about the size of a tennis ball. The embryo is moving continuously. The jaw forms, including teeth buds in the gums. The eyelids seal to protect the embryo's developing light-sensitive eyes.

bweek8_115Week 8: Now a little more than an inch long, the fetus has everything found in a fully developed adult. The stomach produces digestive juices, the kidneys are functioning and genitals have begun to form. Forty muscle sets operate in conjunction with the nervous system and the fetus responds to touch.

Week 9: Fingerprints are already evident in the skin. The fetus will curve its fingers around an object placed in its palm. The fetus weighs about 1/2 ounce and is developing fingernails and hair.

bweek10_111Week 10: The fetus can bend, stretch, make fists, open hands, lift its head, squint, swallow and wrinkle its forehead.

Week 11: The fetus is now two inches long. Urination occurs.

Week 12: The fetus now breaths amniotic fluid, sleeps, awakens, exercises, turns its head, curls its toes and opens and closes its mouth.

Week 13: Fine hair has begun to grow on the head, and sexual differentiation has become apparent.

bweek16_110Week 16: The fetus is eight to ten inches in length and weighs a half pound or more. The women will probably begin to show now. The ears are functioning and can hear the mother's voice and heartbeat as well as external noises. The umbilical cord transports 300 quarts of fluids per day and completes a round trip of fluids every 30 seconds.

Week 17: The fetus rolls, sucks thumb or hand, kicks, and is learning to swallow.

Week 18: The fetus weighs about 7-9 ounces, and the mother will feel small movements.

Week 19: The fetus is growing a waxy coating called vernix, which coats and protects the skin, and makes delivery easier.

Week 20, month 5: The fetus is about 8-10 inches long, the mother is feeling stronger movement. The fetus may jump in reactions to startling or loud sounds.

Week 21/22: The fetus weighs about 1 lb.

Week 23: The mother may feel rhythmic jumping because the fetus may start hiccuping.

Week 24, Month 6: Oil and sweat glands are functioning. The fetus could be born in this month and could survive with proper care.

bweek25_166Week 25/26: The fetus weighs about 1 1/2 lbs.

Week 27: The fetus will double or triple in weight between now and birth.

Week 28, Month 7: The fetus' hair and eyelashes are visible. The fetus now uses the senses of vision, hearing, taste and touch. He can recognize his mother's voice among other voices.

Week 29: The baby can see light through the walls of the womb and blinks a lot.

Week 30/31: Many babies have inverted to a head down position in the uterus now. The mother will probably begin to feel powerful kicks under her rib cage and the ball of the baby's head on the pelvic floor. Now measuring about 15-17 inches, the baby weighs about 4 lbs.

Week 32, month 8: The skin begins to thicken with a layer of fat stored underneath for insulation and nourishment. Antibodies increase, and the baby absorbs about a gallon of amniotic fluid per day. The woman's body completely replaces amniotic fluid every 3 hours.

Week 33: The baby may be up to 18 inches, and weigh 6-7 lbs.

Week 34: The baby's toenails have reached the tips of his toes. The umbilical cord is about 20 inches long.

Week 35: The baby's head will dip or drop into the pelvis, alleviating the women's difficulty in breathing. The uterus will begin small contractions called Braxton-Hicks.

bweek38_162Week 36/37, month 9: The baby weighs about 6-9 lbs. The heart is pumping 300 gallons of blood per day, he is fully capable of life outside the womb with minimal intervention. The baby's downy hair and vernix is absorbed into the amniotic fluid and swallowed by the baby, and will produce the baby's first bowel movement after birth.

Week 38: The baby's heartbeat can be heard outside the womb, and is ready at any moment to come into the world.

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