Taking care of your health is essential to the well being of your growing baby. Prenatal care means finding the right care giver for you as well as attending regular prenatal medical checkups. Here you'll also find information on finding a doula and midwife, as well as questions to be sure to ask your health care provider.
Learn about the stages of pregnancy and follow your baby's development with our very own pregnancy calendar. Discover how to calculate your baby's due date and find fun ideas on how to announce your pregnancy.
Teen pregnancy brings with it its own unique set of challenges. Learn about pregnancy myths and facts as well as teen pregnancy statistics. Here you'll also find advice on how to tell your parents.
Experiencing discomfort during pregnancy is something all moms-to-be go through. Learn about how to alleviate common pregnancy symptoms such as morning sickness, cramps and swelling, as well as how to minimize the appearance of stretch marks and varicose veins.
Eating for more than two? Being pregnant with twins or multiples is an exciting time for moms-to-be that can also bring with it special concerns. Learn about staying healthy during a multiple pregnancy as well as information on how to reduce the risk of complications.
If you're a mom-to-be, working during pregnancy can be a challenge. Find out about how to stay safe from workplace hazards for pregnant moms as well as how to talk to your boss about going on maternity leave.
Don't forget the importance of a healthy diet and exercise to your growing baby. Discover easy tips on eating right and staying fit during your pregnancy so that both you and baby stay healthy!
One common concern moms-to-be have is about sex during pregnancy. Learn about when sex during pregnancy can be unsafe and about comfortable sex positions, as well as changes in your libido during pregnancy.
Finally, find out about plus size pregnancy, including the best birth options for plus size women as well as advice on how to find fashionable but affordable plus size maternity wear.
What is ovulation?
Ovulation is when an egg (and, occasionally, more than one egg) is released from the ovary, and it's the fertile time of your menstrual cycle. Each month, an egg matures inside your ovary. Once it reaches a certain size, the egg is released from the ovary and is swept into the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Which ovary releases the egg is fairly arbitrary. Ovulation does not necessarily rotate between ovaries each cycle.
How does ovulation determine when I can get pregnant?
To be fruitful and multiply, you must have sexual intercourse during the period spanning one to two days before ovulation to about 24 hours afterward. The reason: Sperm cells can live for two or three days, but an egg survives no more than 24 hours after ovulation — unless, of course, fertilization occurs.
If you have sex near the time of ovulation, you'll increase your chances of getting pregnant. And you'll be happy to know that the odds are with you: In normally fertile couples, there is a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each cycle. About 85 percent of women who have sex without using birth control will get pregnant within one year. You can try to boost your likelihood of getting pregnant by learning to pinpoint exactly when you ovulate and by familiarizing yourself with the cyclic hormonal and physical changes that take place in your body each month. You can also use this knowledge to attempt birth control by avoiding intercourse near the time of ovulation. However, this is not the best form of birth control and it can easily fail.
How can I tell when I'm ovulating and most fertile?
Figure out when your next period is due to begin and count back 12 to 16 days. This will give you a range of days when you will probably be ovulating. For women with a 28-day cycle, the 14th day is often the day of ovulation. To use this method, you must know how long your cycle usually lasts. Try BabyCenter's ovulation calculator if you want us to do the math for you.
The best way to determine your most fertile time, though, is to pay attention to your body and learn to spot the signs that ovulation is imminent.
Change in cervical mucus. As your cycle progresses, your cervical mucus increases in volume and changes texture. The changes reflect your body's rising levels of estrogen. You are considered most fertile when the mucus becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy. Many women compare mucus at this stage to raw egg whites.
Normally the mucous is a protective barrier, but during the most fertile time of your cycle, it allows sperm to get through the cervix, up to the uterus, and then to the fallopian tubes for a rendezvous with your egg.
A rise in body temperature. Following ovulation, your temperature can increase by 0.4 to 1.0 degrees. You won't feel the shift, but you can detect it by using a basal body temperature (BBT) thermometer. This temperature spike indicates that you've ovulated, because releasing an egg stimulates the production of the hormone progesterone, which raises body temperature.
You're most fertile in the two or three days before your temperature hits its high point. A few experts think you may have an additional 12- to 24-hour window of fertility after you first notice the temperature creep up, but most say that at that point, it's too late to make a baby.
"It can take one to two days after ovulation for progesterone to build up enough to raise your body temperature. But since the egg can only survive for about 24 hours, at that point, it's too late for fertilization," says Tracy Telles, an ob-gyn at the Permanente Medical Group in Walnut Creek, California. That's why experts recommend that you chart your temperature by taking it each morning for a few months to detect a pattern and pinpoint your likely ovulatory date. Then you can plan to have sex during the two to three days preceding the day your temperature normally rises.
Lower abdominal discomfort. About one-fifth of women actually feel ovulatory activity, which can range from mild achiness to twinges of pain. The condition, called mittelschmerz, may last a few minutes to a few hours.
How much weight should I gain during my pregnancy?
