Dr. Suzanne Trupin is a Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. She graduated from Stanford University and completed her medical training at New York Medical in Valhalla, New York. She received her residency training at the University of Southern California Women's Hospital in Los Angeles, California. She is Board-Certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
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; however, this test result can stay positive for several weeks after delivering a baby or after a miscarriage.
length of time of a pregnancy is divided into three sections called
trimesters (about three months each). Each trimester has particular events
and developmental markers. For instance, the first trimester builds the
foundation of the different organ systems.
Estimated date of delivery (EDD): The delivery date is estimated by counting forward 280 days from the first day of the woman's last period. It is also called the estimated date of confinement (EDC).
The woman who is pregnant and her doctor will monitor the pregnancy either to prevent certain conditions from developing or to treat those conditions early. These conditions include the following:
High-risk pregnancy: If a woman is considered to be likely to have complications during pregnancy, the pregnancy may be termed high risk. Examples include pregnancies in women with diabetes and those with high blood pressure. Age-related complications can occur in women such as teenagers, women who are over the age of 35, or women who have been treated for infertility or
with pregnancies from the use of assisted reproductive technologies.
Ectopic pregnancy: This is a pregnancy in which the egg implants somewhere other than the uterus. This can be life threatening. Ectopic pregnancy
must be diagnosed early to avoid damage tothe Fallopian tubes and to prevent serious illness or death. It is also called tubal pregnancy (if
the egg implants in the Fallopian tubes) or extra-uterine pregnancy.
Cervical Incompetence or
Preterm Labor: This is a condition in which the cervix begins to dilate
(widen) and efface (thin) before the pregnancy has reached term. Cervical
incompetence can be a cause of miscarriage and preterm birth in the second
and third trimesters.
Preeclampsia/eclampsia:Preeclampsia is a
systemic disease that can affect various organ systems. Vascular effects
cause the blood pressure to rise in the woman who is pregnant, changes in
kidney function, swelling throughout the body, and alterations in blood
chemistry and nerve reflexes. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to
eclampsia, a serious illness that causes seizures, coma, and even
Multiple Gestation (for example twins, triplets): Preterm birth is twice as likely in twin
pregnancies as in singleton pregnancies. The percentage of preterm birth is
even greater for triplet pregnancies and quadruplet pregnancies.
Preeclampsia also occurs three to five times more frequently with multiple gestation.