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Who gets Pregnant?
In Egypt more than half of pregnancies are unplanned. Becoming pregnant can be a time of great happiness and joy. For some, it’s a long awaited event- the result of trying for many months (even years). For others, after the initial shock, it’s a ‘happy accident”. It can be joyful and happy, difficult and scary, or a complete disaster. Or even all of these things at once!
Most women in Egypt get pregnant one to two years after marriage, excluding any abnormalities or complication they may encounter.
Let’s begin by talking about the normal pregnancy cycle. 120 million acts of sexual intercourse take place worldwide each day, resulting in 910,000 conceptions and 400,000 live births. It’s a mind-boggling idea, that a man and a woman can make a third person together. But what is conception exactly? And what’s it like to become pregnant? Below we look at some of the key question surrounding conception and pregnancy.
When is a Woman Fertile?
To get pregnant a woman needs to have intercourse with her partner around the time she ovulates, but it is not that easy to work it out that way especially if her periods are irregular. A woman ovulates 12 – 16 days before her next period. Although the woman’s egg survives 12-24 hours, the man’s sperm can live 3-7 days. If sperm is already present before ovulation, it may meet the egg when it is released.
Learning to recognize the fertile and infertile times of your cycle can help to plan or prevent a pregnancy. Different indications are changes in body temperature, changes in your cervical secretions, and our period dates.
NEW INFO: Fertility in women begins to decline when they are at the end of their 30s, until after menopause when periods usually stop. Men can be fertile for longer. Some men in their 70s have fathered babies!
What is Contraception?
Contraception means trying to prevent pregnancy – usually either by preventing a sperm from meeting an egg, or by stopping an egg being produced, or by identifying the fertile and infertile periods of your cycle so you can time intercourse accordingly. Here are some of the many methods of contraception:
The Pill (see your doctor to assist you with which type of pill suits you best)
Male condom (it sold now in all pharmacies- don’t be shy to go and ask for it!)
Intrauterine Device (IUD) best for long term family planning
Contraceptive Injections (injections that are taken 3 or 4 times a year)
DID YOU KNOW?- Condoms protect both men and women from sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and also prevent 99% of pregnancies!
How do People prepare for Pregnancy?
Smoking, drinking, drugs, poor diet and sexually transmitted infections can damage fertility in men and women, and may damage the health of the mother during pregnancy or her baby when it’s born.
Smoking: Men who smoke have weaker erections and less healthy sperm. Women who smoke, or whose partners smoke, or who are exposed to smoke at work are less likely to conceive. If they become pregnant, they may have greater complications during labor and are more likely to have a premature birth or stillbirth.
TIP: stopping smoking is the best thing parents can do for the health of their baby, plus a good way to quit for the future.
Diet: A diet for both men and women wanting to start a pregnancy includes:
Lots of fruit and vegetable
Plenty of starchy carbohydrates such as bread, cereal and pasta
Protein such as beans, pulses, fish, cheese and eggs
FOLIC ACID is key, as it reduce risks to the spine of the growing fetus. Women need to take folic acid supplements three months before trying for a baby and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. A good source of folic acid are green leafy vegetables, breakfast cereals and bread.
Rubella (German Measles): Although Rubella is not normally a big deal, for pregnant women it can have very serious consequences, so make sure that you have been vaccinated before conceiving. It is best to be vaccinated at least three months before getting pregnant. Rubella vaccination is now routinely offered to young babies.
Drinking: Alcohol may increase the frequency of sex, however heavy drinking can reduce fertility and even make men impotent. It is better for a pregnant mother to be to give up drinking altogether in pregnancy. Drinking in excessive amounts can lead to damage of the fetus.
Sexually Transmitted infections can affect fertility in both men and women and an untreated one can be passed on to the fetus. Some infections can’t be cured but treatment can be given to try and prevent the baby getting the infection.
What about Fertility Tests?
Some people become pregnant the first time they have sex, if done at the right time of the woman’s cycle. Others have to wait a long time. Four out of five women who have regular intercourse without contraception will conceive within a year, so many doctors recommend trying for a year before referring a couple for fertility tests and treatment. Tests investigate the number, shape, and movement of the man’s sperm, the woman’s ovulation pattern, and the health of her fallopian tubes and womb. Treatment includes hormone injections to encourage ovulation, others methods as artificial insemination and bringing the egg and sperm outside the womb- sometimes known as IVF. It is a long and expensive method but works for many couples.
What are the Signs of Pregnancy?
The most important sign that you are pregnant is that you have a missed period. Now you can easily buy a home pregnancy kit from any pharmacy and take the pregnancy test a week after your missed period. It is reliable and accurate if done at the right time. Other signs include feeling tired, swelling or tenderness in the breasts (more than during your period), appetite changes (going off some foods) nausea or vomiting (called morning sickness, though it is not always in the morning), feeling bloated, frequent urination, digestion changes, and mood changes!
DID YOU KNOW? Some women still get their periods after they are pregnant – but usually the period is shorter and much lighter than usual.
What happens during Pregnancy?
Pregnancy starts when the fertilized egg successfully implants into the lining of the uterus. A normal pregnancy lasts from 37- 42 weeks (9 months) and is measured from the first day of the last period. Pregnancy is normally divided into three trimesters (meaning three periods each lasting three months), because each trimester is very different.
Fetus has arms and legs, fingers and toes, a faces and all 32 permanent tooth buds. The heart is working, pumping blood to all parts of the body. The fetus is about 7.5 long and weighs about 15 grams.
By 5 months the bones are starting to harden and the mom-to-be may feel the occasional kick or hiccup. The eyes are still closed but the fetus can hear sounds- the mother’s voice, and her stomach rumbling. By 6 months the eyes of baby are open. The baby now is digesting and urinating in the amniotic fluid. A baby born now may survive with help, though often with major problems.
For the rest of the pregnancy, the baby now is growing and developing, putting on weight, and the organs are developing, particularly the lungs. During the end of this trimester the baby is ready to be born. It is 3-4 kg and the length from top of its head to the bottom is 35- 37 cm.
Things to know before you start a new family member:
– Pregnancy alters a woman’s body completely. Her skin, breasts, hair, teeth, digestion, and hormone level all changes.
– With a normal pregnancy a woman can have sex right up to the time her water breaks.
– Sex will not harm the baby as it is protected by the thick mucus plug the seals the cervix, the amniotic sac, and the strong muscles of the womb.
– A mom-to-be needs to keep fit and active during pregnancy. Walking, swimming, or continuing with a regular sport is good preparation for birth.
Many women choose a “birth partner” which could be their husbands, or could be a friend, who could support them through the pregnancy and birth.
Men need support too!! They may talk to other men whose partners are pregnant or who have had babies.
And finally: Having a baby isn’t just about a woman physically giving birth- it’s probably the biggest responsibility a man or woman can have!