Doctor's Notes on Pregnancy Planning
Pregnancy planning is being informed about pregnancy issues of nutrition, exercise, body weight, vitamins, immunizations, harmful substances, illness, genetic counseling and other topics and questions. If you, or your significant other, have any questions about pregnancy or becoming pregnant, it is a sign that pregnancy planning should begin.
The cause for pregnancy planning is usually to prepare to give the mother the best chance of delivering a normal healthy newborn without complications in the fetus or the mother during and after pregnancy. Other causes are to inform individuals about risk factors that, on an individual basis, are possibly present that may complicate the pregnancy and, in some individuals, how to reduce these risk factors. For example, women who take folic acid at least 4 weeks before conception reduce the risk of spinal cord birth defects, drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk for early miscarriage, certain drugs used for acne treatments may cause birth defects and thus should be avoided and many other circumstances that should be addressed in pregnancy planning.
Pregnancy Planning Symptoms
There are both symptoms and signs of pregnancy. These symptoms and signs depend upon the stage of pregnancy. In the first trimester of pregnancy, the first sign of pregnancy is most often a missed menstrual period. If a sexually active woman's periods are generally regular, missing a period for a week or more is presumptive evidence of pregnancy.
Early pregnancy symptoms also include feelings of breast swelling and tenderness, and nausea sometimes with vomiting. "Morning sickness" does not always occur in the morning, and the nausea of pregnancy can occur at any time of day or night. Many women become fatigued early in pregnancy, and some may feel abdominal enlargement (bloating).
Early in pregnancy, the woman may feel she has to urinate frequently, especially at nighttime, and she may leak urine when coughing, sneezing or laughing. This is also normal later in pregnancy and is not a problem.
Other changes characteristic of pregnancy include the deepening color of the areola (area surrounding the nipple), increased body temperature, the so-called "mask of pregnancy" (darkening of skin on the forehead, bridge of the nose, or cheekbones), and a dark line going down from the middle of the central abdomen area to the pubic area. Eventually, enlargement of the abdomen is a normal feature of the growing fetus.
Pregnancy Planning Causes
- Pregnancy planning can address issues of nutrition, vitamins, body weight, exercise, and potentially harmful medications and illnesses as well as immunizations and genetic counseling.
- Women who take folic acid at least four weeks prior to conception can reduce their baby's risk of birth defects of the spinal cord and skull by 70%.
- Alcohol has been implicated in infertility, early miscarriage, and birth defects and other problems for the baby.
- Certain acne medications, other prescriptions, and OTC medications can cause birth defects.
- Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been tied to microcephaly and eye defects in babies.
- Babies of older women have an increased risk of having chromosomal abnormalities.
- The timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation does not influence the gender of the baby.
A typical pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) to the birth of the baby. It is divided into three stages, called trimesters: first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester. The fetus undergoes many changes throughout maturation.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.