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The New Pregnancy Week-by-WeekUnderstand the Changes and Chart the Progress of You and Your Baby
By Jane MacDougall
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Jane MacDougall
All right reserved.
Planning for a baby should include evaluating you and your partner's lifestyles to ensure that both of you are in the best possible physical and mental shape. Ideally, this should be done at least one month, preferably three months, before you become pregnant.
Planning to become pregnant is a great incentive to quit smoking for both partners. The dangers of a woman smoking while pregnant have been widely documented -- it hinders the unborn baby's growth, limits her oxygen supply, can cause premature birth and increases the chances of complications during labor. Second-hand smoke can also cause the above. You should also cut down your alcohol intake to no more than one or two drinks a week, with meals. If you drink alcohol frequently while you are pregnant, you will increase the risk of having a miscarriage as well as the risk of your baby developing fetal alcohol syndrome. Male heavy drinkers often have lower sperm counts.
Be aware of what you eat. Limit your intake of foods which are high in calories but low in nutrients, such as fatty or sugary foods, and supplementyour diet with foods containing folic acid (see page 10). Being overweight can cause problems during your pregnancy. Similarly, being underweight can affect your reproductive cycle (see page 8), and therefore your chances of conception. Check with your doctor to find out your ideal weight and once you have attained it, try to keep it stable. You should maintain your ideal weight even after conception. Never diet during your pregnancy, because you and your unborn baby will be deprived of nutrients that are essential for physical and mental development. You should start on a prenatal eating plan at least one month prior to conception, preferably three months.
Pregnancy, birth and parenthood will deeply and irrevocably affect your relationship with your family, especially your partner. Most parents are overwhelmed by the joys and challenges a new baby presents; others may suffer from worry, resentment, and even depression. It is a good idea to use this time before conception to talk with your partner about the changes that will take place, and the challenges that may arise, if either of you has any doubts or insecurities, this is the time to air them.
If you are using the pill or an IUD, switch to the diaphragm, cap or condom to give your body's reproductive cycle a chance to return to its natural rhythm. Do this about three months before you plan to conceive. This will ensure that you have at least one normal menstrual cycle before you become pregnant. If you accidentally conceive while you are still using the pill or an IUD, talk to your doctor about this.
If there is a history of hereditary diseases, such as hemophilia in your family, or if you know that you and your partner have incompatible blood types (see page 22), consider seeing a genetic counselor for advice before you conceive. Depending on ethnic background, there is an array of tests that may be offered. However, every pregnant couple should be screened for cystic fibrosis.
Ideally, you should be in the best possible shape for conception and future parenthood. For the past few months you should have stopped smoking cigarettes, overindulgence in alcohol, and unnecessary over-the-counter or prescription drugs. You should also have moved out of, or are planning to leave, any potentially hazardous work situation (see page 40). If you or anyone in your immediate family suffers from a pre-existing disease, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss any possible risks this may pose to a pregnancy.
Your basal body temperature rises at the time of ovulation, though only slightly. By charting it over a period of at least three months, you can detect subtle changes. Around now your temperature will hover around the 98°F mark but, hopefully, this will rise next week.
During your reproductive life, your uterus prepares for pregnancy every month, in the form of your menstrual cycle. Day one of your cycle is the first day of menstrual bleeding. This is when the lining (endometrium) of your uterus is shed. When bleeding stops the endometrium is rebuilt. At about day five of your cycle an ovum, or egg, starts to mature inside a fluid-filled sac (called the follicle) in one of the two ovaries situated close to your fallopian tubes (see page 21). In a 28-day cycle, at about day 14, when the follicle is mature, it ruptures and releases the egg. The ruptured follicle becomes the corpus luteum. This structure manufactures the hormone progesterone that plays a vital role in helping your body adapt to pregnancy, and in the early development of the embryo, should fertilization occur (see below).
Because ovulation usually occurs around day 14, your missed menstrual period, two weeks later, will indicate pregnancy. It is therefore easiest to count the weeks of your pregnancy from your last menstrual period (LMP). Remember, however, that if you are four weeks pregnant (that is, four weeks after LMP), then your fetus' age and the period of gestation is only two weeks.
Girl or boy?
Your baby's gender depends entirely on the sperm that fertilizes the egg. Because X and Y sperm have different characteristics (the former being larger, slower and longer-living than the latter) it may be possible to create situations that favor one type over the other.
A special time
Making love with the knowledge that you may be creating a baby is a very romantic experience.
Ovulation occurs 14 days prior to the next period, so in the 28-day cycle, day 14 is when you are most likely to conceive. After ejaculation, millions of your partner's sperm travel from your vagina to the fallopian tube. A few hundred sperm make it to the egg and release an enzyme that will allow one of them to penetrate the egg's protective coating. This is the moment of fertilization. Once this happens, a chemical change takes place and prevents any other sperm from penetrating the egg.
Excerpted from The New Pregnancy Week-by-Week by Jane MacDougall Copyright © 2006 by Jane MacDougall. Excerpted by permission.
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