Information for Patients
Fetal Health and Development
A normal pregnancy lasts nine months. Each three-month period of pregnancy is called a trimester. During each trimester, the fetus grows and develops. Regular medical checkups and prenatal tests are very important. They can
- Help keep you and your baby healthy
- Spot problems with your baby (if there are any). In some cases, health care professionals can treat the problem before your baby is born. But even when they cannot, it can still be helpful to know about the problem early on. That gives you time to learn about your baby's condition and prepare for any challenges you may face after the baby is born.
- Prevent problems during delivery. For example, if your baby is breech (bottom first or feet first, instead of head first), you may need to have a Cesarean section to avoid complications.
Besides getting medical care, there are other things you can do to keep your baby as healthy as possible. It's important not to drink or smoke. Try to eat a healthy diet and make sure to take care of any health problems you have during pregnancy.
Genes are the building blocks of heredity. They are passed from parent to child. They hold DNA, the instructions for making proteins. Proteins do most of the work in cells. They move molecules from one place to another, build structures, break down toxins, and do many other maintenance jobs.
Sometimes there is a mutation, a change in a gene or genes. The mutation changes the gene's instructions for making a protein, so the protein does not work properly or is missing entirely. This can cause a medical condition called a genetic disorder.
You can inherit a gene mutation from one or both parents. A mutation can also happen during your lifetime.
There are three types of genetic disorders:
- Single-gene disorders, where a mutation affects one gene. Sickle cell anemia is an example.
- Chromosomal disorders, where chromosomes (or parts of chromosomes) are missing or changed. Chromosomes are the structures that hold our genes. Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder.
- Complex disorders, where there are mutations in two or more genes. Often your lifestyle and environment also play a role. Colon cancer is an example.
Genetic tests on blood and other tissue can identify genetic disorders.
NIH: National Library of Medicine
Health Problems in Pregnancy
Every pregnancy has some risk of problems. You may have problems because of a health condition you had before you got pregnant. You could also develop a condition during pregnancy. Other causes of problems during pregnancy can include being pregnant with more than one baby, a health problem in a previous pregnancy, substance abuse during pregnancy, or being over age 35. Any of these can affect your health, the health of your baby, or both.
If you have a chronic condition, you should talk to your health care provider about how to minimize your risk before you get pregnant. Once you are pregnant, you may need a health care team to monitor your pregnancy. Some common conditions that can complicate a pregnancy include
- High blood pressure
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Kidney problems
- Autoimmune disorders
Other conditions that can make pregnancy risky can happen while you are pregnant - for example, gestational diabetes and Rh incompatibility. Good prenatal care can help detect and treat them.
Some discomforts, like nausea, back pain, and fatigue, are common during pregnancy. Sometimes it is hard to know what is normal. Call your health care provider if something is bothering or worrying you.