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Pregnancy Symptoms: Stages of Development

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A baby goes through several stages of development, beginning as a fertilized egg. The egg develops into a blastocyst, an embryo, then a fetus.

Fertilization

During each normal menstrual cycle, one egg (ovum) is usually released from one of the ovaries, about 14 days before the next menstrual period. Release of the egg is called ovulation. The egg is swept into the funnel-shaped end of one of the fallopian tubes.

At ovulation, the mucus in the cervix becomes more fluid and more elastic, allowing sperm to enter the uterus rapidly. Within 5 minutes, sperm may move from the vagina, through the cervix into the uterus, and to the funnel-shaped end of a fallopian tube—the usual site of fertilization. The cells lining the fallopian tube facilitate fertilization.

If a sperm penetrates the egg, fertilization results. Tiny hairlike cilia lining the fallopian tube propel the fertilized egg (zygote) through the tube toward the uterus. The cells of the zygote divide repeatedly as the zygote moves down …

Pregnancy Symptoms: Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring Part 1

Electronic fetal heart monitoring is done during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to keep track of the heart rate of your baby (fetus) and the strength and duration of the contractions of your uterus. Your baby's heart rate is a good way to tell whether your baby is doing well or may have some problems.

Two types of monitoring, external and internal, can be done.

External monitoring:

You may have external monitoring at different times during your pregnancy, or it may be done during labor.

External monitoring can be done by listening to your baby's heartbeat with a special stethoscope. More often, external monitoring is done using two flat devices (sensors) held in place with elastic belts on your belly. One of these uses reflected sound waves (ultrasound) to keep track of your baby's heart rate; the other measures the duration of your contractions. The sensors are connected to a machine that records the information. Your baby's heartbeat may be heard as a beeping sound or pr…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring Part 2

Why It Is Done

External fetal heart monitoring is done to:

Keep track of your baby's heart rate.

Measure how often you have a contraction and how long your contractions last during labor and delivery.

Find out whether you are having preterm labor.

Check on your baby's health if problems are suspected. External fetal heart monitoring will be done during a nonstress test to check your baby's heart rate while at rest and while moving. If your baby does not move during this test, more testing will be needed.

Check on your placenta to make sure that it is giving your baby enough oxygen. A contraction stress test that shows that your baby is not getting enough oxygen helps your doctor make decisions about the safest delivery method. If the test shows that your baby may be in danger, your doctor may recommend starting (inducing) labor early or may talk to you about doing a cesarean section (C-section).

Check your baby's health if your baby has not been growing normally (delayed feta…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring Part 3

How It Is Done

External monitoring can be done any time after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Internal monitoring is used only when you are in labor and your amniotic sac has broken. If internal monitoring is needed and your amniotic sac has not broken, your doctor may break the sac to begin the test. Sometimes a combination of internal and external monitoring is done by measuring your baby's heart rate with an internal sensor and measuring your contractions with an external sensor.

External monitoring

For external monitoring, you will usually lie on a table on your back or left side. Two belts with sensors attached will be placed around your belly. One belt holds the sensor that keeps track of your baby's heart rate, while the other measures the timing and strength of your uterine contractions. Gel may be applied to provide good contact between the heart rate sensors and your skin. The sensors are attached with wires to a recording device that can indicate or print out a record of your b…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Electronic Fetal Heart Monitoring Part 4

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Results

Electronic fetal heart monitoring is done during pregnancy, labor, and delivery to keep track of the heart rate of your baby (fetus) and the strength and duration of the contractions of your uterus. The results of electronic fetal heart monitoring are usually available immediately.





What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

Smoking cigarettes or using other tobacco products and drinking or eating large amounts of caffeine (such as from several cups of strong coffee), which can falsely raise your baby's heart rate.

Extra noises such as your heartbeat or your stomach rumbling.

Your baby is sleeping during a nonstress test.

Problems with the placement of the external monitoring device. These problems may include:
*Your baby is moving a lot during the test.
*You are pregnant with more than one baby, such as twins or triplets.
*You are overweight.

What To Think About

Not everyone feels the same about fetal monitor…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Ultrasound Techniques

No ionizing radiation is involved.

Transabdominal ultrasound: A jelly is put on the abdomen, and a hand–held sound–wave wand is moved around to look at the internal structures. The woman’s bladder must be full to help transmit the sound waves, so she may be asked to drink two to three glasses of water starting an hour before the test. This method works best later in pregnancy when the fetus is well developed. The doctor may have a scan performed during the first trimester to make sure the pregnancy is in the uterus and not outside it (ectopic pregnancy) and to assess the woman’s risk for having a miscarriage. The scan can also tell if more than one fetus is developing. During the remainder of the pregnancy, scans may be used to look for problems, assess the age and development of the fetus, check out its position, and, by 17 weeks, determine the sex. There is no risk to the woman or her developing fetus with ultrasound, and it is not uncomfortable. Ultrasounds help doctors establish th…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Ultrasound

A pregnancy ultrasound is a method of seeing the fetus and female pelvic organs during pregnancy. The ultrasound machine sends out high-frequency sound waves. These waves bounce off body structures to create a picture.

