Pregnancy 101: Conception, Term and Pregnancy Diet Chart
Pregnancy is the process of conception through fertilization of egg and sperm. The actual start of pregnancy is the day of a woman’s last menstrual period. It is also termed as Gestational age or Menstrual age.
The process of fertilization occurs within 24 hours and the egg which will become a baby will start rapid cell division. By the end of the 8th week, the name changes from embryo to fetus till term.
A typical pregnancy lasts for about 40 weeks and these 40 weeks are divided into three trimesters.
Process of Conception
Every month a woman goes through reproductive cycle which has two types of termination. The termination can either be a menstrual phase or becoming pregnant. This reproductive cycle happens throughout the reproductive years of a woman starting from Puberty until Menopause around 50 years of age.
When the reproductive cycle ends in pregnancy, there are various stages which follows: Initially a group of eggs called Oocytes are ready to leave the Ovary for release of egg (Ovulation). Small fluid-filled cysts called follicles develop in the egg.
From these eggs, one will become mature and will continue throughout the cycle. This follicle suppresses the other follicles released and stops the growing of other follicles. The follicle which had matured, opens and releases the egg from the ovary. This process is termed as ovulation.
Two weeks before the next menstrual phase occurs, the process of ovulation happens and is also the middle of the reproductive cycle. The released follicle after ovulation develops into Corpus Luteum.
This releases hormones called estrogen and progesterone. The function of progesterone is to prepare the lining of the uterus (endometrium). The fertilized egg rests on this lining for further development.
If the woman does not become pregnant, then this lining gets shed during the menstrual period. The process of fertilization is said to occur about two weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period.
Changes occur in the protein coating of the egg after the sperm penetrates the egg to prevent other sperms from entering. During fertilization, the baby’s genetic determination is completed including the sex of the baby. The gender depends on what sperm fertilizes the egg.
Women have a genetic combination of XX and men have XY. The woman does not determine the gender of the baby as she has only two X chromosomes. Whereas, men have one X and one Y. If a sperm containing X chromosome fertilizes the egg, the genetic make-up is XX which is a girl baby.
On the other hand, if a sperm with Y chromosome fertilizes the egg, the genetic make-up is XY which is a boy. Within 24 hours of fertilization of the egg and the sperm, the cell division is rapid.
This fertilized egg remains in the fallopian tube for three days after conception and then moves through the fallopian tube slowly with continuous cell division. The multiplying cells is called as a blastocyte and reaches the uterus.
The next step of this blastocyte is to attach itself to the endometrial lining in the uterus. This process is termed as implantation.
The blastocyte breaks the protective protein covering before implantation. After attaching itself to the endometrial lining, there is an exchange of hormones to facilitate the contact of blastocyte with the endometrium.
Few women experience slight bleeding for one or two days in this process which is also termed as spotting. This sign is very normal and there is no need to get worried about this bleeding.
This implantation leads to thickening of the cervix, which is the opening between birth canal and the uterus and is sealed with mucus plug. The blastocyte cells form a small ball like embryo within three weeks and the first nerve cell of the baby is being formed.
The unborn baby is called as an embryo from conception until 8th week of development, then it is called as fetus until rest of the term of the baby. Usually, a hormone called Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG) is present from conception.
This hormone is secreted by the cells which later forms the placenta for the transportation of food and other nutrients from mother to the baby. This hormone is the detector for pregnancy.
This hormone increases within the body around the 3rd or 4th week after the last menstrual period, which determines pregnancy through pregnancy tests. Usually, 400mcg of folic acid is required to be consumed by prenatal women (expecting to become pregnant).
If folic acid is not consumed before pregnancy, then it is advised to take it as soon as pregnancy is detected. Folic acid is essential to prevent neural tube defects as the development of the baby’s brain and spine begins early.
The entire pregnancy period is divided into three trimesters. Each trimester is given a duration of three months or 12 weeks. There are a lot of changes for every week in a month and the baby’s development is often observed during the regular antenatal clinical visits by the Gynecologist. A full-term pregnancy is for 40 weeks or 280 days. Depending on the length of the month a woman can be pregnant for nine or ten months and it is normal as well as healthy.
The number 38 indicates week 38 of pregnancy and 5/7 indicates that it is the fifth day in that 38th week. The last few weeks of pregnancy are generally divided
into the following terms:
Early Term: 37 0/7 to 38 6/7 weeks
Full Term: 39 0/7 to 40 6/7 weeks
Late-Term: 41 0/7 to 41 6/7 weeks
Post Term: 42 0/7 onwards.
The gestational age determines the due date of the baby.
Pregnancy diet chart - General Dietary Guidelines for Pregnancy
- Eating a variety of different foods from all food groups (cereals, pulses, non-vegetarian, milk, fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts and sugar).
- Cereals: It is good to choose from the whole wheat, wheat bread, multigrain bread, ragi, bajra and jowar.
- Pulses: Eating a variety from green gram, horse gram, soybeans, black eyed beans are recommended.
- Fruits: Eating 2-3 whole seasonal fruits daily or consuming them in the form of fresh juice without sugar is advised.
- Vegetables: 1 cup with lunch and dinner is good. Restriction of roots and tubers are recommended due to excess starch presence.
- Green leafy vegetables must be consumed at least thrice a week.
- Milk and Products: Skimmed milk of 400ml/day is preferred.
- Oil: choose from healthy fat containing oils like sunflower or safflower oils. 3-4 teaspoons can be consumed in a day which is 15-20 ml. Fluid intake should be at least 2-3 liters of water every day.
- Fluid foods like soups, milkshakes, fresh fruit juices, buttermilk and water-rich fruits are given to increase fluid intake in pregnant women. Raw salad (fruit or vegetable) must be consumed at least with one meal a day.
- Chicken (skinless), fish (not fried) and egg whites can be consumed.
Consumption of evenly spaced small frequent meals throughout the day is recommended. It is mandatory to maintain at least 1 ½ to 2 hours between dinner and sleep.
Keeping plain biscuits, milk rusks or toast in area of reach from bed is mandatory for women experiencing morning sickness.
Consumption of a minimum of one portion of dried fruits 25g (dates, figs, raisins, apricots) every day is healthy. Consume this with citrus fruits to enhance iron absorption.
The entire journey of pregnancy is a very beautiful journey. By understanding the various stages of pregnancy, you can make informed decision about your health and that of the baby.
The general dietary guidelines enable a pregnant female to understand the eating patterns which are essential for all the metabolic and hormonal changes in her body.
Regular antenatal clinical visits are to be made to keep in check the development of the baby and in preventing any complications which can be avoided if identified much earlier during gestation.
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