Pregnancy (latin "graviditas") is the carrying of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, inside the womb of a female. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets. Human pregnancy is the most studied of all mammalian pregnancies. Childbirth usually occurs about 38 weeks after conception; i.e., approximately 40 weeks from the last normal menstrual period (LNMP) in humans.
The World Health Organization defines normal term for delivery as between 37 weeks and 42 weeks.
Initiation Of Pregnancy
Pregnancy occurs as the result of the female gamete or oocyte merging with the male gamete, spermatozoon, in a process referred to, in medicine, as "fertilization", or more commonly known as "conception". After the point of "fertilization", it is referred to as an egg. The fusion of male and female gametes usually occurs through the act of sexual intercourse, resulting in spontaneous pregnancy. However, the advent of artificial insemination and in vitro fertilisation have also made achieving pregnancy possible in cases where sexual intercourse does not result in fertilization e.g., through choice or male/female infertility
Perinatal defines the period occurring "around the time of birth", specifically from 22 completed weeks (154 days) of gestation (the time when birth weight is normally 500 g) to 7 completed days after birth.
Legal regulations in different countries include gestation age beginning from 16 to 22 weeks (5 months) before birth.
The postnatal period begins immediately after the birth of a child and then extends for about six weeks. During this period the mother's body returns to prepregnancy conditions as far as uterus size and hormone levels are concerned.
Duration of Pregnancy
The expected date of delivery (EDD) is 40 weeks counting from the last menstrual period (LMP), and birth usually occurs between 37 and 42 weeks. The actual pregnancy duration is typically 38 weeks after conception. Though pregnancy begins at conception, it is more convenient to date from the first day of a woman's last menstrual period, or from the date of conception if known. Starting from one of these dates, the expected date of delivery can be calculated. Forty weeks is 9 months and 6 days, which forms the basis of Naegele's rule for estimating date of delivery. More accurate and sophisticated algorithms take into account other variables, such as whether this is the first or subsequent child (i.e., pregnant woman is a primip or a multip, respectively), ethnicity, parental age, length of menstrual cycle, and menstrual regularity.
Pregnancy is considered "at term" when gestation attains 37 complete weeks but is less than 42 (between 259 and 294 days since LMP). Events before completion of 37 weeks (259 days) are considered preterm; from week 42 (294 days) events are considered postterm. When a pregnancy exceeds 42 weeks (294 days), the risk of complications for woman and fetus increases significantly. As such, obstetricians usually prefer to induce labour, in an uncomplicated pregnancy, at some stage between 41 and 42 weeks.
Recent medical literature prefers the terminology preterm and postterm to premature and postmature. Preterm and postterm are unambiguously defined as above, whereas premature and postmature have historical meaning and relate more to the infant's size and state of development rather than to the stage of pregnancy.
Fewer than 5% of births occur on the due date; 50% of births are within a week of the due date, and almost 90% within 2 weeks.Â It is much more useful, therefore, to consider a range of due dates, rather than one specific day, with some online due date calculators providing this information.
Accurate dating of pregnancy is important, because it is used in calculating the results of various prenatal tests (for example, in the triple test). A decision may be made to induce labour if a fetus is perceived to be overdue. Furthermore, if LMP and ultrasound dating predict different respective due dates, with the latter being later, this might signify slowed fetal growth and therefore require closer review.
The age of viability has been receding because of continued medical progress. Whereas it used to be 28 weeks, it has been brought back to as early as 23, or even 22 weeks in some countries. Unfortunately, there has been a profound increase in morbidity and mortality associated with the increased survival to the extent it has led some to question the ethics and morality of resuscitating at the edge of viability. Find out what's going on during the final weeks of pregnancy i.e. weeks 33 to 36 in this video
Process Of Childbirth
Childbirth is the process whereby an infant is born. It is considered by many to be the beginning of the infant's life, and age is defined relative to this event in most cultures. A woman is considered to be in labour when she begins experiencing regular uterine contractions, accompanied by changes of her cervix primarily effacement and dilation. While childbirth is widely experienced as painful, some women do report painless labours, while others find that concentrating on the birth helps to quicken labour and lessen the sensations. Most births are successful vaginal births, but sometimes complications arise and a woman may undergo a cesarean section. During the time immediately after birth, both the mother and the baby are hormonally cued to bond, the mother through the release of oxytocin, a hormone also released during breastfeeding.
Considerable portions of the text here is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pregnancy and is reproduced here under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License