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Preparation for Motherhood

When a girl attains maturity, she begins to menstruate. If she has sexual intercourse with a mature boy or man during her fertile period, she may get pregnant. The fertile period is in between a menstrual cycle, when the ovary releases an egg called the ovum or ova. During the sexual intercourse, the ovum is fertilised by the sperm released by the male. The moment fertilisation takes place, the foetus in the mother’s womb begins to develop and this is when pregnancy begins.

Pregnancy normally lasts nine months and during this period, a mother-to-be experiences certain emotional and physical change in her body. The signs and symptoms of pregnancy include:

1. Her monthly period ceases or can last for a shorter period than normal.
2. The breasts become tender and fuller and the nipples may darken.
3. She may experience morning sickness, which causes early morning discomfort, nausea and vomiting.
4. She may experience difficulty in breathing and a strong feeling of tiredness as the abdomen grows larger.
5. Some women may experience gain in body weight, while some may experience loss in body weight during the first three months.
6. Some women may experience nipple secretion and irritation, while others may have various pains and swollen ankles.

A. Reproduction
This is the process by which human beings give birth to offspring. This occurs when there is a fusion of two sex cells; one derived from the female parent (ovum) and the other from the male parent (sperm), and this takes place in the reproductive system.

B. Menstruation
This is the flow of blood from the womb of a woman who is within the age of child-bearing. This usually occurs every month. The ovaries produce oestrogen, which is a hormone that causes the cells in the uterus to build-up with blood cells, preparing it (uterus) to receive fertilised eggs. Ovulation is a process known as the release of a mature egg or ovum that is not fertilised by a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland in the body.

C. Pregnancy problems
Some women go through pregnancy in sound health, while others experience certain medical difficulties. Some of the problems are as follows:

1. Lack of enough blood or poor condition of the blood known as anaemia.
2. Persistent constipation is another difficulty during pregnancy.
3. Burning sensation in the lower part of the chest (also known as heart burn). This is often caused by the intake of fried or oily food.
4. Some women experience bleeding, which may cause miscarriage or premature birth. This may lead to the death of the baby and/or the mother.
5. The growth of the foetus may be stunted and this may only be noticed by a doctor.

D. Gestation
This is the period of development of the foetus in the womb, till the time of delivery. This period is about 36’to 40 weeks long. This period is divided into three stages of three months each and they are known as trimesters, that is, first, second and third trimesters.

E. Antenatal care
This is the medical care given to a pregnant woman before the birth of her child. She should take good care of herself regarding feeding, rest and also attend the antenatal clinic regularly to undergo thorough medical examinations carried out in the clinic. Some of these examinations include weight check, urine and blood tests, blood pressure and abdominal examinations. Failure to do this may result in the concealment of minor or major complications, which may eventually be to the detriment of the mother and child (baby).