Introduction

Pregnancy occurs when a male sperm cell fertilizes a female’s egg and it implants in the uterine lining.  Pregnancy may result from sexual intercourse or other methods, such as in vitro fertilization. It is important for women to receive prenatal care as soon as they learn they are pregnant.  The most important thing you can do is take good care of yourself to ensure that your baby will be healthy.

Anatomy

The internal female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and vagina.  The ovaries are two small organs that produce eggs (ova) and hormones.  One of the ovaries typically releases one mature egg each month in a process called ovulation.  Two fallopian tubes extend from near the ovaries to the uterus.  The fallopian tubes transport the mature eggs to the uterus (womb).  A sperm cell from a male may enter the fallopian tube from sexual intercourse.  The fertilized egg travels to the uterus and implants into the uterine lining.

The fertilized egg develops a placenta to receive nourishment from the mother and an embryonic sac that surrounds the embryo.  The embryo develops vital organ systems and grows into a fetus.  The fetus continues to develop and increase in size.  After about nine months, the baby enters the world through vaginal birth or cesarean section.

Causes

Pregnancy results when a male sperm cell fertilizes a female egg and implants in the uterine lining.  Pregnancy may result from sexual intercourse or other methods, such as in vitro fertilization.  Females may become pregnant soon after they start menstruating until menopause.  Pregnancy becomes increasingly difficult the closer a woman is to menopause.
Ovulation typically occurs about 10 days before the start of a woman’s menstrual period.  However, ovulation may occur at any time during the month.  A woman can even get pregnant during her period.  It is also possible for pregnancy to occur if penetration does not take place, but sperm cells are near the vaginal opening.

Symptoms

An obvious symptom of early pregnancy is a missed period.  However, some pregnant women spot or have what seems to be a light period when their period should have taken place.  Some women do not experience early symptoms of pregnancy and others may experience some or all symptoms to varying degrees.
Early symptoms of pregnancy may include frequent urination, feeling tired, and feeling sleepy.  You may feel nauseous with or without vomiting or increased saliva.  You may experience heartburn, indigestion, gas, constipation, and bloating.  You may crave certain foods and avoid other types of foods.  Your breasts may feel fuller or tender.  Your emotions may fluctuate.  You may be more irritable, irrational, or tearful.

Diagnosis

You may visit your doctor’s office for a pregnancy test or use an over-the-counter pregnancy test.  Some over-the-counter pregnancy tests may be used on the first day of a missed period.  If you have a positive pregnancy test, you should contact your doctor.
Your doctor will confirm your pregnancy and evaluate you for any potential problems that may need monitoring.  You should let your doctor know what prescription medication you take and your medical history.  Your doctor will prescribe prenatal vitamins and can recommend a healthy eating and activity level for you during pregnancy.  Your doctor will determine a schedule for follow-up appointments as your pregnancy progresses.

Treatment

It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations during your pregnancy and do everything you can to ensure your health and the health of your baby.  It is important to eat a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water.  Your doctor can make specific dietary and exercise recommendations.  It is important to stop smoking and stop using alcohol or illegal drugs.  These substances can cause serious problems for your developing baby.

Prevention

The only way to guarantee that pregnancy will not take place is with abstinence, not having sexual intercourse. Chances of pregnancy may be decreased with contraception or birth control.
If you are pregnant, prenatal care is very important to ensure a healthy pregnancy.  Make and attend all of your doctor appointments and follow your doctor’s recommendations.

Am I at Risk

Girls that have gotten their periods and women that are menstruating but have not reached menopause may become pregnant by sexual intercourse.  Contraception or birth control can help to prevent pregnancy during sexual intercourse, but it is not a guarantee that pregnancy will not take place.

Complications

Most pregnancies end with the birth of a healthy baby.  However, pregnancy complications may cause miscarriage or death of a baby before it is born.  Complications may also jeopardize the health of the mother or developing baby at any time during a pregnancy.  It is important to follow your doctor’s recommendations and attend all of your appointments to reduce your risk of complications.  Not all pregnancy complications, such as those caused by genetics, may be avoided.

Coping with an unplanned pregnancy can be a scary experience, but there are many resources for pregnant teens. Visit http://pregnancy.lovetoknow.com for important information to help you plan for your baby.