In the popular mind, pregnancy lasts nine months. In medical terms, it lasts 40 weeks.

However, just to make things more confusing, you count the months from a different date than you calculate the weeks. And neither of these calculations takes account of the time the baby has actually existed - that is yet a third way of reckoning.

As an example, let's consider a woman whose last menstrual cycle started on the first of May last year. That is to say, May 1, 2000 * was the first day of her last period before she got pregnant.

Calculation by Months

The calculation by months starts from one week after the beginning of the last cycle. In this example, we count from the 8th of May. By that calculation, the baby was due on the 8th of February 2001.

Calculation by Weeks

Calculations of the weeks of pregnancy, as used by the medical profession, start from the first day of the last period. For our example, calculation by weeks starts on the first of May 2000. Forty weeks from then, or 280 days, leads to a due date of 5th of February 2001 - slightly different than the monthly calculation.

Existence of the Baby

Neither calculation actually takes account of the time egg meets sperm. An average woman has a cycle of 28 days, and ovulates halfway through that time. Since the egg only lasts about 24 hours after ovulation, that means that the woman in our example ovulated on May 14, 2000 and conceived no later than May 15, 2000, when she was already one week (counting by months) or two weeks (counting by weeks) pregnant.

I suppose it gives parents to be something to think about. Keeps them from worrying about what the baby will be like.

* I confess - I chose May for these calculations because it gives the widest divergence between the two due dates. For 7 months of the year (January, February, June, August, September, October and November), the calculations come out the same.

#### Alcohol

Avoid alcohol if possible because it can pass from the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the baby. However, an occasional alcoholic drink will not do any damage. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk to the baby of the foetal alcohol syndrome. This increases the risk of mental retardation, retarded growth, stillbirth and damage to the central nervous system.

#### Animals

Chlamydiosis can come from close contact with lambs and their mothers and in results can cause miscarriage.
Toxoplasmosis from cat faeces can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or blindness in the baby. Litter trays should be emptied carefully, if at all, and mothers should be careful if they are gardening, trying to avoid anything that could have cat faeces on.

#### Aromatherapy

Some essential oils may cause miscarriage, however others can be used to help minimise discomfort during pregnancy, such as backache, swollen legs and ankles and nausea. The oils which suit you and your needs can be very different from another mothers so it is best to check with a doctor before you use any type of essential oils.

#### Clothes

During pregnancy the abdomen gets bigger so clothes must either be loose or expandable around the waist. Some are designed with adjustable fastenings or built in growing room to allow for expansion. Many women simply buy baggier clothes in larger sizes to accommodate their bump. The days when pregnancy was hidden have disappeared and some women choose modern, stretch fabrics, which emphasise the figure. Good fitting bras, which offer support to the breasts, are important. They should be correctly fitted, not squash the nipple, and have wide straps for comfort. Low or medium heeled shoes prevent backache and help the mother retain her balance. No stilettos.

#### Drugs

Most drugs can cross the placenta and may harm the foetus or cause withdrawal symptoms when the baby is born.
Illegal drugs (LSD, tranquillizers, cannabis, ecstasy, heroin, amphetamines and the fumes from solvents such as glue and aerosols) can cause withdrawal symptoms. Drug addicted babies are typically smaller than average, irritable and much more difficult to settle. Many have a characteristic high-pitched cry.
If the mother is taking prescribed drugs for a pre-existing condition such as diabetes the GP should be informed of her pregnancy so that the foetus is not harmed. Over-the-counter medicines such as travel sickness pills and some indigestion remedies can be damaging to the foetus. No medicines should be taken during pregnancy without the advice of the GP, midwife or pharmacist.

#### Exercise

Being pregnant should not interfere with a woman’s normal exercise regime. Activities such as aerobics, walking, swimming, dance classes and cycling can be continued until birth unless they before uncomfortable in any way. It would be unwise to ski or do high-risk activities such as hand gliding! If exercise has not been part of a woman’s routine before pregnancy she should check with her midwife about starting to exercise gradually.

#### Food

During pregnancy some foods should be avoided and these are: Eggs, products containing raw egg, unpasteurised milk or products made from this, cook-chill foods, pâté, undercooked meat, liver, fruit and vegetables with soil on and peanuts and peanut products. There are many reasons for a pregnant mother to avoid these types of foods, these are: food poisoning, severe illness, miscarriage, stillbirth, baby born with listeriosis, overdose of vitamin A, baby born blind or an allergic reaction which may cause death for a child.

#### Hygiene

Food hygiene and personal hygiene are important even if a woman is not pregnant but during pregnancy it is essential to be hygienic. If a mother is not hygienic she could contract an infection, which can cause a miscarriage.

#### Infectious Diseases

Minor infections cannot be avoided in everyday life and during pregnancy this is still the case, however, minor infections will not harm the baby in anyway. Contact with Rubella (German measles) and Chicken pox, however, can be dangerous to the mother and the baby – these infections should be avoided at all times but a mother must be particularly careful during the first three to four months of her pregnancy.

#### Pelvic Floor Exercises

The muscles around the vagina, bowel and bladder openings need to be strengthened to cope with the strain of pregnancy and childbirth. Exercises are given to the mother to perform, usually when on the toilet, by the midwife. The exercises that the mothers are given to do usually depend on how their pregnancy is going and how strong their muscles are.

#### Posture

If a pregnant woman stands and sits with her weight evenly balanced her posture will be good, however if she does not do this her posture will be bad which can lead to backache. It can take time to adjust to the additional weight, which a mother has to carry during pregnancy, but getting it right means no backache during pregnancy and later in life. When bending over or preparing to lift something heavy the mother should bend from the knees and kneel to avoid any strain.

#### Rest and Relaxation

This is very important especially during the last three months of pregnancy. A mother is encouraged to have a rest for at least an hour everyday as this can prevent backache and varicose veins. Relaxation helps to reduce stress so the mother she do any activities that she enjoys to aid this.

#### Sleep

At the beginning of pregnancy a mother should sleep as much as she can as she may well feel unusually tired. After twenty-three weeks her sleep maybe disturbed by the baby kicking or by a need to urinate more often because of the baby pressing on her bladder. Her change in shape may make it more difficult to get comfortable but she may get support by using extra pillows to prop her up.

#### Smoking

Chemicals from cigarette smoke pass to the baby from the mother’s blood via the placenta. One of these, nicotine, increases the baby’s heartbeat. The other, carbon monoxide, decreases its oxygen level, which affects its growth and development. Passive smoking can be equally as damaging. Smoking increases the risk of premature birth, lower than average birth rate, miscarriage, stillbirth, cot death, SIDS, foetal abnormalities, damage to the placenta and learning difficulties in later life. Children born to heavy smokers or who live in a smoky house are much more prone to bronchitis, pneumonia and other chest infections.

#### Teeth

Dental treatment is free during pregnancy and for the twelve months that follow the birth of the baby. Mothers should have regular checkups during pregnancy as the gums may need extra attention due to soreness and tooth decay is more likely to occur to a pregnant mother.

#### X-rays

X-rays can damage the baby in the uterus and so they should be avoided at all times during pregnancy. The mother’s dentist needs to be made aware of the pregnancy so that the mother-to-be is not exposed to a dental x-ray at any time.

Preg"nan*cy (?), n.

1.

The condition of being pregnant; the state of being with young.

2.

Figuratively: The quality of being heavy with important contents, issue, significance, etc.; unusual consequence or capacity; fertility.

Fuller.

© Webster 1913.

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