Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

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Pregnancy

“The condition of having a developing embryo or fetus in the body.”
“The process by which a human female carries a live offspring from conception until childbirth.”

Pregnancy is referred to as a gestation period – the time between conception and birth. Approximately 40 weeks (280 days). Measured from the first day of the last menstrual period. For women who use a procedure that allows them to know the exact date of conception (such as in-vitro fertilisation IVF, or artificial insemination) the gestation period is 38 weeks (266 days) from conception.

Pregnancy is divided into three stages – called trimesters, each lasting about 3 months.

An embryo is a multicellular diploid (has two sets of chromosomes) eukaryote (an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes) in its earliest stage of development; from the time of first cell division until birth. In humans, it is called an embryo until about eight weeks after fertilization (i.e. ten weeks after the last menstrual period or LMP), and from then it is instead called a fetus.
Embryo is the term used to describe the developing baby in the first 8 weeks and the term Fetus is the term used after 8 weeks until birth (when all the structure of the baby and systems of the body such as the digestive and nervous systems have developed).

Facts at 24 weeks
24 weeks is the legal cut off gestational age for a legal abortion (although abortions or terminations can be carried out later in the pregnancy on medical grounds).

COMPLICATIONS OF PREMATURE BIRTH
Babies born after 34 weeks have a low risk of problems although they are sometime slower to feed.
A baby born before 33 weeks will have more serious problems such as immature lungs.
Very premature babies (born under 28 weeks) need to be delivered in a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit.
Doctors have been able to improve dramatically the survival hopes for babies born as early as 22 or 23 weeks.
However, very premature babies face a huge battle at the start of life. They are at risk of serious conditions including:
* Hypothermia, due to lower levels of fat
* Low blood glucose, which can lead to brain damage
* Respiratory distress syndrome – which can cause blindness
* Brain haemorrhage
Long-term they may have cerebral palsy and have sight and hearing problems.
They are also more likely to have motor impairments and co-ordination and concentration problems.

Birth
Occurs at around 38 weeks after fertilization, so 40 weeks pregnant. Term is considered to be 37 – 42 weeks gestation. The fetus has developed enough to survive easily outside its mother’s body. Babies are usually born head first but occasionally are born breech.

http://www.babycentre.co.uk/v1027487/inside-pregnancy-weeks-28-37

There are a variety of birthing methods; the majority of babies are born by a natural vaginal birth but some labours might need help such as
Ventouse, Forceps, Caesarean section.

The process of natural birth involves what is known as “labour” the baby passing from the mother’s abdomen through the vaginal passage and into the world. There are three stages of labour:

Stage 1: The cervix has to open and stretch around the baby’s head until it is 10cm open.

Stage 2: The baby has to come out, either by the expulsive efforts of the uterus and the mother breathing the baby out, or by her actively pushing the baby out.

Stage 3: The placenta or afterbirth has to be expelled.

Linked blog posts:

https://midwifevalerie.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/so-you-are-pregnant-preparing-for-the-birth/
https://midwifevalerie.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/the-big-day-the-birth/

Research suggests exercise during pregnancy can be good for the developing baby as well as for the mother www.news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8002560.stm

A study conducted by a team from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences suggests that exercise is linked to better foetal heart health and nervous system development.

This small scale research compared women who took moderate exercise with pregnant women who did not exercise regularly.

Dr Linda May, who led the study, said: “Foetal breathing movement and the nervous system were more mature in babies exposed to exercise.”  She went on to say that further research was needed, both to look at more pregnancies and to evaluate the health of babies once they had been born.

Obstetrician Patrick O’Brien said that although exercise is good for pregnant women they should consult their midwives and doctors because excessive exercise during pregnancy could be dangerous for the unborn baby; particularly if a woman becomes too hot or lets their heart rate go over 130 beats per minute, but he went on to say that there was is no increased risk of miscarriage or premature labour linked to exercise.  He also advised that women exercise at a level that enables them to comfortably hold a conversation.

As a midwife I advise clients that walking and swimming are excellent forms of exercise as are yoga or pilates taught by an appropriate person.  I would not advise strenous new exercise during pregnancy, but have had clients who have continued with their training, for example running during pregnancy.

I have recently met Faye Cooke who is based in Bedfordshire and near to Milton Keynes www.exercise4you.co.uk and feel confident to recommend her services to clients for antenatal and postnatal exercise classes.


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