Pregnancy describes when a woman has a growing child, also called a fetus, inside of her.

The primary sign of pregnancy is missing one or more consecutive menstrual periods. However, because many women experience menstrual irregularities that may cause missed periods, women who miss a period should see their health care provider to find out whether they are pregnant or whether there is another health problem.


Others signs and symptoms of pregnancy may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting, morning sickness
  • Sore breasts or nipples
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Food cravings or aversions
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent urination

How do I know I’m pregnant?

A pregnancy test is the best way to determine if you are pregnant. Home pregnancy test kits are available over-the-counter and are considered highly accurate.  A health care provider can also do a pregnancy test.

If you think you may be pregnant or have a positive home pregnancy test, see a health care provider.

What are the stages of pregnancy?

Human pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks, or just more than 9 months, from the start of the last menstrual period to childbirth.

Both the baby and the mother experience many changes each week. The changes that occur often appear in stages that reflect the changes of the baby. These stages are categorized into trimesters.

  • First Trimester: Week 1-12
  • Second Trimester: Week 13-28
  • Third Trimester: Week 29-40

Every pregnancy woman should take a moment to learn more about what to expect during these different stages of pregnancy.

What is prenatal care and why is it important?

Prenatal care is the care woman gets during a pregnancy.  Getting early and regular prenatal care is important for the health of both mother and the developing baby.

In addition, health care providers are now recommending a woman see a health care provider for preconception care, before she is even trying to get pregnant.

Health care providers recommend women take the following steps to ensure the best health outcome for mother and baby:

  • Getting at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to help prevent many types of neural tube defects.  Health care providers recommend taking folic acid both before and during pregnancy.
  • Being properly vaccinated for certain diseases (such as chickenpox and rubella) that could harm a developing fetus—it is important to have the vaccinations before becoming pregnant
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and diet and getting regular physical activity before, during, and after pregnancy
  • Avoiding smoking, alcohol, or drug use before, during, and after pregnancy

What is a high-risk pregnancy?

All pregnancies involve a certain degree of risk to both mother and baby. But, factors present before pregnancy or that develop during pregnancy can place the mother and baby at higher risk for problems. Women with high-risk pregnancies may need care from specialists or a team of health care providers to help promote healthy pregnancy and birth.

Factors present before pregnancy that can increase risk may include:

  • Young or old maternal age
  • Being overweight or underweight
  • Having had problems in previous pregnancies, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, or preterm labor or birth
  • Pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS

During pregnancy, problems may also develop even in a woman who was previously healthy. These may include (but are not limited to) gestational diabetes or preeclampsia/eclampsia.

Getting good prenatal care and seeing a health care provider regularly during pregnancy are important ways to promote a healthy pregnancy.

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Last updated: 1/8/2019