Saturday, 28 May 2011

The early pregnancy (Antenatal): Signs and symptoms

Q What are the early symptoms of pregnancy as I suspect I may be pregnant?

A feeling of constant tiredness, giddiness, painful breasts, pulling sensations in the lower tummy, frequent urination and a bloatedness may be present before 6 weeks. From then nausea and vomiting may present as mild to severe as the hormone levels in the body rise to a peak. About 80% women will have some degree of nausea and vomiting.

Q Are there other signs to suggest that I am pregnant?

Your temperature may rise and remain higher than normal, the area around your nipple will become more pigmented and there may be little bumps called Montgomery's tubercles. Pressing the breasts may cause a nipple discharge of colostrum from 16 weeks.

Q How can I confirm my pregnancy?

Your body releases a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) and this can be detected in the urine at low levels ( with standard pregnancy test kits. It is possible that the test may even be positive 2-3 days before you miss a period. Blood HCG levels are even more sensitive and can be done if there is doubt from the urine test or if there is a doubt about the health of the pregnancy. Pelvic ultrasound scan will show a small gestational sac as early as 5-6 weeks, appearing as a tear drop shaped shadow at the top of the uterus.

Q How is my expected date of delivery (EDD) calculated? I know the exact day that I conceived. Will this help in the calculation of my EDD?

Your EDD is calculated as 40 weeks from the first day of your last period (LMP), not from the day of conception which would be 14 days later for a 28 day cycle. If your periods are irregular than calculation from your LMP would not be accurate. Your obstetrician will then do an ultrasound scan to determine your EDD based on the length of the foetus and the gestational sac. Ultrasound scan for dating is accurate to within 4 days if done in the first trimestor (up to 12 weeks).

Q What is a full term pregnancy and when is the baby considered mature for delivery?

A full term pregnancy is 40 weeks plus or minus 2 weeks. The baby's lungs are mature after 37 weeks. Most baby's will deliver between 37 and 40 weeks but a small percentage will go beyond 40 weeks. Labour before 37 weeks is considered as premature.

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