So, as you read through this, sit back and relax and allow yourself to become an expert on this subject, or at least the next best thing.
Specific subjects are dealt with in the subsequent chapters. Here we set out to give you an overview of what pregnancy and childbirth is all about.
Most pregnancies are unplanned. When it happens, the reaction may be that of stunned joy, confusion, mixed feelings or panic.
Symptoms of pregnancy do not occur until at least a week or so after missing a period. A pregnancy test nowadays can confirm pregnancy, even before symptoms start. For those with regular periods, -a test performed a day after the period was due will confirm the pregnancy. This, however, depends on the quality of the test kit. Some of the cheaper ones on the market may not be very sensitive and, at this stage of the pregnancy, the hormone level may not be high enough to be detected. Test kits used, in hospitals are sensitive enough to detect a pregnancy at this very early stage.
For those couples who plan their pregnancy, there are some general things they may want to observe before trying to conceive. Overall, the woman needs to be in good general health, preferably not on medication and, of course, not taking any form of contraception.
It just will not do to plan pregnancy while on a diet, for instance. Nor will it be helpful for an athlete - who is in a punishing exercise regime, in preparation for a major competition. It only means that conception is less likely to happen. For somebody who is dieting, there is also the possibility that her programme may entail some
nutritional deficiencies, which could in turn pose a risk to the formed embryo.
There are a number of considerations when the prospective mother suffers from a chronic condition such as hypertension (raised blood pressure), epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia or diabetes. All these conditions and many more have been covered extensively in this book.
Historically, it has been found to be convenient - and in practice, useful - to divide the period of pregnancy into three sections. These are called "trimesters". Since a pregnancy, on average, lasts for forty weeks, trimesters will be about thirteen weeks each. A reference to the first trimester (also called the "early ' trimester), will therefore refer to the first thirteen weeks (Three months). The second trimester is also called the 'mid-trimester'; it starts at the end of the first trimester and will conclude at the end of twenty-six weeks. Thence commences the last trimester (somehow, it is not called "late") or the third trimester. Because of the quirks of nature, the third trimester could possibly be shorter or longer than thirteen weeks in real life.
In natural (spontaneous) conception, an act of sexual intercourse leads to fusion of the male gamete (the spermatozoa) and the female egg (ovum). Fertilization has effectively taken place.
After being released, an egg can survive for only a few hours, 'probably not more than twenty-four and in most cases less than this.