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Preconception Care and Prenatal Care

Preconception care is the care a woman gets before she becomes pregnant.
Prenatal care is the care a woman gets during pregnancy. Early and regular
prenatal visits with a health care provider are important for the health of both
the mother and the fetus. Preconception care from a health care provider is
also important to prepare a woman for pregnancy.

- Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a period of up to 41 weeks typically in which a
woman carries a fetus inside of her. In support of its goal to
improve the health of women and children, the NICHD leads
and supports research and training to promote healthy
pregnancies, focusing on the important events that occur
before, during, and after pregnancy.

Common Name

 Pregnancy

Medical or Scientific Terms

 Gravid: pregnant
 Primi gravida: woman in her first pregnancy
 Multigravida: pregnant woman who has been pregnant two or
more times
 Multiparous: woman who has delivered more than one infant
 Nulliparous: woman who has never been pregnant or has never
completed a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks

Preterm Labor and Birth

In general, a normal human pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, or just


more than 9 months, from the start of the last menstrual period to
childbirth. Labor that begins before 37 weeks is called preterm labor
(or premature labor). A birth that occurs before 37 weeks is
considered a preterm birth.
Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

Preeclampsia (pree-i-KLAMP-see-uh) and eclampsia (ih-KLAMP-see-


uh) are disorders of high blood pressure that occur during pregnancy.
Because of the mother's high blood pressure, in preeclampsia the
blood supply to the growing fetus is reduced, and the fetus may get
less oxygen and fewer nutrients. Eclampsia is when pregnant women
with preeclampsia develop seizures or coma.

Preterm birth is the most common cause of infant death and is the
leading cause of long-term disability related to the nervous system in
children.

Antenatal care

Antenatal care is the care you receive from healthcare professionals


during your pregnancy. You'll be offered a series of appointments
with a midwife, or sometimes with a doctor who specialises in
pregnancy and birth (an obstetrician).

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PRENATAL PERIOD

This is the first developmental period in the life span, though the
period is short it is in many respects one of the most important period.
It begins at conception and ends at birth approximately 270 to 280
days in length or of calendar 9 months.

This has six important characteristics. Although it is relatively short,


the prenatal period has six important characteristics, each of which
has a lasting effect on development during the life span. They are

1. The hereditary endowment which serves as the foundation for later


development is fixed once and for all, at this time. While favourable
or unfavourable conditions both before and after birth may and
probably will affect to some extent the physical and psychological
traits that make up this hereditary endowment, that changes will be
quantitative and not qualitative.

2. Favourable condition in the mother’s body can foster the


development of hereditary potentials while unfavourable conditions
can stunt their development.

3. The sex of the newly created individual is fixed at the time of


conception and conditions within the mother’s body will not affect it.

4. Proportionally greater growth and development take place during


the prenatal period than at any other time throughout the individual’s
entire life. During these nine months, the individual grows from a
microscopically small cell to an infant who measures approximately
twenty inches in length and weigh on an average 3-3.5 kg.
Development is rapid.

5. The prenatal period is a time of many hazards, both physical and


psychological. This can have a marked effect on the pattern of later
development or may even bring development to an end.

6. How life begins - New life begins with the union of a male sex cell
and a female sex cell. These sex, cells are developed in the
reproductive organs. There are twenty three pairs of chromosomes in
each mature sex cell and each chromosome contains genes the true
carriers of heredity. At the time of conception four important
conditions are determined that influence the individual’s later
development.

Periods of Prenatal Development The prenatal period is ten lunar


months of twenty eight days each in length or nine calendar months.
This can vary from 180 to 334 days. Because prenatal development is
orderly and predictable, it is possible to give a timetable of the
important development taking place during this period. This period is
divided into three stages. Timetable of prenatal development Period
of the Zygote (fertilization to end of second week) l The size of the
zygote - that of a pinhead – remains unchanged because it has no
outside source of nourishment; it is kept alive by yolk in the ovum. l
As the zygote passes down the fallopian tube to the uterus, it divides
many times and separates into an outer and an inner layer.

l The outer layer later develops into the placenta, the umbilical cord,
and the amniotic sac, and the inner layer develops into a new human
being.

l About ten days after fertilization, the zygote becomes implanted in


the uterine wall. Period of the Embryo (end of the second week to end
of the second lunar month) l The embryo develops into a miniature
human being. l Major development occurs, in the head region first and
in the extremities last. l All the essential features of the body, both
external and internal, are established. l The embryo begins to turn in
the uterus, and there is spontaneous movement of the limbs.

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l The placenta, the umbilical cord, and the amniotic sac develop; these
protect and nourish the embryo. l At the end of the second prenatal
month, the embryo weighs, on an average,33 gm (11/4 ounces ) and
measures in length 11/2inches.

Period of the Fetus (end of the second lunar month to birth) l Changes
occur in the actual or relative size of the parts already formed and in
their functioning. No new features appear at this time. l By the end of
the third lunar month, some internal organs are well enough
developed to begin to function. Fetal heartbeat can be detected by
about the fifteenth week. l By the end of the fifth lunar month, the
different internal organs have assumed positions nearly like the ones
they will have in the adult body. l Nerve cells, present from the third
week, increase rapidly in number during the second, third, and fourth
lunar months. Whether or not this rapid increase will continue and
depend upon conditions within the mother’s body such as
malnutrition, which adversely affects nerve cell development -
especially during the latter months of the prenatal period. l Fetal
movements usually appear first between eighteen and twentytwo
weeks and then increase rapidly up to the end of the ninth lunar month
when they slow down because of crowding in the amniotic sac and
pressure on the fetal brain as the fetus takes a head-down position in
the pelvic region in preparation for birth. These fetal movements are
of different kinds - rolling and kicking and short or quick movements.
l By the end of the seventh lunar month, the fetus is well enough
developed to survive, should it be born prematurely. l By the end of
the eighth lunar month the fetal body is completely formed, though
smaller than that of a normal, full-term infant.

Fig. 1 - Body proportions at the end of different lunar months during


the prenatal period 4.2.4. Hazards during the prenatal period At no
other time during the life span are there more serious hazards to
development or hazards of a more serious nature, than during the
relatively short period before birth. These may be physical or
psychological. Common physical hazards Period of the Zygote a)
Starvation The zygote will die of starvation if it has too little yolk to
keep it alive until it can lodge itself in the uterine wall or if it remains
too long in the tube. b) Lack of Uterine Preparation Implantation
cannot occur if, as a result of glandular imbalance, the uterine walls
are not prepared in time to receive the zygote. c) Implantation in the
Wrong place If the zygote becomes attached to a small fibroid tissue
in the uterine wall or to the wall of the Fallopian tube, it cannot get
nourishment and will die.