“Is our baby developing normally?”, “Who will our baby look like?”, “How will our older child react?” Here are 25 facts about pregnancy to help guide you through this period.
This vitamin contributes to the development of your growing baby’s cells, blood, brain and nervous system. A folic acid deficiency could stunt growth or cause a birth defect such as spina bifida. “We therefore recommend that women start taking folic acid supplements three months before they expect to become pregnant,” says Dr. Nathaël Leduc Arbour, family physician and head of the birthing unit at the CSSS des Sommets. “We then recommend they continue with prenatal multivitamins containing folic acid during the pregnancy.” Iron, calcium and vitamin D are also important for both the expecting mom and her baby.
Generally speaking, pregnancy is a happy time, but some women do experience feelings of depression. It’s important to pay attention to how much space these feelings take up. “During pregnancy, women may feel hyper-sensitive because of all the hormonal changes,” explains psychologist Karine Lapointe. “They react more strongly to all kinds of things, are much more sensitive and doubt themselves much more easily.” These feelings are all normal, but you should watch out for telltale signs of something more serious. “If mom-to-be is feeling very sad, cries often, has lost her appetite or is no longer showing interest in friends, family or hobbies, she should talk to her doctor. She could be suffering from depression,” warns the psychologist. About 10% of pregnant women experience moderate or severe depression during pregnancy. Fathers are also at risk for depression during this period. They may be worried and stressed. It is therefore important to nurture good communication within the couple during this period and to seek help when needed.
Women are advised to stop smoking during pregnancy as it affects the baby’s normal development and increases the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. Second-hand smoke is also a hazard since it’s even more toxic than the smoke that smokers inhale. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is also to be avoided. Current scientific findings are not conclusive about how much alcohol can be consumed without risk to the baby, which is why doctors recommend that pregnant women refrain from drinking alcohol altogether. Once consumed, alcohol passes directly from the mother’s bloodstream into the baby’s bloodstream through the placenta and may cause birth defects (heart, kidneys, eyes, etc.) and cognitive impairment. Pregnant women should also stay away from drugs as these substances also pass through the placenta and can affect foetal development.
From the day of conception up until delivery, babies develop non-stop in their mother’s womb. They start off as an egg the size of a pinhead, turn into an embryo that then transforms into a foetus. As the weeks go by, their organs develop, nails grow and blood forms. Did you know that babies start to suck their thumbs after 14 weeks of pregnancy? After 21 weeks, they start to play with their feet and hands. At 26 weeks, facial features become more defined and, at 37 weeks, all their organs are functional. At this stage, babies are considered to be at full term and ready to be born. All that’s left is to wait!
The first visit with your health professional usually takes place before the 12th week of pregnancy. The doctor, midwife or nurse will conduct a complete physical exam (heart rate, weight, height, gynaecological exam, etc.). If there are no health issues and the pregnancy is progressing normally, doctor appointments are then scheduled every four to six weeks. At week 31, the appointments are set for every two or three weeks, and then starting at week 37, they turn to every week. “There’s also an ultrasound scheduled towards the 20th week to make sure the baby is healthy, and there are some prenatal screening tests recommended such as the test for Down syndrome, the gestational diabetes test and the group B strep test,” says Dr. Nathaël Leduc Arbour.
Source: Naître et grandir magazine, October 2015
Research and copywriting: Kenza Bennis
Scientific review: Marie Fortier, nurse and prenatal class instructor