By Dr. Tosin Ogunjimi
What is pregnancy?
Pregnancy (gestation) is the maternal condition of having a developing foetus (baby) in the body.
Signs You May Be Pregnant
Amenorrhea (Cessation of menstruation)
When you get pregnant, your menstrual cycle/ovulation should stop but some women still bleed after conception as the egg is implanted in the womb and this is known as spotting. Spotting caused by bleeding at the implantation site may occur from the time of implantation (about 6 days after fertilization) until 29–35 days after the LNMP in many women. Some women however, have unexplained cyclic bleeding throughout pregnancy. Any form of spotting or bleeding in pregnancy should be reported to your medical practitioner to rule out any pregnancy complications.
Nausea and Vomiting
This is a common symptom and it normally occurs between 2–12 weeks into pregnancy. It is usually most severe in the morning but can occur at any time of the day and may be brought on by cooking odours and pungent smells. Extreme nausea and vomiting may be a sign of multiple gestation (twins or more) or molar pregnancy (a sign of pregnancy abnormality).
If you feel nauseous, try:
- light, dry foods like crackers, wheat bread, etc
- small, frequent meals
- getting emotional support
- antiemetic medications (medications used to treat nausea)
- Breast tenderness (Mastodynia) –this may range from a tingly feeling to acute pain.
- Enlargement of glands of the areola. The areola is the dark (or black), circular area around the nipples of the breast.
- Tiny bumps exist naturally on the breasts. These bumps are called Montgomery’s Tubercles and they become more pronounced at around 6–8 weeks into the pregnancy as a result of hormonal stimulation. They contain and secrete oil which will help in breast lubrication during breastfeeding.
- Secretion of the first breast milk (Colostrum). Secretion may begin as early as 16 weeks after conception.
You should feel your baby moving at about 18–20 weeks into pregnancy if you are a first time mum (primigravida) and at 14–16 weeks if you have had a baby before (multigravida). This movement is called quickening. However, intestinal peristalsis may be mistaken for baby (fetal) movement therefore perceived movement of your unborn baby alone, is not a reliable symptom of pregnancy, although it may be useful in determining the duration of pregnancy.
- Chloasma (mask of pregnancy): This is said to occur when there is darkening of the skin over the forehead, bridge of the nose or cheekbones and it is most notable in those with dark complexions. It usually occurs 16 weeks into the pregnancy and it is made more obvious by staying out in the sun for too long.
- Linea Nigra: This is the darkening of the nipples and lower midline of the abdomen. You will see it as a dark line from the from the navel to your pelvic region (darkening of the linea alba).
- Stretch Marks (Striae): Strips or bands that form around the breast and on the protruding abdomen. These marks generally appear later in pregnancy when the skin is under greater tension (stretching) from your growing baby.
Growing Bump (Abdominal Enlargement)
Your tummy starts to grow progressively and becomes obviously larger than it was before pregnancy. You should start to show anywhere between 7 and 28 weeks. If you have ever doubted being pregnant, this is probably the most affirming symptom.
At 16–22 weeks, growth may appear more rapid as the uterus rises out of the pelvis and into the abdomen.
Total weight gain in pregnancy is about 10kg on the average. Most of the gain occurs in the second trimester.
The pregnancy period can be divided into three trimesters.
- The first trimester is the first thirteen weeks of pregnancy.
- The second trimester is the next thirteen weeks.
- While the remaining fourteen weeks (plus or minus) of pregnancy make up the third trimester.
Normally, human pregnancy lasts up to 280 days or 40 weeks (9 calendar months or 10 lunar months) from your Last Normal Menstrual Period (LNMP). For obstetric purposes, the duration of pregnancy is based on gestational age –the estimated age of the foetus (unborn baby) which is calculated from the first day of your last period; assuming a 28-day cycle. From a clinical viewpoint, a foetus (an unborn baby) is considered ready for delivery (viable) when it has reached a gestational age of 23–24 weeks and a weight of 500–600 grams or more. However, only very rarely will a foetus (an unborn baby) of 20–23 weeks weighing 500 grams or less survive, even with optimal care, this is why obstetricians try to keep the pregnancy till full term before initiating delivery.
Bernstein HB, Weinstein M: Normal Pregnancy & Prenatal Care. Current Obstetrics and Gynaecology.2006:187-202.
Mandara MU, Otubu JAM: Antenatal care.
Text book of Obstetrics and Gynaecology for medical students (ed) Akin Agoola.2006:257-264.