How the test is performed:

You will lie down for the procedure. A clear, water-based conducting gel will be applied to your skin over your abdomen and pelvis. The gel helps transmit sound waves. A hand-held probe is then moved over the area.

Another method is performed with the probe placed in the vagina of the patient (transvaginal ultrasound scanning). This technique often complements conventional ultrasound techniques by providing better detail. Consult your health care provider to determine which technique is most appropriate for you.

How to prepare for the test:

A full bladder is necessary to get a good picture. Therefore, you may be asked to drink 2 to 3 glasses of liquid an hour before the test. You should not urinate before the procedure.

How the test will feel:

There …

Pregnancy Symptoms: Questions To Ask The Doctor

Questions to Ask the Doctor:

Am I at risk for genetic diseases?

How much weight should I gain?

Am I gaining weight too fast?

How should I alter my diet (especially if a vegetarian or a vegan)?

What tests should I have and when should I schedule them?

Am I a high–risk patient?

What is my risk for cesarean birth?

What exercises are safe?

What vaccinations should I have?

What medications may I take?

May we develop a birth plan?

Should I hire a doula?

Will I be allowed to have keepsake ultrasound pictures?

Pregnancy Symptoms: Seeking Medical Care

If a woman suspects that she is pregnant or has a positive home pregnancy test, she should make an appointment with a health care provider, which could be a doctor, an obstetrician (women's health specialist), a midwife, or a nurse practitioner. Early care (prenatal care) is essential for a healthy pregnancy.

A woman who is pregnant should call her health care provider if any of the following conditions develop:

Labor or rupture of membranes (leaking fluid)

Abdominal or vaginal pain

Bright red vaginal bleeding

Vomiting more than three times a day or vomiting blood

Severely elevated blood pressure (above 140/90)

Sudden and rapid weight gain

Severe headache or changes in vision

Severe leg or chest pain

Seek care in a hospital's emergency department if pregnant and experiencing any of these conditions:

Fainting

Vaginal bleeding through more than one pad per hour

Having severe pain in the abdomen or shoulder or the sensation of being about to pass out

Passing pink, gray, or white material from …

Pregnancy Symptoms: Implantation Bleeding

Up to 25 percent of pregnant women have light vaginal bleeding, or spotting, during the first trimester. In most cases, spotting is not a sign of a problem. Light bleeding in the first trimester is often caused by the implantation of the fertilized egg in the wall of the uterus. This implantation bleeding usually happens 10 days or so after conception. Implantation bleeding is usually lighter and more irregular than a menstrual period. But any vaginal bleeding during pregnancy or a suspected pregnancy should be taken seriously. If you are pregnant or think you are pregnant, you should always call your doctor if have any bleeding. He or She will be able to figure out if it is a sign of a problem.

Sometimes bleeding in early pregnancy can signal trouble. Call the doctor immediately if you have:

heavy bleeding

bleeding with cramping, pain, fever or chills

bleeding that lasts more than 24 hours

Other common causes of vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy include:

Changes in the cervix: During pre…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Pregnancy Tests

How do pregnancy tests work?

Pregnancy tests look for a special hormone in the urine or blood that is only there when a woman is pregnant. This hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), can also be called the pregnancy hormone. The pregnancy hormone, hCG, is made in your body when a fertilized egg implants in the uterus. This usually happens about 6 days after conception. But studies show that the embryo doesn't implant until later in some women. The amount of hCG increases drastically with each passing day you are pregnant. Many home pregnancy tests claim they can tell if you're pregnant on the day you expect your period. But a recent study shows that most don't give accurate results this early in pregnancy. Waiting one week after a missed period will usually give a more accurate answer.

What's the difference between pregnancy tests that check urine and those that test blood?

There are two types of pregnancy tests. One tests the blood for the pregnancy hormone, hCG. T…

Pregnancy Symptoms: Pregnancy Overview

Pregnancy occurs when an egg is fertilized by a sperm, grows inside a woman's uterus (womb), and develops into a baby. In humans, this process takes about 264 days, but the obstetrician will date from the last menstrual period or 280 days (40 weeks).

The doctor will use certain terms in discussing a woman’s pregnancy. Some of the following definitions are useful:

Intra–uterine pregnancy: A normal pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus (womb) and an embryo grows.

Embryo: The term used for the developing fertilized egg during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Fetus: The term used for the developing embryo after 12 weeks of gestation.

Beta human chorionic gonadotropin (also called beta–hCG): This hormone is secreted by the placenta and can be measured to determine the presence and progression of the pregnancy. Urine or blood can be tested for its presence, and it is the hormone measured by a home pregnancy test. A positive result means a woman is pregnant; howeve…

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