It depends on how much you weighed before you conceived and how appropriate that weight is for your height. The relationship between your height and weight is expressed in a number called a "body mass index," or BMI. You can calculate your BMI here.
The guidelines for pregnancy weight gain are issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), most recently in May 2009. Here are the most current recommendations:
If your pre-pregnancy weight was in the healthy range for your height (a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9), you should gain between 25 and 35 pounds, gaining 1 to 5 pounds in the first trimester and about 1 pound per week for the rest of your pregnancy for the optimal growth of your baby.
If you were underweight for your height at conception (a BMI below 18.5), you should gain 28 to 40 pounds.
If you were overweight for your height (a BMI of 25 to 29.9), you should gain 15 to 25 pounds. If you were obese (a BMI of 30 or higher), you should gain between 11 and 20 pounds.
If you're having twins, you should gain 37 to 54 pounds if you started at a healthy weight, 31 to 50 pounds if you were overweight, and 25 to 42 pounds if you were obese.
Use our pregnancy weight gain estimator to find out how much you should gain (based on your height and pre-pregnancy weight) and to see how the pounds are distributed.
How can I stay within the recommended amount?
Eat a healthy diet while you're pregnant and ask your doctor or midwife to help you set up an exercise program that's right for you. Eating for two doesn't mean eating twice as much as you usually do. In fact, you need only about 300 extra calories a day when you're pregnant, fewer during your first trimester.
What happens if I gain more or less than the recommended amount?
Studies show that women who gain too much during pregnancy are at a higher risk for having a cesarean delivery. They also tend to retain too much weight after pregnancy and have a higher weight in subsequent pregnancies. This can be a problem because women who start pregnancy overweight are at higher risk for complications including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
What's more, the babies of women who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy may be too large at birth, which can cause labor complications for both mom and baby. And children whose mothers who start pregnancy overweight are more likely to become overweight or obese themselves.
Finally, women who are overweight before pregnancy tend to have trouble starting and continuing breastfeeding. Experts believe there may be several reasons for this, including poor milk production and difficulty positioning the baby for nursing. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may make this problem worse.
On the other hand, women who start pregnancy underweight or who don't gain enough during pregnancy are at higher risk of delivering a preterm infant or a low-birth-weight baby (under 5.5 pounds). Preterm birth can cause health problems or even be fatal for the baby if it happens too early.
Do most women gain the recommended amount?
According to Kathleen Rasmussen, who headed up the 2009 IOM report, the most current data suggest that at least half of women are gaining more or less than the new guidelines. Most underweight women will gain within the guidelines but some women of healthy weight may exceed the advised amounts and a majority of overweight or obese women will likely gain too much.
The new guidelines urge prenatal caregivers to counsel women about diet and exercise more effectively so that expectant mothers have a better chance of staying within the recommended weight limits.
How can I deal with my anxiety about how my body is changing?
If you've struggled with controlling your weight in the past, or even if you've never dieted in your life, you may have a hard time accepting that it's okay to gain weight now. It's normal to feel anxious as the numbers on the scale edge up. Try to keep in mind, however, that some weight gain is important for a healthy pregnancy and that those extra pounds will eventually come off after you've had the baby.
If weight gain is making you feel blue, you're not alone. Find out how other moms-to-be are coping with putting on the pregnancy pounds.
How will I get rid of all those extra pounds later?
Much of the weight you've been accumulating will be gone pretty soon after you give birth. Mothers usually lose half of their pregnancy weight gain in the first six weeks after delivery. The baby accounts for about 7.5 pounds (more or less), and the amniotic fluid, placenta, and extra body fluids and blood in your body add up to another 8 to 12 pounds.
For the rest, remember that it took nine months to put on the weight, and it can take just as long or longer for it to come off. A healthy diet combined with regular exercise is the best way to shed the pounds – and keep them off.
Don't start cutting back on calories right away, though. Being the mother of a newborn requires lots of energy – and that means giving your body all the nutrition it needs. If you're patient and give your body a chance to do its work, you may be surprised at how much weight you lose naturally, especially if you're breastfeeding.
If you do have trouble losing weight, consider seeing a registered dietitian and perhaps a fitness trainer to help you lose the appropriate amount of weight at a healthy rate.
After fertilization and implantation, your baby grows quickly. At first she's just an embryo, consisting of two layers of cells from which all her organs and body parts will develop. Soon she's about the size of a kidney bean and constantly moving. Her heart is beating quickly and her intestines are forming. Her earlobes, eyelids, mouth, and nose are also taking shape.
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When you enter your third trimester, your baby weighs about 2 1/4 pounds. She can blink her eyes, which now sport lashes. Her wrinkled skin is starting to smooth out as she puts on baby fat. She's developing fingernails, toenails, and real hair (or at least some peach fuzz), and adding billions of neurons to her brain. She'll spend her final weeks in utero putting on weight. At full term, the average baby is more than 19 inches long and weighs nearly 7 pounds.
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