Pregnancy – also known as gravidity or gestation – is the time in which a baby develops inside a woman’s womb. 

A pregnant woman having an ultrasound

Pregnancy usually lasts 40 weeks if calculated from the last menstrual period, and 38 weeks when measured from conception. The developing baby is usually referred to as an embryo for up to eight weeks in pregnancy, and as a foetus from eight weeks until birth. 

Pregnancy is divided into three stages:

  • The first trimester (weeks 1-13)
  • The second trimester (weeks 14-26)
  • The third trimester (weeks 27-40)

A multiple pregnancy, where twins, triplets or quadruplets (and more rarely, up to nine babies) are expected, occur with varying frequencies throughout the world, and are more likely to run in families or result from fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). 

What are its symptoms?

Early symptoms of pregnancy include:

  • An absent period (menstruation)
  • Breast tenderness
  • Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting)
  • Sensitivity to certain foods and smells
  • Frequent urination

Later pregnancy is characterised by discomfort as the foetus develops, swollen feet and ankles, back pain, trouble sleeping, and even more frequent urination. 

How is it diagnosed? 

Pregnancy can be confirmed with a blood test that is performed by your doctor – this tests for the presence of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which is produced by the embryo after implantation. 

The other test option is a urine test, which tests for the same hormone; this one can be done at home too with a home test from your Clicks pharmacy. 

What are your birthing options? 

See your healthcare professional for advice on prenatal care to ensure the health of you and your baby during your pregnancy, such as dietary and exercise advice and supplementing with folic acid and iron, for example. They will also advise you on delivery options including natural birth, an epidural or a Caesarean section, for when you are due.

Can it be prevented? 

There are a number of methods of prevention, that is, contraception, also known as birth control or family planning. The reason to use contraception and which kind is most appropriate are personal choices. Speak to your Clicks pharmacist or your healthcare practitioner for advice or if you have any doubts or concerns. 

Common contraceptives include:

  • Barrier contraception, including the diaphragm, cervical cap, male and female condoms, spermicidal foam, amongst others 
  • Periods of abstinence from intercourse
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
  • Hormone medications like the Pill
  • A more recent development is the subdermal contraceptive device, which consists of a small matchstick-size implant that is placed under the skin, and defers pregnancy for up to three years, such as the Implanon insert.
  • Emergency contraception, which is a pill that contains levonorgestrel. See here for more on this contraception.

Further options include male and female sterilisation. These surgical procedures need to be discussed with your doctor. 

Miscarriage

It’s estimated that about 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, most often before a woman realises she’s pregnant. This generally happens before the 20th week of pregnancy and because the foetus was not healthy. If a woman miscarries, she may need a D&C (dilation and curettage) procedure, which is a quick surgical procedure where her uterine lining will be scraped to remove tissue in the uterus. This prevents infection or heavy bleeding. 

Termination of pregnancy (TOP)

An unwanted pregnancy or one where the mother or baby’s life is at risk may result in the decision to terminate. If a woman is considering a termination of pregnancy, also known as an abortion, she must speak to her doctor or healthcare practitioner about the safest methods available. It is also advised to undergo counselling before the procedure is performed. 

There are two options available:

  • A medical abortion: This involves taking medication and is available for women who are up to 20 weeks pregnant. After taking the medication, symptoms of a miscarriage will present. In 95% of cases, the medication can successfully terminate the pregnancy, but it is advised that anyone using this option has a check-up after 10 days to confirm that that she is no longer pregnant. If it has been unsuccessful, a surgical abortion will need to be performed. 
  • A surgical abortion: It is normally a same-day procedure performed in a clinic or hospital.

How Clicks Clinics can help you

If you think you may be pregnant, Clicks has home pregnancy tests for you to confirm your pregnancy. For the convenience of shopping for them online, click here.

Clicks Clinics also offer pregnancy tests, as well as pregnancy and mother wellness services. To book an appointment, go here

Clicks also has a wide array of prenatal vitamins and supplements to support you during your pregnancy, so ask your Clicks pharmacist if you need advice on the best ones for you. If you'd like to buy them online, click here.  

Your Clicks Clinic nursing practitioner can also help you with your family planning needs, including:

  • Consultations and injections: contraception, cycles, hormonal and fertility
  • Contraceptive and fertility injections administered as per your doctor's prescription (dependent on stock availability)
  • Insertion and removal of the contraceptive Implanon (Selected Clinics only)

Find the closest Clicks Clinic to you as well as book an appointment online here. Alternatively, call 0860 254 257 or +27 21 460 1009 (outside South Africa). 

For more info

South African Government’s National Contraception Clinical Guidelines

SA Multiple Birth Association

The Association for Voluntary Sterilization of South Africa (AVSSA)

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in June 2016