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Congratulations On Your Pregnancy! Here's What To Expect On Your Journey
  • Editor's Note: The following is for educational and informational purposes only. Please do not use this as a substitute for a doctor. It is important to consult a doctor for medical advice that suits your needs.

    Expecting a bundle of joy soon? Learning about it can bring overwhelming emotions for new or experienced parents. It may be a wave of excitement, gratitude, or anxiety–these are valid emotions and just natural for us to have.

    Most of us are quite terrified or worried to see a doctor, even for a routine check, and more so if we have another growing human inside us. But here is just a guide on such a special experience for expecting moms so that we know we can plan ahead for the great months ahead of us.

    Guide: An overview of the pregnancy journey

    Pregnancy Signs and Symptoms

    Nausea, vomiting, changes in appetite, breast changes, and feeling tired are just some of the symptoms you may experience during pregnancy. The sign you must wait for is if you missed your period.

    The hormone Beta HCG (BHCG) that is present in the urine and blood would tell us if we are pregnant at one glance. The blood BHCG would accurately tell us if we are pregnant and how far along we are, in congruence with our last menstrual period. Medical doctors can request blood tests along with the BHCG. However, this doesn’t tell us if the pregnancy is in the uterus, so we need to book an appointment with a physician to request a necessary ultrasound test to see if it is in the proper place and the embryo's viability.

    Visits and Consults

    According to Dr. Maria Katrina Torres, an obstetrician-gynecologist who subspecialized in ultrasound, practiced in the Philippines and now in Australia, routine visits to the physician should be monthly until 28 weeks of pregnancy, every two weeks until 36 weeks, and weekly thereafter for an uncomplicated pregnancy.

    Pregnancy lasts for 37-40 weeks. According to her, it is important to develop a good rapport with your physician, as this time can be nerve-wracking for the parents. Also, as for her, parents who have questions and clarifications regarding the pregnancy should not dismiss themselves for asking. Rather, it is an opportunity for doctors to develop a trusting relationship with the patients, as long as it is communicated with respect and in a conscientious manner. In a clinical setting, consent and confidentiality are upheld and respected, and this is to be expected by patients.


    The three trimesters of pregnancy

    First Trimester: First Day of Last Period to Week 12

    On your first visit, expect a medical history and physical examination, which is vital for the tailored care you will receive. Your medical history includes your current issues, the date of your last period, your previous illnesses, or if you have a chronic disease, allergies, and if you are up to date with your immunizations, sexual history, your family history, and personal and social background. This includes smoking, drinking alcohol, or the use of recreational drugs. Doctors normally do not judge, but they would advise accordingly as they are rooting for yours and your baby's well-being, so transparency is important.

    Your physical examination on your first visit serves as your baseline for the next visits you will have. Expect that your measurements, such as your weight and blood pressure, will be taken. They might need to perform a cervical screening test accordingly, which is done via a speculum to check for the HPV virus in the vaginal area.

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    Aside from your BHCG, other blood tests will be requested to check for anemia, your blood type, your baseline electrolytes, kidney and liver function, and other viral serology. Your doctor will also request an early pregnancy ultrasound to check for the viability of the embryo.

    Early ultrasound is also a more accurate way to determine how many weeks the embryo is according to measurements. If lucky, the heartbeat can be detected right away on the monitor. Your physician will start you on some supplements, more importantly, folic acid until the third month to avoid the risk of neural tube defects.

    READ ALSO: Why Taking Folic Acid Before and During Your Pregnancy Is So Crucial

    Second Trimester: Week 13 - End of Week 27

    The second trimester is an exciting time. This is when you will hear your baby's heartbeat clearly through a device or a stethoscope for the first time, learn your baby's gender, and feel the baby's movements. In this trimester, a routine blood test will be requested to test for gestational diabetes. Checking for gestational diabetes is usually performed between 24-28 weeks into the pregnancy, or earlier if you are at high risk, such as having a strong family history, increased maternal age, being overweight or obese, or having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy, among other factors. This is a fasting blood test, followed by drinking 75g of glucose, and another test at one-hour and two-hour marks.


    READ ALSO: This Syrupy Glucose Drink Tastes Awful, But Is It Unsafe for Preggos?

    Also, in this trimester, there will be another imaging test, the anatomical scan, to check for the anatomy and gender of the baby and to look for potential congenital abnormalities. Some hospitals or private clinicians may offer earlier gender detection and chromosomal abnormalities testing, especially if there is a risk on either side of the family. However, this might be a bit more expensive and is called Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing.

    In this period, you will notice even more changes in your body. The bump will be more evident, and you will get heavier. In the doctor's office, these changes will be measured and monitored, along with your blood pressure and other vital signs.

    READ ALSO: Congenital Anomaly Scan: What Makes This Prenatal Test Essential

    Third Trimester: Week 28 - Week 40

    This period is your actual preparation for the birth itself. You may feel some irregular short contractions called Braxton-Hicks. You might experience increasing back pain as your pelvis is expanding more to accommodate growth and ease of delivery. You will be coming for frequent or weekly check-ups, and your physician will definitely check your vital signs and some symptoms concerning pre-eclampsia, which involves the rise of your blood pressure that is dangerous for both mother and baby.


    READ ALSO: 10 Ways To Relieve Pregnancy Back Pain

    Toward the last few weeks of pregnancy, your doctor will check for your baby's position by examining your abdomen and will inquire about the frequency of your baby's movements. Another test is a repeat of some blood tests to check for anemia. This needs to be prevented, as delivering a baby can result in some blood loss, and therefore, we need adequate iron to reproduce blood as briskly as possible for proper recovery and also for the fetus's nutritional needs. If your physician decides to repeat an ultrasound, she will be checking for the adequacy of amniotic fluid and, of course, the position of the baby. Normally, we would want the fetal position to be head down. If it is otherwise, there are some mechanisms that a doctor would consider in terms of how to deliver the baby.

    Pregnancy for nine months will feel long and arduous, but it will go by so swiftly in such a bittersweet way. Pregnancy is different for everybody, but the changes expecting parents experience, especially the mothers, are just astonishing both physically and emotionally. The way a female body accommodates the growth of a human being is already a miracle in itself, and mothers' hearts grow a hundred times more because of this miracle.

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