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This topic covers pregnancy information, including planning for labor and delivery. If you aren't pregnant yet, see the topic Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy. For more information on labor and delivery, see the topic Labor and Delivery.
What can you do to have a healthy pregnancy?
You may be happy and excited to find out that you're pregnant. And you may be a little nervous or worried. If this will be your first child, you may even feel overwhelmed by all of the things you need to know about having a baby. There is a lot to learn. But you don't have to know everything right away. You can read all about pregnancy now, or you can learn about each stage as your pregnancy goes on.
Pregnancy is measured in trimesters from the first day of your last menstrual period, totaling 40 weeks. But a full-term pregnancy can deliver between 37 weeks and 42 weeks.
During your pregnancy, you'll have tests to watch for certain problems that could occur. With all the tests you'll have, you may worry that something will go wrong. But most women have healthy pregnancies. If there is a problem, these tests can find it early so that you and your doctor or midwife can treat it or watch it to help improve your chance of having a healthy baby.
Taking great care of yourself is the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby. Everything healthy that you do for your body helps your growing baby. Rest when you need it, eat well, and exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you are active. This is very important when it's hot out.
You'll need to have regular checkups. At every visit, your doctor or midwife will weigh you and measure your belly to check your baby's growth. You'll also get blood and urine tests and have your blood pressure checked.
It's important to avoid tobacco smoke, alcohol and drugs, chemicals, and radiation (like X-rays). These can harm you and the baby.
What kinds of exams and tests will you have?
Your first prenatal exam gives your doctor or midwife important information for planning your care. You'll have a pelvic exam and urine and blood tests. You'll also have your blood pressure and weight checked. The urine and blood tests are used for a pregnancy test and to tell whether you have low iron levels (are anemic) or have signs of infection.
At each prenatal visit you'll be weighed, have your belly measured, and have your blood pressure and urine checked. Go to all your appointments. Although these quick office visits may seem simple and routine, your doctor is watching for signs of possible problems like high blood pressure.
In some medical centers, you can have screening in your first trimester to see if your baby has a chance of having Down syndrome or another genetic problem. The test usually includes a blood test and an ultrasound.
During your second trimester, you can have a blood test (triple or quadruple screen test) to see if you have a higher-than-normal chance of having a baby with birth defects. Based on the results of the tests, you may be referred to a geneticist for further discussion. Or you may have other tests to find out for sure if your baby has a birth defect.
Late in your second trimester, your blood sugar will be checked for diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes). Near the end of your pregnancy, you will have tests to look for infections that could harm your newborn.
What changes can you expect in your body and your emotions?
You will go through some amazing changes during pregnancy. Your body, emotions, and relationships will all do some growing. These changes are common, but some may be a challenge.
Every woman feels these changes in her own way. Even the way she changes can change. In the beginning of your pregnancy, you may feel so tired that you can barely keep your head up. But at other times, you may have trouble sleeping.
Many women feel nauseated in the morning (morning sickness) or at other times of day in the early part of pregnancy. But some women never have this problem. Your breasts will get larger and may feel tender. Throughout your pregnancy, you may get heartburn or crave certain foods, and you may have aches and pains. You also may enjoy the flutters of your baby moving and kicking.
Your emotions may move around too. Even women who are happy about their pregnancy may worry a lot about their babies. They may even feel some sadness at the coming changes in their lifestyles.
Your relationship with your partner and other children you may have also may change. Talk with your partner and with your doctor if you have concerns about how you're feeling.
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