Pregnancy: An Overview

Pregnant mom and child speaking
Welcome to one of the most exciting times of your life! Pregnancy is an amazing and fulfilling life event, and the development of the baby is a truly fascinating process. Pregnancy lasts for nine months on average. The unborn baby does most of her development in the first three months, and is basically fully formed by the end of the first trimester.

The nine months of pregnancy are divided into three trimesters of three months each. Each trimester brings its own distinct set of changes, both physically and emotionally. If you do not experience all of the symptoms of pregnancy in each trimester, don’t worry! Each pregnancy is different, and each woman’s body responds in a unique way.

In this section, you will learn about the changes you will see in your body, and the week-by-week development of your baby. The Pregnancy & Babies Resource Centre counts the weeks of pregnancy starting with the date of the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period, which is estimated to be about two weeks before the date of conception. When counted this way, pregnancy will last a total of 40 weeks.

This section also provides information about many things you need to consider when you are pregnant, including the following:

  • Health care in pregnancy. Good health and nutrition are crucial to your baby’s development. You will need to determine whether you want an obstetrician, a family doctor, or a midwife to follow you through your pregnancy, delivery, and the first few weeks after childbirth. Once you have chosen a health care provider, you will need to see her once per month in the first to sixth months of pregnancy, once every two weeks in months seven and eight, and once a week in the ninth month. Your health care provider will check a number of things such as your blood pressure, urine, and the size of your uterus. Other important considerations include prenatal testing, exercise, staying away from harmful substances called teratogens, screening for infections, genetic testing if necessary, and taking special precautions if you are over 35 years of age.
  • Pregnancy complications. There are a number of complications that can arise during pregnancy, including nausea and vomiting, miscarriage, high blood pressure, infections, rhesus incompatibility, problems with the placenta, and overdue pregnancy. If you are carrying twins or multiple babies, you will need to pay special attention to your diet, and your babies will need to be monitored more closely.
  • Maternal conditions. A variety of chronic illnesses can have an effect on your pregnancy. If you have a chronic illness, it is important to learn how it can affect you and your unborn baby, and what can be done to manage the condition during pregnancy.
  • Cord blood banking. Cord blood banking is the collection of stem cells from umbilical cord blood at birth. Stem cells can be used for transplantation later in life. Stem cell transplants are useful in replacing diseased bone marrow when a person has certain types of cancer. Stem cell transplants can also help to repair bone marrow after chemotherapy or radiation treatment has ended.

Nicolette Caccia, MEd, MD, FRCSC

Rory Windrim, MB, MSc, FRCSC